My hurricane story


‘Joy of Giving’ Kindness of Strangers Collection © 2017 Pamela Wingard


Around here everyone has a hurricane story. Here’s mine:

Hurricane Luis. 1995. Seven months pregnant with our son Matthew. Our parents told my husband and me not to go. We brushed them off.

St. Martin. Day two. Sitting in an outdoor bar having lunch and most likely a rum drink. One of those island bars, with a white pergola or a thatched roof, I don’t remember.

The weather channel on the tv behind the bar. Hurricane Luis heading straight for the Leeward Islands. Category 4. Wide. The eye 46 miles wide. Four times the size of the island. The locals told us she would turn and miss St. Martin. Last one in 1912. Donna, I believe.

We tried to evacuate. No planes flying in. That means no planes flying out.

The hotel management moved us to a room away from the water but not up high. Is it safer to be away from the wind or away from the water? We didn’t know.

We went to the local grocery for supplies. I picked up peanut butter, a flashlight and a transistor radio. My husband comes around the corner with a bag of potato chips and a six-pack of Red Stripe. Seriously.

Luis slowed and sat on St Martin for 18 hours. A long time when you are boarded up in a hotel bathroom with a mattress, no A/C, and Red Stripe you can’t even drink because you’re about to give birth.

It was noisy (and scary) as the trees and pieces of metal roofing blew around at 135 miles an hour. But you know what? We were ok. Many people were not.

And aren’t after Harvey, and Irma, and Maria.

I’ll never forget the smell of rotting fruit, or swimming in the ocean after Luis moved out to sea. Only to discover that the water might be contaminated. Or the National Guard patrolling the airport. Or the pay phone line we waited in for over an hour so we could call our families.

I’ll remember the kindness of strangers. The hotel owner who gave us water and a meal each day and gave me extra milk because of my pregnancy. The La Belle Creole hotel never reopened. (Side note: Interesting story and photos of the hotel damage from Traveling Island Girl. here.)

We found a restaurant with a generator where we ate two meals a day for four or five days straight. I’ll never forget the friends we met in that little restaurant. Three  couples from the US and Canada. Once we got a flight out, we left our rental car with a nice couple from Canada and asked them to return it.  I assume they did.

Six days later, we left for home on a US Consulate charter plane as the civilian planes were not yet cleared to land on the island. The locals didn’t have that luxury. Some of them had nothing left.

The 2017 hurricane season affected more islands, more people. Houston, Florida. Puerto Rico, Haiti, the US Virgin Islands.  Many beautiful places that rely on tourism for their local economy.

Beach lovers, lovers of people, twenty percent of the sales from this ‘KINDNESS OF STRANGERS’ collection will go to Lutheran Disaster Response. Because 100 percent of donations go to the victims.

Don’t buy a painting because of that. But if you chose to make one of these paintings your own, know that this cause is close to my heart. Or if you want to contribute or learn more about what they do, here’s the link: Lutheran Disaster Response.

Thanks for listening to my hurricane story. Other’s didn’t turn out so well. Maybe we can help.  




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