Tag Archives: Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma, Long After The Storm: A Westport Native Reports

“News of St. John” is a blog about St. John, in the US Virgin Islands. Sort of an “06880” for 00830.

Since September — when Hurricane Irma devastated much of the Caribbean — “News of St. John” has had plenty to blog about.

So when blogmaster Jenn Manes described “A Very Powerful Story About Hurricane Irma and St. John” as “the most powerful article” she has read about the disaster, readers took notice.

Writer Devin O’Neil watched from a distance as 200-mile-an-hour winds battered the island where he grew up.

But O’Neil also has Westport ties. He writes:

My fraternal twin brother Sean and I were 5 years old when our mom Christie decided she was tired of commuting from Westport, Connecticut, to New York City. So in December 1985 she and her boyfriend bought a 41-foot sailboat named Yahoo. We packed everything we owned into 19 duffel bags, and headed south.

St. John, half of which is covered by Virgin Islands National Park, offered singular beauty—and plenty of places to anchor our new floating home. Mom took a job as a landscaper in Fish Bay and eventually got her real estate license.

Devon O’Neil (right) with his brother Sean and mom Christie. (Photo/Steve Simonsen Photography)

Sean and I fell in with a rat pack of kids who congregated after school to play tackle football, catch tarantulas and lizards, and crawl under barroom floors in search of quarters. We grew up boogie boarding and surfing on the south shore. One day we took turns reeling in a 350-pound shark, next door in the British Virgin Islands.

Fish Bay sounds nothing like Compo Beach.

Devon writes lovingly of his carefree childhood, and movingly of the storm: the frightening fear of living through it, and what he saw when he returned 2 months later. (Spoiler alert: Richard Branson compared the damage to a nuclear strike.)

It’s a long piece. But — long after Hurricane Irma has faded from our mainland consciousness — this strong story by a Westport native is well worth reading. Click here for the full link.

(O’Neil’s story was originally printed in Outside Magazine. Extremely alert “06880” reader Regina Masterson spotted it on “News of St. John.”)

One small part of Hurricane Irma’s impact on St. John, US Virgin Islands.

3 Months After Maria, Westporters Remember Puerto Rico

With so much bad news swirling around, it’s easy to forget Hurricane Maria.

But Lillian Davis and Elida Gollomp can’t.

The Westport women are natives of the island that suffered enormous devastation in September.  Their family and friends still struggle — without water and electricity — 3 months later.

They and their daughters Alexa Davis and Bella Gollomp — both 2015 Staples High School graduates — organized an all-day sales event last Saturday. Scout & Molly’s hosted the shopping/food/auction/raffle fundraiser.

Lillian Davis (left) and Elida Gollomp, at last weekend’s Scout & Molly’s fundraiser.

Lillian and Elida have partnered with the Puerto Rico Relief Center in Bridgeport. The non-profit works with businesses, non-profits and faith-based organizations in the area to welcome and assist the many people leaving the island, and settling here.

Last Saturday was a great day. But donations are still needed. Checks made out to “Career Resources, Inc.” — with “Puerto Rico Relief Center” on the memo line — can be sent to Elida Gollomp, 2 Smoky Lane, Westport, CT 06880.

Lillian and Elida will deliver them personally to Bridgeport — where they are volunteering with the much-needed relief efforts.

Remarkable Westport Weather

As Westporters worry about friends and relatives in Florida — and we all have them — let’s take a minute to recall that day when a thunderstorm here made national news.

No one alive remembers. It happened in June of 1837.

But it was reported in papers all across America.

For example, a story from Indiana’s Covington Western Constellation — headlined “Remarkable Effects of Lightning” — said:

During a thunderstorm at Westport, Conn. the chimney and one side of the house of Mr. Edwin Wheleer [sic] were literally [sic] torn to atoms — mirrors, chairs, piano, &c. scattered to the four winds of heaven, but out of ten persons in the room, even a young lady escaped, while the stove at which she was sitting was thrown down. A child had just been taken from a cradle which was torn to splinters. About 150 panes of glass were broken.

The paper misspelled Edwin Wheeler’s name.

But — according to alert “06880” reader and amateur local historian Mary Palmieri Gai, who found the article — the rest of his building survived.

