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Hattie the Monster Part 2 – Horrible Holloween

It is ironical that there being a strong wind outside, it would be so hot inside a building. But with all the windows and doors locked, the body heat of some fifty persons, the lit kerosene lanterns, and the barometric pressure falling, the temperature inside the shelter was about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. At one corner of the building, the murmuring prayers of a group of women were drowned by the howling wind and the clash of thunder.

At every gust, the walls shook and we could hear the rattle of some sheets of zinc of our shelter. We were expecting for the walls to fall apart any minute and the children looked in anguish at the faces of the crying women. The men, as if by instinct, maintained their composure for they knew that if the wood break, the women would become hysterical and add to the agony of the night. The breeze continued howling and intensifying by the minute and the rain seemed to be falling horizontally and hitting the roof and walls like metal pellets.

A few men obviously drunk came to our shelter and announced that many of the houses along the beach, including ours, had been blown down by the violent breeze and demolished by the ferocious waves. My grandmother grabbed a broom and chased them away. Just as the door of our shelter was closed, a tumultuous noise outside overrode the clap of thunder and howling wind. The huge wooden vat had burst and was knocked against our northern wall. It felt like an earthquake. Three men went outside to assess the damage and returned saying that the water from the sea had already met with the water from the lagoon and was about one foot high. “Oh my God,” was the cry of the women. “San Pedro will sink and this hurricane will swallow us alive. We are going to die!”

Some men reassured us all that the water from the sea was moving up and then receding. This was a good sign for it meant that the giant waves were still rolling back to the sea and had not yet covered the village. This brought some much needed relief, especially on the women and there was some degree of silence intermingled with prayers for the rest of the night. There were trees slammed against our house, roofs of other buildings rolling on top of ours, the continuous banging of windows or doors, but most of all that horrendous howling of wind.

Apart from the atrocious noises outside and the constant dripping of water from several spots on the ceiling and roof, nothing major occurred at my grandfather’s house on Back Street (Pescador Drive) but we knew that many thatch houses on back street were leaning, most of the homes on Front Street had lost their roofs, and the entire beach had been brutally swept away into the open sea. This we knew from two of my uncles who had gone outside to make an assessment around two in the morning of that awful morning of November 1, All Saints Day, the day that Hattie changed the face of San Pedro.

Everybody knew that San Pedro had suffered a lot of damages, but the question was to what extent and whether there were any deaths. The remaining wee hours of night until dawn seemed eternal. It was not until about seven a.m. when the wind had died to about one fourth of its strength and the rain had diminished considerably that there was some semblance of light though it still looked quite dark. It was then that the men decided to take a walk among the rubble to scrutinize and assess the damage. That was the end of the ravaging storm but not the end of the effects and impact of Hurricane Hattie twenty five years ago, the morning of November 1, 1961.

– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist

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