From the Merida insider:::http://www.meridainsider.com............................................
The last hurricane to hit Merida was Isidoro in September 2002. We had only been living in Merida about three weeks at the time. Mexico Bob asked that I submit this acccount taken from my emails to friends and family, before, during and after Isidoro, and formerly posted to a forum here.
We moved to Merida in August of 2002 from the state of Veracruz. There we lived high in the mountains, far from any worry about hurricanes. Coming originally from California, where we don't even worry about earthquakes (only newbies and tourists worry about them there!), we had never experienced a hurricane. Everything we knew about them came from watching TV news reports of the disasters of hurricanes like Gilbert hitting Florida. Scarey stuff!
We rented an old colonial in Centro; our first experience with this type of architecture, since our other homes in Mexico had all been of newer construction. We loved the wooden shutters on the windows and the huge entry doors with openings large enough for a horse and carriage to drive through. The fact that there wasn't any glass in the windows seemed completely unimportant since the house was situated so the rain rarely entered, and, if it did, it was always possible to close those blue, wooden shutters that I thought so charming.
We settled in with our dogs and the few personal items that we had brought with us from Veracruz. After a few days, Bob returned to Veracruz with a truck and driver to pack up the remainder of our furniture and belongings. The evening he was expected back, I decided to wait up for him in the large livingroom nearest the street. We had already planned to have the movers stack everything in that room, so we could go through things and unpack later at our leisure.
As the dogs and I waited, it began to rain. It poured as only the storms I have experienced since moving to Mexico can pour: a deluge. I was just sitting there, enjoying the sound of the rain, when I began to notice that some of the sounds seemed to be very close. Now when you are sitting in a room in a colonial building at night, the lighting can be quite dim....errr, romantic, so I wasn't sure at first just what I was hearing. It soon became apparent, however, that the lovely rain wasn't only raining down on the courtyard outside the room, but also in the room itself!
When I shined a flashlight around the room, it became apparent that the only dry spot in the room was the chair where I had been sitting. The rest of the room was literally awash, with three or four inches of water on the floor, with more pouring through the roof in a dozen different places. As I evacuated the dogs to the back bedroom, which was still completely dry, I thought how lucky we were to discover that the livingroom roof was leaking before our boxes arrived, rather than after.
Sometime after midnight when Bob and the movers arrived, the rain had stopped and the floor, after much mopping, was nearly dry. We had the movers stack our boxes and most furnishings in the front bedroom, which, miraculously, had also remained dry.
We contacted our landlady, who we had never met at this point, the next morning and described the problem. She arrived the next afternoon, and we made arrangements to have the roof resealed. Before the workmen had even arrived to look at the job, the duena showed up again with the big news: a hurricane is coming! Did you see the news? Well, no, at this point we were still so busy trying to settle in that we hadn't been paying any attention to the news.
She showed us the ten-foot long bars that fit into slots to bar the doors. I had noticed the bars standing in the corners nearest each door, but it really hadn't occurred to me that they were there for the hurricanes. When the doors were barred, they gave every appearance of being able to withstand the strongest storm or the fiercest invasion, and the duena assured us that this house had withstood many hurricanes in the past, and, in her opinion, would withstand many more. So, the message was: Not to worry!
Watching the weather reports on TV that evening, we saw that there was indeed a hurricane, named Isidoro, on its way. It was schedule to hit Cancun sometime the next morning. We didn't know if we would be getting a lot of wind or rain or what....but we hoped not a lot of rain because the roof hadnt been fixed yet!
The workmen finally arrived the next afternoon after it had already begun to rain. They said they couldn't do the sealing while the roof is wet! Someone clearly didn't understand the concept of "The hurricane is coming!" As they left they told us they would return when the rain stopped!
By this time we were glued to our television. The latest reports said the hurricane was right off our coast. Just like in the US whenever there is a natural disaster, the local TV stations pre-empted their programing to report exclusively on the progress of Isidoro.
The authorities evacuated the entire Yucatan coastline. We saw the footage of buses lining up in Progresso to bring the residents to Merida, which is inland about 20 or 30 miles. They didn't know if the hurricane would stay offshore, which would mean lots of coastal flooding, but we would, in that case, only experience strong winds and, perhaps, heavy rainfall.
They were reporting that the hurricane was expected to have winds of 145 miles per hour by this afternoon and those winds were extending out from the center about 50 miles. There was some fear that it could veer onto shore, if so, they reported, we would experience those strong winds, plus 10 to 20 inches of rain!
Sure enough, as I watched the news reports, Isidoro followed the Yucatan coastline, past Cancun, where they had high tides and lots of rain, past Isla Holbox, which appeared to get hit quite hard, along the coastal villages and then, near Telchac Puerto, Isidoro moved onto the land. I ran back and forth, updating Bob, who was constantly mopping the sala, to try to keep the water from running into the front bedroom where most of our belongings were still in boxes on the floor.
