Tropical Storm Nichole

Tropical Storm Nichole

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Tropical Storm Nichole

Part 2: News report: September 29th. Tropical Storm Nichole.

The following has been transcribed from the pages I wrote last night, in the middle of the storm, and with luke-warm, beer!!

What a surprise:- suddenly, out of nowhere we are getting a bad hit from a Tropical Storm.

I check at least 2 weather sites, on line, every day, and there was not even a hint of anything like this!! Certainly we were expecting some inclement weather, due to the chaos in the Caribbean weather systems; a developing hurricane to our west, with all the predictions that would head away from Jamaica.

Sitting here in the dark, power is off, and too much wind and rain to start the generator, reduced to writing this by pen-on-paper (how quaint) by candle light (how Medieval).

With no warnings at all, we were unable to take any precautions: when Chris left work to go home at 4.00pm Tuesday, it was raining gently, as it had been, on and off, all afternoon. Late evening and the rain really set in, and the winds slowly increased, the power was flickering on and off every few minutes, until about 10.15, when it went off completely. Early to bed, in what turned out to be the "gentle" part of the storm; which really started to "ramp up", mid morning, today (Wednesday).

We spent the day in (too late?) hurricane precautions, we were unable to put up the storm shutters (boards over the windows) as it was pouring with rain. Fortunately the winds were merely Storm force, and not even border-line hurricane strength, or so it seemed! As the night progressed, the winds increased in intensity, and the rains got heavier (Radio news: Jamaican Met Office:- 8 inches of rain fell in the 10 hours up to 4.00pm, Wednesday, presumably in Kingston, where the Met Office is located) I later checked my water tank, and estimate that we had 12 inches of rain in about 24 hours, and only half that time, was the rain heavy.

With the wind howling around the house, rain drumming on the roof, and almost continuous thunder, it was impossible to get to sleep; so we spent a while just watching the weather, a flash of lightening, and before it had finished, the whole house vibrated as the thunder rolled across us.

The poor dogs, they don't mind wind, rain, or thunder, unless all three happen at once. They were restless, all night, just as I was; the humidity at 100%, in the clouds, and a temperature hovering just below 70F, almost impossible to get comfortable, and fall asleep.

No chance of getting to the shops tomorrow! Radio (battery operated) reports over 200 roads blocked, and 60 of those will be impassable for several days; with little warning of this storm, my stocks are lower than I like to keep them.

As always: the immediate road repairs are carried out by the locals, clearing fallen trees and the smaller land slides: the Government; as always; showing great concern, and rushing to their "piggy banks" to try and find some cash to pay for the major repairs.

During a short break in the rains (late Wednesday afternoon) we managed to out and have a look for any : damage; not as bad as the winds suggested, about a quarter of the banana trees blown down, some loss of the ripest fruits on the Citrus trees.

Suddenly faced with a new, blank sheet of paper: really not used to this any more! Something that never happens with the computer!

This storm is like nothing I have experienced before:- a "normal" storm or hurricane, and the rain starts, then the winds start, they both peak, before the winds die down, and the rains slowly ease off.

This Storm (it has been named Nicole, according to the radio news: all expectations were for this storm to form well away from Jamaica, and track away, to the north or north west, and hardly affect the Island, at all) The forecasters got it wrong! (will have to wait for the repairs to be done to the phone network (No Service, at the moment) before I can check and see just how they got it wrong)

Wednesday: coming up to 11.00pm, pitch black outside, and I do mean "pitch" black, but interspersed with the occasional lightening flash, the winds seem to have abated, and the rain is still falling, but certainly not as heavy as earlier.

Almost midnight, and take a look outside: the darkness is Stygian, taking a few moments before it becomes possible to see the very slight difference between the thick blackness of the trees, and the tiny "glow" of the sky, darkness at its deepest: and the slight glow in the sky only due to a 3/4 moon, almost overhead, at the moment.

Never before, during the 5 storms/hurricanes that I have "lived" through, have I seen one with so much thunder and lightening.

The majority of the "weather" has been coming to us, up here, from the South, channelled up the valley and hitting the ridge just above the house, we will not know what damage has been done to the impending coffee crop, until the morning.

How to best describe this storm? Nothing really memorable, but it will go down in my "history" as defeating the weather forecasters, who failed to predict it, in anything approaching the intensity that it hit us with.

It was a "new type" of storm for me, coming from only one direction (South, up the valley) and came in "waves", nothing continuous, more like the spokes of a wheel, short periods of wind and rain, separated by short periods (20 to 40 minutes) of calm weather, but always some rain, and thunder, but little wind.

The radio is the available source of entertainment, and thanks are gratefully given to our very own, English BBC, World Service; the only relief from the incessant "noise" purporting to be music, that spews out of all the local radio stations, between the news reports.

What is a Tropical thunderstorm really like? when you are at 3,500 feet, and actually "inside" it? This was is no lightening show, over the distant mountains, we are "inside" it: the flashes of the lightening appearing above, below, and level with us. Looking down the valley, we can see "over" the flashes, the nearby ones can be seen impacting the mountains all around us, and only a few hundred yards away.

