In the Aftermath of a Hurricane

For those of you who do not already know, my family and I live on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Several months ago we were hit with a hurricane....head on.  The damage was mind blowing and even now, months later, evidence is still all around us of the devastation that was left in its wake.

The bigger story in my mind, however, is how the community rallied around those in need! It was really heartwarming.

A once thick forest
Puna is a small district on the island of Hawaii.  It covers a large area in the South Eastern portion of the island and is home to over 45,000 people spread out over multiple rural subdivisions.  I have to admit to not being overly thrilled when we first moved here but over time I have realized the depth of beauty and community in this small section of the island.  It is home to lava flows, Kilauea volcano's eastern slope, springs, hot ponds, hiking trails, tide pools, black sand beaches, and quaint towns.

Thursday was much like any other day with the exception of the stores being jam-packed due to the impending storm.  We had a hurricane threat on Oahu last year that turned out to be little more than a short drizzle so we were not overly concerned.   I went to the store, got a couple bottles of water, some batteries, and a couple small flashlights so there would be no fighting over the 1 we already had once the power faded.
We watched people buying up the store, taping up their windows, and boarding doors. We joked at how silly it all was...famous last words!

I expected some wind and some rain and I even figured the power would go out, as even in a mild wind and rain storm we have lost power a few times.  But this was not at all what I was expecting.  We went to the ocean, which is only a mile from my house several times throughout the day and we were amazed at what we saw.  Each outing the water was higher, the waves were rougher, and the general sentiment of the onlookers increasingly became infused with concern.  Could this storm actually be hitting us??   Check out this video I took at the water around 6pm.  Bear in mind the actual storm did not hit until after midnight.

For some perspective the following pics are a progression of a typical clear day, 12 hours out, and then 8 hours out.  Crazy right?! We didn't take any video closer to the storm hitting because it got seriously scary out there and a huge tree dropped on our road.  We were officially stuck!

The evening was really quite scary.  The winds kicked up, power went out, and all we could hear was the whistle of wind followed by the crack of one tree after another.  That is until the roof on our porch started flapping, slamming up and down on the framework each time the wind blew.  This was the first time any of us had experienced a hurricane and honestly I was a bit nervous.

We lost electricity pretty early on and spent the night listening to trees crack and fall.  I believe it was around midnight when Dylan and I looked at each other with that, "holy shit we were not expecting this" look followed by bets all around on how long the power would be out.  We quickly realized that we grossly downplayed what this storm would do.  It wasn't until 2 days later that we realized we took an almost direct hit!

The next morning we woke to some light rain and no electricity, as expected.  After enjoying some coffee made by my brilliant husband with some tea lights,a toaster rack, and a mug we were itching to get out and see what all those snapping trees were about.

What we discovered was entirely shocking, a landscaped changed forever by fallen albezia trees.  These trees are an invasive species that grow too fast for their own good making them weak and prone to breaking and uprooting.  Add in hurricane force winds and you have a whole lot of destruction.

Initially, we were trapped on our small road, trees down on the main roads in all directions.  But as we stood there taking photos we started to notice we were not alone.  Nearly everyone in the area was out, but not just gawking at the destruction they were working!  Neighbors with chainsaws helped neighbors without, people with lawn tractors or mini excavators came out and with no outside help at all cleared all the main roads so that most people could at least get out and get to stores or where ever they needed to go.  I suspected we were not the only ones ill-prepared.  It was heartwarming really to see the community pull together to help all around them in need.

To be more prepared next time (should that time come), we decided to look into getting a chainsaw of our own so our neighbors don't have to come to save us when we can't get out of our own driveway! Here are some of the options we looked at.

The grocery store became a meeting place to hear about how each community was faring
The line for free ice and water
The next few days we struggled mostly to keep ice and to get ice.  We waited in long lines to get it and were overcome everyday by the generosity of others.  We lost our electricity for 4 days but 2 weeks out there were some who still were living without, gratitude is an understatement!  There were free meals given all over the place, free ice and water at various points in town, and HELCO, our electric company were hard at work day and night.  After a couple of days the Red Cross set up stations and the national guard moved in to help clear debris, all much appreciated.

National Guard patrolling our neighborhood

Appreciation was everywhere
The aftermath of this hurricane truly restored my faith in people, community, and the various companies on the island.  Everyone worked together and did without in order to share with others all the while casting no udgement over those *ahem* who were ill prepared and chose not to heed the early warnings.

As soon as power was restored we made ice as fast as we could and donated it along with water to those still affected.  Many, many people did this as their power was restored.  All around there were people giving out hot meals and facebook groups organizing so everyone would be helped.  It was a difficult time for many but there was so much help and a true feeling of ohana (family) throughout the entire area!  It really made all the difference!

When was the last time your faith was restored in community?  Tell us about it below!

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