There was a lot of joking going on. No-one remembered an actual red alert, but knew of plenty yellow or even orange ones which had turned out to be storms in teacups, so throughout Sunday, when warnings were mis-interpreted there was a lot of sarcasm going around – and this in a country which really doesn’t do sarcasm.
I kind of got it, but I moved anything which might take flight from the roof terrace, unplugged most things electrical, made sure I knew how to grope for the torches in the dark, where the matches and candles were, and snuggled down around 10.30 with a good book. Apart from a dull murmuring as breezes shifted the tightly closed window blinds there was nothing much to confirm the red storm alert the archipelago was under, but when we lost power around 11pm it was a sign. We always lose power in a bad storm. I cozied down under the duvet, but forgot to turn off the light, so when the power came back on after 20 minutes or so it roused me from that drift before sleep I was enjoying, and made sure I wouldn’t find my way back for a couple of hours – in all that time, no storm sounds.
This morning, opening the door to the roof terrace, aware that there were no hints of wind or rain, the smell of damp earth rose to greet me. It’s a smell you dream of at the end of a long, dry summer. It’s like no other in its connection to this planet. The terrace was damp, clouds still hovered over all but the nearest hills, but nothing seemed threatening. TV reported high winds on the peaks, trees and road signs down mainly in the north of the island, but no threat to life, or major structural damage. I spoke with friends and family. The mayor of Icod in the north spoke on tv of a complicated, hard and difficult night. Cristina confirmed that the Fiesta de San Andres in Icod, when the new wines of the year are presented, and which should have taken place Monday night (and where I should be right now!), was postponed. TV confirmed that schools throughout the western islands were closed today. Still, it seems as if it was happening somewhere else. To a Sandgrown ‘un* this was normal autumn weather, wet and windy, the sort of weather which regularly brings down the Illuminations in Blackpool, and no reason to hide indoors as the island government was suggesting.
I was still on the phone when the windows began to shake under the battering of heavy rain, and the door onto the roof terrace clattered with a ghostly force. When I looked out across the car park, which my apartment overlooks, I couldn’t even see the apartments on the other side, so dense and grey was the sheet of rain hurtling through. Driven, as it was, by high wind it didn’t last long, and the morning settled down to a pattern of heavy showers, followed by periods when the sky lightened, and I was tempted to go out to peek at the ocean. Whenever it crossed my mind to do so, down would come a thick curtain of rain again.
At some point, thunder began to echo from the hillsides, sometimes mixing with the distant roar of planes taking off from the airport, so you couldn’t tell which was which. The planes had been taking off in “the wrong direction” for a couple of days – the first sign of bad weather. Occasionally, lightning flashed, hidden behind the thick clouds so that the whole sky lit with a curious yellowish glow for a few seconds. As the day wore on, the thunder rumbled closer and the flashes were brighter, Mother Nature, it seemed, had given the order to advance on the coast. Time to shut off the router again, before it was in danger of “frying”. Trixy took refuge under the table. Our sortie in the morning was brief. She didn’t want to be out there any more than I did!
So the afternoon passed, the tv having gone down earlier there was no way of knowing how bad it was elsewhere. This isn’t a place or a building I expected to get the worst of it by any means. I’d lived for around 14 years on a street where heavy rain always brought floods, so since then nothing’s been that bad! Around 6, as things seemed to be quieter I went up to the roof terrace again. The rain had almost stopped, and the wind was no worse than usual for this area, and, remarkably, over in the western sky, there was strip of blue beneath the lumbering grey, and the setting sun was beginning to tint the clouds with purple.
Returning to the tv and the computer it seemed as if, whilst there has been bad damage, including a crane falling over, on Tenerife, and worse damage on the smaller and more westerly islands of La Palma and El Hierro, there has been no loss of life, and electricity has been restored to most of the 23,000 people who have stumbled through the day without it.
By one of those weird co-incidences life throws up from time to time, Sunday was the 5th anniversary of Tropical Storm Delta glancing across the island, downing several electricity pylons, and causing chaos. Hopefully, this new system of alerts worked this time, and prevented damage, and saved lives, even the skeptical were still listening to the news.
These island are truly blessed in their weather almost all of the time. You will read statistics which tell you we get around 65 days of rain per year, but those stats are read from weather stations in the north, most of them around 2,000 ft above sea level, here on the southern coast we have far less than that, which, I guess, is why these storms seem extra exciting to me! I can count on the fingers of one hand the electrical storms I’ve seen here. I can remember watching from a highrise hotel in Florida as the lightning jumped from cloud to cloud, and I remember seeing a water tower on the Outer Banks light up like something from a science fiction movie. These summer storms are so normal there, but here they are big news!
For me, a kind of old-fashioned day, when I didn’t want to begin ironing or cooking or writing or anything which involved electricity and which I might have to frustratingly abandon. I actually sat and read for two, whole hours, a real luxury. It’s a whole year since I had the time to do that. It was a guilty pleasure I’d rediscovered when I broke my wrist last year. I do read every day, and every spare minute I get, but often I’m too tired to revel in it the way I could today. The other thing I did was to copy out, by hand, as in wielding a pen, a ton of recipes I’d tried and liked and collected, onto the cards from a recipe box Guy had given me, oh, a few years back already. Just think, reading and writing……..and I remembered how to do both! Give me a day like this tomorrow and I might even try my hand at a jigsaw!
* sandgrown ‘un is the name given to someone born in Blackpool, on the north-west coast of England, although I understand people from Morecambe also claim the nickname.
Update: As I clicked “publish” last night I heard the dull rumble of thunder again, and spent an hour or so at my window, watching lightning light up the car park brighter than day, as flash rapidly followed flash. Somewhere between midnight and one it eased off and I took myself to bed, only to be woken a couple of hours later by what sounded like an even fiercer round of pyrotecnics. This time I hid under the covers and tried to sleep!