When there is a lightening strike very close, you can hear the strike, best I can describe it a "Whooossssh"; blindingly bright (even in full daylight) and much worse at night. Strange thing is that when it is that close, not a trace of (as you would expect) the ear-splitting noise of the thunder.


storm nicholeTrees stripped of their leaves, even my gates destroyed.

From 2007, hurricane Dean.

Thursday morning: and the aftermath: just the last lingering bit of rain, the winds have gone: 36 hours from start to finish, but it will (according to the TV news) be a few more days before the bad weather in the Caribbean, starts to clear.

20% of the Island without power, 30% without water, several bridges washed away, and many more damaged: lot of roads closed and impassable (mid afternoon, and an Army helicopter flying around, then down the valley, checking on the state of the roads ), several people killed (by the flood waters, and 3 guys died when their shed (on a building site, and they were sleeping there) was washed away, down a steep gully). Just be thankful it was not any worse.

Check the plantation, and apart from a loss of several banana trees, no obvious other damage, the coffee appears to be intact, but a whole lot of trees half stripped of their leaves; still plenty of fruit left on the Citrus trees, and no damage to the house.

Expecting the phones to be out for a few days (the wind blows the transmitters out of alignment, or so they tell us!!) power will be out for several days, at least, and no way of knowing how long before the roads are open, and we can get to the shops. In the past, they have always managed to open one of the 3 roads I can use to get to the shops, within a week: open is probably not the right word, "passably in a 4 x 4" would be more accurate!

40 hours with out power, so time to fire up the generator, before I lose all the contents of the freezer, checked, and it is still all frozen, but not "deep" frozen, and nothing lost.

Disaster!! pull the starting cord on the generator, and it snaps off!! No other way to get it started! Hunt around, and eventually decide to use the starting cord off the lawn mower, what a fiddly job to fit it!! took me over 3 hours (and I am a "master bodger" of nearly all things electro-mechanical!!) not having needed to use the generator for many months, it was a real "pig" to get started, and then it all had to be adjusted to 110 volts (I run all my electronics through a voltage regulator, but cannot use it for the fridge/freezer) the generator was made in Mexico, from Chinese components, and runs at 128 volts, unless adjusted (with a paper clip!).

Everything working: TV dish not blown out of alignment, so weather news available: computer running so I can type some letters, and catch up on things; but will a few days before the phones are fixed, and I get any e-mail.

This might be a good moment to talk about "hurricane food":-

Throughout (all but recent) history, mankind has had problems preserving food, especially in temperate climes where it is vital to be able to store food, through the winter. In tropical climes, the problem is preserving foods, for short periods, in the heat and high levels of bacterial and fungal growth.

One interesting method is "potting", and if done properly, will store food for several weeks or months: the method originated, as far as I can discover, in Europe: and I have found a recipe for it, written between 1590 and 1604 (Elizabethan England), and used to preserve meats, in the (cool) winter months

The best thing to preserve this way, is a good meaty stew: with a LOT of fat, fully cooked, and slowly cooled, leaving it covered with a thick layer of fat: providing the food has been totally sterilised during cooking, the layer of fat on the top acts as a barrier to bacteria and fungus, keeping the food edible over a long period of time. If there is not sufficient fat in the "stew", butter is added, to form the covering layer.

In the absence of power (and the generator won't start!!) I would stew up all the meats in the freezer, and "pot" them, under a thick layer of coconut oil, (kept cool, below 74F, coconut oil sets solid) the dogs would get some of the defrosted contents of the freezer, and I would have "preserved" stews, for several days. Better than the only other "standby", Corned beef, every night, until the roads are re-opened!!

Robin Plough, friend of

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A New Year on the Plantation
A Visit to Paradise
A year in the life..What makes JBM, the 'legend' of coffee?
Assessing your coffee (part 1)
Assessing your coffee (part 2)
Assessing your coffee (part 3)
Economics of JBM. Part 1
Economics of JBM. Part 2
Everything you wanted to know about the Coffee Board
Growing a coffee plant at home
Growing Coffee. Part 1
Growing Coffee. Part 2
Growing Coffee. Part 3
Growing Coffee. Part 4
Growing Coffee. Part 5
Growing: Part 1
Growing: Part 2
Jamaican food (part 1)
Jamaican food (part 2)
Jamaican food (part 3)
Jamaican newsletter
Living in Paradise: Part I
Living in Paradise: Part II
Living in Paradise: Part III
Processing our coffee (part 1)
Processing our coffee (part 2)
Random thoughts on the end of the world
Random thoughts on the end of the world (II)
Special Report: Coffee Leaf Rust Fungus Part 1
Special Report: Coffee Leaf Rust Fungus Part 2
SPECIAL: Coffee borer beetle in Hawaii
Trivia and other ramblings: part 1
Trivia and other ramblings: part 2
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