How do we know?

Today’s it’s called Wheeler House — the handsome home of the Westport Historical Society.

Who knew there was so much history right in Historical Society headquarters?

Wheeler House — the Westport Historical Society’s Avery Place home — in a painting by famed local artist Stevan Dohanos.

Here’s How To Help

It’s a beautiful weekend in Westport. We’ve got the Slice of Saugatuck and Westport Country Playhouse gala to look forward to — along with the usual beach and sports activities, plus everything else under the sun.

Elsewhere in the hemisphere, people are hurting.

“Give a Little Love” with these chocolates — and help hurricane victims.

Here are a few ways Westporters can aid victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. If you know other ways to help — including those affected by the Mexican earthquake — click “Comments” below.

Aarti Khosla, owner of Le Rouge — the artisan chocolate shop at 190 Main Street — is donating 50% of the proceeds from her ongoing “Give a Little Love” handmade hearts campaign to OneAmericaAppeal.

That’s the effort by all 5 living former ex-presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter — to provide aid to Houston.

Dolores Catania

On Sunday, September 17 (5 to 7 p.m., Terrain Garden Cafe, 561 Post Road East), Dolores Catania from “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and Angela Pantalone, owner of the Wag Central indoor dog facility, will talk about how they took life challenges and made their own empires.

The event raises money for Harvey and Irma victims. Click here for ticket information.

PS: Le Rouge also has 40 “Hate Has No Home” here yard signs. Pick yours up now!

Armelle Pouriche-Daniels: Report From St. Martin

Armelle Pouriche-Daniels is a French citizen, and a longtime Westport resident. Her mother, Daniele Chappuy, lives on St. Martin — the half-French, half-Dutch Caribbean island that was flattened by Hurricane Irma.

Armelle Daniels (right) and her mother Daniele Chappuy this spring.

Hours after the devastation, Armelle finally spoke with her mother (someone was kind enough to let her charge her phone for a few minutes with a small gas generator). Armelle says:

My mother is unharmed, and in very good spirits. She is staying with a friend, as her beachfront apartment was completely destroyed.

Structures are completely soaked in water. Everything inside was swept away by the ocean and winds: furniture, clothes, appliances, toilets and plumbing. Her cars are gone too.

There is no water or electricity on the island, except for a few spots like the hospital. There is no more gas, and food is running low. Stores are all closed. Looting is rampant.

The French army has been deployed to help and bring supplies, but has not yet arrived. People are homeless, hungry and desperate. In those situations the best comes out in some people, and the worst in others.

One scene of devastation on St. Martin …

People on the islands are always told “the big one” is coming, but it ends up being just big waves, and a bit of water and sand in the house. Nobody believed this one was real.

Tourists will not be able to return for 2 years. The residence where my mother lives will take 1-2 years to rebuild. Given  how long it took for the island to recover from 1993’s Hurricane Luis, I think those estimates are very optimistic.

Mom was laughing on the phone, recounting her “shopping experience.” Shopping in St. Martin now consists of walking on the beach and hoping to find what you are looking for. In her case, it was a bar of soap.

She also found a pair of jeans that looked familiar. They were hers — with $3.20 in the pocket that will “come in handy.”

… and another.

She has not changed. She is keeping it all together, trying to cheer everyone up. She does not want us to go there (and there are no flights, or places to stay).

She is not considering coming to stay with us right away. She needs to take care of everything locally first.

Thank you to all who have offered to help. There is no immediate need. For now Mom is inventorying her losses. When communications are re-established, she will be in contact with her insurer.

Mom’s main source of income were her rentals. Once that is sorted out, my husband Jim and I will be here for her.

We appreciate everyone’s thoughts, offers to help, and prayers. Above all, we thank God for my mom’s — and others’ — safety.

Jacob Meisel, Hurricane Irma And Bloomberg News

When Bloomberg wants accurate information they go to the best.

For the latest info on Hurricane Irma, that means Jacob Meisel.

The 2013 Staples High School grad — now chief meteorologist at Bespoke Investment Group — combined technical talk with layman’s terms, for this morning’s national audience.

He says Irma has “the perfect conditions to maintain incredible intensity.”

For the full video, click here.

(Hat tip: Jim Goodrich)