Now, directly from emails I wrote to family during the hurricane:
It has been raining and blowing pretty steadily since 5 AM. The sala (livingroom) is afloat. Bob made sandbags, which are really helping since the water in the street is over the sidewalk and trying to come in under the door, but the roof in there is like a sieve..... The gusts are really picking up now...the leading edge of the hurricane is supposed to hit between 3 and 4 PM....its only a couple of minutes before three now.....the lights are flickering already....and the wind is beginning to howl!! It sounds like a freight train is continually passing by right outside the window.
The doors are all barricaded with thick wooden bars. I hope they hold! The windows have no glass, which is probably good at this point, but they have heavy wooden shutters. There are no bars to secure the shutters, however, so we have wedged things under each, hoping that will keep them securely shut.
The power just went off. That was our only way to keep in touch with what is happening outside of this house. It is very dark outside, but with the doors and windows shuttered, it is completely black inside. We have candles and flashlights, so it is somewhat cosy in our bedroom, which, luckily seems to be staying dry so far.
Because of the way the house is situated, I am able to open the shutter over the bedroom window. Even during the worst of the storm, I can peak out and watch the avocado tree in our garden and the palms in the distance bending and swaying in the wind. The trees are being destroyed as I watch. The rain comes in sheets, pushed by the wind into near solid walls of water.
Twenty four hours later: the power is back on....we are really lucky because we are so near centro, our power was the first to be restored. Most of the city still doesn‚€™t have electricity. The wind has finally slowed and the rain is now just a normal shower. Now that we can watch the news again, we understand that the hurricane came right through Merida, stalled to the south of us, and then turned and came back through, almost exactly following its original track! No wonder it seemed to go on and on!
We didnt realize right away that just because our power is on, our water isnt....we are now out of water except what we can buy in bottles. Bob managed to find one small tienda a few blocks away which is opening for an hour or two each day. Everything else is still closed. For nearly a week we have collected the rainwater as it gushes off the roof each afternoon. You should see us rush around to fill every available container. It is our only source of water for bathing, cleaning and flushing. We've rigged up a bucket which hangs over the shower head. Oh, what I'd give for a real shower and hot water is almost too luxurious to even think about!
The video on TV continues to be amazing to us, safe here, if a bit damp, in our two hundred year old house. The city, as well as a great deal of the rest of the Yucatan, is a huge mess with hundreds, no thousands, of trees down, tens of thousands of branches and untold numbers of lamina (the roofing material used for lots of buildings) in the streets, broken windows, flooded homes and streets. Only two television stations are still broadcasting. I think a big tower must have gone down, taking out the stations from Mexico City.
There was, of course, terrible flooding along the coast, and the coastal road is cut where Isidoro came onshore. Here in Merida the fronts were literally stripped off many of the businesses. They showed one of the big hotels with its lobby completely wiped out from fallen trees, wind and water damage. Many cars were damaged when trees or other things fell onto them. So many people have pretty much lost everything! The relief effort is getting underway, but already they are saying it will take months for help to get to some of the smallest villages.
This house is in the middle of the block, and the whole block is made up of houses as old as this one and they share the side walls......they may have terrible roofs, but they are built of stone and very strong. The wind was blowing in the same direction the street runs, so instead of blowing into the front or back of our house, it was blowing up and over us.....I noticed just today that there is a plant in a hanging clay pot in our courtyard. It hangs from the bogeda wall....it wasnt blown off the wall and the pot didnt even get cracked!
The trees around the house, however, werent so protected, and they are a mess....the avocado tree in our back yard is nearly limbless, and the two huge trees in the yard behind our's lost a great number of their branches....all over town enormous trees blew over or snapped. They are saying that 60% of the trees on the Yucatan Peninsula are destroyed!
We have been very lucky....in comparison to how thousands of others have come through this thing it is difficult to even think of our problems, but still, unfortunately, it is going to be a long haul for everyone, ourselves included. It is still raining, on and off, at the moment, it is definitely on. Even when it is not raining outside, it continues to rain inside our house. Bob keeps moving the boxes around, trying to find a dry spot for everything. The ceilings are getting more and more soaked and the leaks are popping up everywhere.....we really need several days of sun to even start to get ahead of this thing.
The Merida airport was closed for only a couple of days, which I found amazing. The streets are barely passable with all the trees, trash and water. Traffic lights are out, since power is still off in most of the city. Everyone is being asked to stay home. Most of the highways are supposed to be clear, so that is good, since most of the relief goods will probably be arriving by truck.
With all the damage, Isidoro still wasn't as strong as some. The biggest problems occurred because it passed right over us. Presidente Fox came to look over the damage and pledged 20,000,000 pesos from the federal government to help.....thats only 2,000,000 dollars! This city has certainly had a lot more damage than $2,000,000, but here it seems to be much more up to the city, the state, and individuals to do the largest part of the financing for the repairs.
Well, it is now the Thursday after the Sunday before....Isidoro Sunday, that is. We still have power, although it went off again for half an hour or more this morning. We still have no water...the entire city has no water. At least this morning we were able to buy a big bottle at the local tienda....yesterday Bob walked all over, but couldnt find any except 4 1-liter bottles.
