Hurricane Tomas is now just tropical storm Tomas, which doesn’t sound too bad, does it? There’s still a chance it could strengthen back into a hurricane by the time its center reaches us, early Friday morning. And we’re still in the “non-navigable” semi-circle of its track, where the winds are highest and mariners don’t go. We could see winds up to 65 miles an hour, but probably won’t. What we will see are heavy rains.
Last night was clear and cool, about as nice a night as we can have in Haiti. I was greeted by a group of drunk, face-painted, singing, dancing revelers carouse past the corner bar in their holiday finery, celebrating the Day of the Dead in Voudoo style. Then I lay on the roof watching shooting stars until way past my bedtime. Right as I fell asleep I thought, Man, this is the most cliché calm before the storm I could dream of.
When I woke up today the sky was cloudy, and a cool breeze was blowing. Everything felt ominous, but it may have been the mounting tension among the 75 people on the base. Almost all field work was suspended today in lieu of tying down or stowing everything that could blow or float away. If it comes down to it, we can shut ourselves into rooms that are as weatherproof as we can make them for a day or so.
What we’ve all learned from constantly checking stormpulse.com, the National Hurricane Center, and the Weather Underground is that people can’t predict the weather very well, and big storms are very fluid. Tomas has gone from a category two hurricane down to a tropical depression, almost dispersing, then coalescing back into a tropical storm.
The only thing we’re sure of is that, as always, it will be the poorest people, the 1.3 million people still living under tarps and bedsheets, that will be the hardest hit. After the storm passes, the IDP camps will be everyone’s highest concern. Sanitation, food, water, and medical care will be critical over the next week, and the cholera epidemic, which hasn’t gone away even with a hurricane menacing, could worsen.
Despite the potential for further disaster, big storms are completely humbling:
Oh, I almost forgot. In the midst of all this, I’m actually making progress on the reason I came back to Haiti in the first place. I’ve written or co-written proposals for funding for heavy equipment, one of which, to IOM, the International Organization for Migration, looks like it could be accepted quickly and we could be start moving a lot of rubble. Tomorrow, Marc, Nate, and I are going to observe Samaritan’s Purse’s heavy equipment demolishing houses for the Spanish Red Cross’s shelter program, which will hopefully be very educational.