Column: Bermuda’s Special “Hurricane Spirit”

October 7, 2015

[Opinion column written by Larry Burchall]

There is such a thing as “Hurricane Spirit” for Bermudians. As with Fabian [2003] and Gonzalo [2014], that spirit was there again for Joaquin.

It’s a general national spirit of cooperation and understanding coupling with a real sense that us lot share a common danger and that by collaborating and cooperating before, during, and then sharing immediately after a hurricane, we can minimize our individual and national problems.

With Joaquin’s relatively light brush-off, Bermuda’s special “Hurricane Spirit” was not as strongly evident as during and after Fabian and Gonzalo. But it was still there.

That sense of national togetherness does eventually, perhaps too quickly, fade to our normal national ‘bitch and moan’, but that’s human nature. Coalesce against a common danger. Separate when the danger has passed. In that sense, Bermudians are normal.

But deep down, that “Hurricane Spirit” is always there. It can always be counted on.

Like all my fellow Bermudians, I too, shuttered and closed up, and hunkered down for the expected blow. Since I live in a house that is very well-sheltered from every quadrant except the whole North to East quadrant, the mostly Southerly winds from Joaquin – and for that matter Fabian – caused me little concern.

Listening to the peak of a hurricane is a special experience. The wind makes a loud high-pitched howling sound – as though a chorus of five hundred pointy hatted unseen soprano witches are singing a loud dirge. The sound rises and falls as if under the conductor’s baton of some equally invisible Warlock.

The witch dirge never stops, until, as in Fabian and Gonzalo, the calm ‘eye’ of the hurricane actually passes over us – or my house. Then, the witch dirge rapidly dies off and there is absolute silence; except – as around my well hedged house – for the happier sound of the un-conducted orchestra of hundreds of tree frogs who serenade me all year.

Then, as the ‘eye’ moves on and the wall of hurricane force winds return, the witch chorus just as rapidly howls back.

During the more powerful Fabian, I watched from outside as a tall single pole radio mast swayed and flexed until metal fatigue caused the top part to break off and plummet to the ground.

Also during Fabian, I recall seeing a chicken, probably a feral chicken, being blown off to the east. The chicken’s wings were still folded and its compact chicken body was just a fast-moving aerial bundle. All this accompanied by that eerie witches dirge.

Joaquin, after stepping down from an ominous Category Four to a much gentler Category Two, did not cause any great or widespread personal or national damage. Certainly, nothing on the scale of Fabian or Gonzalo.

But Joaquin did give us lot a chance to revert to just being a bunch of nice people living on an isolated island who know that the only way for us to deal with a hurricane is to cooperate, collaborate, share, and look out for our neighbours.

By the way, when a hurricane arrives and you’re hunkered down inside your Bermuda house, aren’t you glad that the Planning Rules are so stringent and the Building Codes and standards so high? Aren’t you glad that there’s at least eight inches – or more – of concrete block or solid Bermuda limestone between you and that witches dirge?

After seeing the house knockdowns and building flattening in other countries, it’s comforting to know that a properly designed and built Bermuda house can take on even a Cat Three and win. We haven’t had a Cat Four yet, so that test is yet to come.

But I think that even with a Cat Four, Bermuda’s Hurricane Spirit and being hunkered down inside of a well-built Bermuda house will still see us through.

- Larry Burchall

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  1. Chris Famous says:

    Really nice piece..