For the very first time in my life I experienced a hurricane. It was Hurricane Oli that came over Raiatea island the 3rd of February 2010. And as it occurred exactly at the time of my stage of the LC-A race, I couldn’t avoid to take some pictures and share this experience with you in a location, even if the hurricane in itself isn’t a “real” location….
The period of January/February is the real raining season in French Polynesia, even if the temperature is at is highest (min 30° – 35° C). And of course, in such weather conditions of extreme heat and humidity, middle in the ocean, you got the best to heave some tropical depressions, storms or even hurricanes. The locals told us that strong hurricanes come every 10 years and the last hurricane season was dated 1998…. so we had the possibility to experience a hurricane season this year…
The week before Oli the weather was already bad, due to the tropical depression called Nisha. All these climatic perturbations come from the northwest of Polynesia, in the northern area from Fidji islands. depressions, storms and hurricanes often don’t reach Polynesia as it is far away and they disappear in the ocean before arriving on our islands. But Nisha was already a first alert with a nice depression coming direction Raiatea, 300km south-west from the coast. Heavy heavy rain and Grey sky, but a very hot temperature, it was sticky but without any sun….
Nisha was just over that Oli came on his way, but this time the depression was much stronger, transformed itself I storm (winds up to 80-100 km/h) and finally became a hurricane (winds around 120-150 km/h).
Tuesday afternoon (2/02) the red alert was on in Polynesia as the hurricane was less of 1000 km away and should come over Society archipel in the next 48 hours. School was closed until next Monday for security reasons, all pupils went back to their different islands and homes, and everyone was told to stay secure inside your house til Thursday at least…. The city quick became a dead city, all was closed…
All things outside the house must be put inside or solidly attached to something so that they can’t be blown away by the wind and fall on somebody or someone’s house; The windows were protected with strong large tape or even by fixing a wooden protection on them.
Wednesday morning, a very strange mood was all over the island: all was quiet and closed, everybody was at home, waiting for the hurricane… The weather was bad and windy, but the hurricane wasn’t there for the moment. I went out (carefully and not to far from the house) to take some pictures of the mountains behind our home, as the view was really beautiful: a lot of natural waterfalls had appeared as it was raining heavily for a few days now. The clouds we very white and seemed very thick and announcing a lot of water to fall soon….
The wind became stronger in the afternoon (I was back inside of course…) and we were observing the coconut trees in our garden and noticed that the wind became really stronger as these trees seemed to move more and more…. at the end of the afternoon I decided to make some pictures of all that in our garden (don’ worry, I was not far away from the house and was very careful, but a true lomographer takes sometimes some risks to shoot, no?). The big and strong Coconut trees looked like they were made out of paper, surrounded by the wind which played with the trees and branches, folding in the way he liked. The big branches of the coconut trees made frenzy movements and were like arms gone crazy who seemed to leave their tree…. And the wind was blowing like hell, stronger and stronger, in all directions, coming from the sea and from the mountains, making such a noise through the hills and the forest that you could believe that all the island will be blown away (making the island disappear like in LOST…??? ;))))))
The sea came higher, and by chance Our house isn’t directly at the sea but 30 meters from it, because the level of the lagoon came 1-2 meters closer….
I had the time to finish the roll I began in the morning, but after 10-15 minutes I decided to go back inside, the hurricane was really coming at his highest point soon.. and it was no need to take more pictures of it by taking to much risks…
Of course, at home, we had no more electricity nor water since the morning, it was turned off by precaution before the hurricane cans destroy some infrastructures. We knew it before and had the time to make some water reserves and buy a big stock of candles and matches, fill up the l pocket lights with new batteries and have some food reserve. As the night came, we were soon in the dark and the candle lights gave a very romantic atmosphere, but with the wind outside screaming louder and louder, you couldn’t forget the hurricane. We played all the evening different card and dice games, the game called Awalé (one of my top favorite games I bought once in Burkina Faso…) tried to read a bit, and after a while we were tired but still nervous. Sleeping wasn’t very easy, as outside the hurricane was as it’s maximum, making an incredible noise…. Well, you have no choice then to wait til it’s over, there’s nothing you can do about it….
The next morning, Thursday (4/02), the hurricane was gone. We went outside but by chance we noticed no damages on the house or anything else. Of course some trees had lost some branches, the lemon and grapefruit trees had lost most of their fruits, 2 banana trees were down, but nothing else. On the island, the east side (our side) did not suffer to much of the hurricane, but the west side had more destruction of roofs, roads and fallen trees. The electricity and water came back Thursday evening, and the life seemed to begin normally again. It was over for us… but Oli went down to other islands and made much more destruction’s there (specially the island of Rurutu).
Now, we’re hoping that we can spend the next 10 years without such a climatic event! :))