There was partial sun for a while this morning, but now it is completely cloudy again and it has just started to drizzle. It is discouraging because each time the livingroom starts to dry up at all, it gets wet all over again. At least the ceiling is no longer dripping water...up until about this time yesterday it sounded like a damp cave in there. There are still puddles an inch or two deep in places, but , for the first time since Isidoro, there are actually some dry spots too.
The diningroom and kitchen are a different problem. There the ceiling isn‚€™t leaking, but none of the windows (3 in the kitchen, 1 with shutters in the diningroom) have any glass. The double door from the diningroom to the courtyard is also just wrought iron. So, of course, each time it rains, if there is any wind, at least parts of each of these rooms gets wet. The worst part though, we just discovered this morning, the concrete under the tile floor in the diningroom must be soaked. No matter how many times we squeegee that floor it won‚€™t dry. We have two fans going in there right now, but there is no telling how long it might be before the floor will dry out.....some sunshine would certainly be a help!!
Everything is either soaking or damp...walls, floors, furniture, clothing....us. It gets difficult to tell whether something really is wet or just seems that way....well, actually everything is at least a little damp because mold is starting to show up in places...the handle of a camera box, a woven box, the dogs harnesses!
When Bob was out looking for water yesterday he found a restaurant open. It was serving either pizza or tacos....we had two tacos each for dinner last night....they tasted like a feast! We do have some food in the house, but it is very limited. Being hurricane virgins, we didn't think to stock up on non perishable food. We thought that we would be ok, but, of course with the power out for more than 24 hours, we lost some of the things we were depending on having on hand.
I dont know when we can expect the grocery stores to be open....some of the small tiendas are, but their stock is very limited. Today the bakery around the corner reopened. This morning they had a few corn muffins, but they were still warm; the lady said come back at 2 for bread. At 2 they had a type of sweet roll, and the lady said come back at 3 for bread. Ill try for bread tomorrow, I guess...the muffins and rolls were delicious though.
Walking around the neighborhood is a real eye-opener.....we were incredibly lucky. Pieces of buildings were torn off everywhere....broken wires dangling....there is a lot of rubble...partial walls down....trees and tree limbs everywhere....trash of all sorts from who knows where. There was a crew of a dozen or so street cleaners out working sweeping, cleaning, picking up. Some of the businesses have begun to open up again....the laundry for instance, but she cant take in any clothes since she doesnt have any water; she said maybe tomorrow. The antique furniture store on the corner is open. Who would go out shopping for antique furniture right now??? Maybe they're just trying to dry out their inventory.
The city is a huge mess with crumbled walls, caved in roofs, tree limbs and odds and ends of every kind on every street and sidewalk. They are working to clean things up.....two days ago there was a crew of a dozen or so men with brooms and push carts working on our street....but there is just so much to do and so little equipment. Everything is done by hand, although on the news we saw a couple of men with chain saws cutting up some of the trees blocking Merida‚€™s main boulevard.....most of these trees will be cut with hand axes and machetes though.
There has been a great deal of flooding, especially along the coast and south of Merida. They are saying several million acres of farmland is flooded and 8 million farm animals are dead. The poultry and hog industries on the peninsula are completely wiped out. Many of the Mayan villages are cut off and can only be reached by helicopter....all their food and water must come in by helicopter....many are just beginning to see any outside help.
Merida still has many areas without power and although some areas have a little water running through the pipes, we still have no water except what we can buy or what we can catch from the roof drains when it rains....and yes, it continues to rain. Bob mopped and mopped buckets and buckets of water out of the livingroom all through the hurricane and for several days after....the day before yesterday the livingroom floor was dry for the first time since before Isidoro came calling....but it didnt last for long and we had a couple of more inches of water in it again yesterday.
The ceiling is so wet that I am really afraid that part of it might cave in, especially if we get another big storm.....and, unfortunately, there is another hurricane on the horizon, Lili. We wont know for a couple of days yet if it is going to come our way or turn toward Florida. This poor area really couldnt deal with another storm like Isidoro. It made a direct pass over us and then stalled just south of here, dumping inches, 10 to 20, of rain and then it turned back on itself and came back through Merida before heading back into the Gulf. Thank goodness all that time over land weakened it, so that the second time through the winds were down in the 40MPH range....but it dumped more rain and, of course, really whipped up the surf causing more coastal flooding.
We keep moving our things around as the roof pops new leaks...everything is pretty much still in the boxes, since there is no dry place to unpack anything....I dont think we have lost too much yet, but another big storm would just about do us in.....in every way.....this is getting very discouraging......if only the sun would come out.....Bob went to HomeMart (a little like Home Depot) today and got some wood to cover the kitchen windows in case Lili heads our way.....those windows have no glass, so if there is rain with any wind, everything in the kitchen gets wet.....I definitely want out of this house before next years rainy season, if not before! We were going to stay here until we found a piece of land to start building on, but I guess one more move is in our future.
So, that is how two innocent Californians weathered Isidoro.....still here, still loving Merida, but now living in a house with a good roof!!