Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tropical Storm--Check!! Time to Hunker Down!

So, on the positive side, I guess I'll be able to check off another experience on my running list of interesting things I've done or seen. Lived through a tropical storm--check! Unfortunately, this experience happens to be a little more nerve-racking than other experiences on my list because I don't have a category in my brain in which to plug this one. When I rode an elephant in Thailand, I plugged it into my category of "Things Ridden" (horses, bucking mechanical bull, ornery ram, surf boards, skate boards, and bicycles). Okay, so as I approached the elephant, my brain could anticipate the general sensation of movement not of my own, the need for balance, and the fact that I would be higher than usual. Now, tropical storms . . . hmmmmm . . . oddly no category comes to mind. I have a few nebulous shemata by which to make a possible connection: earthquakes, heavy rain, fairly strong winds that would occassionally whip down off Mount Diablo and weaken our backyard fence in CA; but, oddly enough, tropical storms don't seem to fit. So, as a result, I blindly follow the instructions posted on the front page of the local newspaper and the Guam Homeland Security Office. Speaking of which, I have cut and pasted below their Conditions of Readiness and terms (we are in condition 1 for a tropical storm). Believe me, I am following all instructions to a tee. We are hunkered down in our 100% concrete and rebar bunker (aka "house"), typhoon shutters are secured, and the trampoline has been taken down and stored. But seriously, please pray for the many people on Guam who live in plywood and tin houses. They are presently displaced from their homes and are in emergency shelters.

The Guam Homeland Security Office of Civil Defense has established conditions of readiness to prepare for a storm.
The Conditions of readiness are based on the onset of damaging winds of 39 mph.

Condition of Readiness 4
Damaging winds may arrive on the island within 72 hours
What this means: day-to-day activities are normal

Condition of Readiness 3
Damaging winds may arrive within 48 hours
Review, update your family disaster plan
Buy and replenish supplies for your disaster supply kit
Fill up car(s) with gas
Secure outdoor objects
Prepare household for long term power and water loss (laundry, outdoor cooking, etc.)
Tune into radio and/or television

Condition of Readiness 2
Damaging winds may arrive within 24 hours
Close and secure shutters
Fill containers with water
Move vehicles to a secure and protected area
Review family disaster plan with entire family
Seek emergency shelter if home is not fully concrete or prepared to withstand damaging winds.
Tune into radio and/or television.

Condition of Readiness 1
Damaging winds are occuring or expected within 12 hours
Only mission essential personnel and vehicles are allowed outside
Tune in to weather news

Depression: General term for a low-pressure tropical weather system with rotary circulation and accompanying rain.
Tropical disturbance: A moving area of thunderstorms in the tropics that maintains its identity for 24 hours or more.
Tropical depression: A tropical cyclone with rotary wind circulation and maximum sustained surface winds of 38 mph.
Tropical storm: A tropical cyclone with distinct circulation and wind speeds of 39 to 73 mph.
Typhoon: A tropical cyclone with strong pronounced rotary winds and maximum sustained surface winds of 74 mph.
Supertyphoon: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained wind speed in excess of 149 mph.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

And it Raaaained--I'm Not Joking!

With uniforms especially clean and great expectations, soccer players from all the island's soccer clubs and their families arrived at the fields. A significant grant had been given to the Guam Football Association (meaning soccer) and a HUGE celebration fiesta was to be thrown. A parade of the players along with speeches from the Governor and other VIPs were to accompany the fiesta. At the soccer practices leading up to this event, players had been told that rain or shine, the fiesta would proceed. We were a bit worried because Guam was on a tropical storm watch and had been experiencing a LOT of rain. Nevertheless, with golf-size umbrella in tow, Noelle (9-years-old) and I showed up for the big event (Eric was at a basketball practice with 12-year-old Katie). Huge and new canopies with poles affixed in concrete lined the fields. Under each canopy was found youngsters touting the same colored jerseys and nearly all the colors of the rainbow were on display down the line of canopies like a pack of Life Savers. As Noelle and I began to situate ourselves under the canopy with other players sporting green jerseys, it began to rain. The kids were thrilled and spilled out onto the field to gleefully splash and wholeheartedly attempt to score a goal while some poor sap slipping and sliding attempted to prohibit success. Soon, the rain changed to very heavy precipitation. A loud cheer went up--primarily from the boys whose play became all the more frenetic. The faint-hearted players dashed to join their parents who were sequestered under the canopies. I kept looking around wondering when they would tell us the event had been cancelled. But, everyone was hunkered down happily socializing. Like a train, the rain began picking up speed and volume. It became difficult to hear because the rain was slamming down so hard. Although we were under the canopy and about four feet in, the rain began to slash in sideways and we were getting quite wet. Up came our seemingly circus-tent-sized umbrella which we put in front of us like a shield. As Noelle and I nestled behind the umbrella shield on our lawn chairs that sit about five inches off the ground, we noticed that the grass beneath our feet was disappearing under water. To our shock, we realized it was beginning to flood! A bright jolt of lightening followed by an incredible clap of thunder had anyone not already under the canopy frantically sprinting for cover. Lightening, thunder, and a torrential rain like you can't imagine followed. At that point, trying to make it back to the parking lot wasn't an option. Regardless of the canopy and the mammoth umbrella, staying dry wasn't happening. I kept thinking, "It can't rain this hard for long." I was wrong. The water beneath us was rising to the point that I was afraid we would soon be sitting in it. And then, I noticed something quite disturbing. Everywhere I looked I saw cockroaches and beetles of every imaginable variety furiously paddling and desperately seeking land. These critters' safe haven was, you guessed it, our feet and the legs of our lawn chairs--which led to our bodies. Although I actually like reptiles, I feel quite differently about insects. As we sat, feet buried under water, I could at times feel the desperate squirming of an arthropod trapped between my flip-flop and the sole of my foot. I was forever pushing the crawling maniacal beasts off my legs. It was free shock therapy for an insectophobiac! At any rate, the rain eventually let up, the speeches were cut short, and the parade was cut completely. But, on Guam, food will NEVER be cut. And, like only Guam can do it, there was an amazing fiesta, complete with roasted pig and a whole freezer truck of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Remember, this is Guam, rain and heat go together, so the ice cream was a relief. Of course, that relief was nothing like the relief of arriving at home and finally stepping on dry, solid ground. And to think, as I write this, it's still raining outside!