I figured it’s a good time for an update.
As you probably know, Hurricane Matthew is nearing the south-western coast of Haiti. Since Haiti isn’t that big, this means all of Haiti is in range of the storm.
It is currently a Category 3 hurricane, so 100-110 mph winds and heavy rains are expected. Unfortunately, it has also slowed down, delaying the expected landfall of the center of the storm from this morning to this evening. This is really bad if it keeps moving slowly, as it will increase the time that the high winds and rain effect Haiti.
The winds will likely rip the roof off of most houses that use Tin roofing, and create many hazardous conditions with flying debris and falling trees.
Additionally, Haiti is a country with many mountains and little topsoil, so flash floods occur with any mild rain. This is the sort of storm that will wash away thousands of homes, including those of many people who have not evacuated because they either didn’t know it was coming ot didn’t have anywhere else to go.
The third hazard will be landslides, as many of the mountains have exposed slopes that do not have sufficient vegetation to hold the rocks and dirt in place. This will take out houses and make roads impassable as well.
And the fourth hazard will be the rising of the ocean levels (storm surge), which is expected to rise over 10 feet on the south coast, and over 5 feet in the Gulf of La Gonave.
Even in the best cases, most of Haiti is going to receive at least tropical storms grade wind/rain, so there will be a lot of destruction and probably significant loss of lives
It will be hitting the south west of Haiti, close to Les Cayes, where I have worked in the past with Missions International of America (Dr Jay’s organization), so please pray for Smiley, Jude, Pizo, and everyone out there. The outer bands are alreay hitting the coast. They will be effected as described by the high winds and severe flooding.
Halfway between Jacmel and Les Cayes on the south coast is Cote D’ Fer, the home of Billy and Debbie Oram and their 3 children. It is one of the most remote places I have worked, and I’m sure that many people did not recieve sufficient warning to prepare. Billy and his family were scheduled to return to Haiti from the US today, so they will be safe from the storm, but it does mean their property was probably under-prepared for the oncoming weather, and their region will be hit hard. Pray for their neighbors, friends, and everyone in that region, as well as for Billy and his family.
Heading North from Cote D’Fer, across the mountains, is Grand Goave, the home of MOHI (Lex and Renee Edme), one of Hands and Feet’s campuses (Andrew and Angie Sutton and their Family), Be Like Brit, and Tree of Hope Haiti (Angela and Gama Paryson).
Thankfully, Grand Goave should receive a bit of shelter from the winds due to the mountains, but rain will still be a huge problem.
Kay Mirliton, the MOHI guest house where I have stayed many times with teams, is on the water front of the Gulf of Gonave, which is expected to rise over 5 feet. This will likely cause significant flooding on their compound.
Additionally, the river will likely rise to dangerous levels, cutting off travel between this compound and pretty much everyone else in Grand Goave.
In Jacmel, we are expecting to see a strong hit from the hurricane and lots of rain. Yesterday I boarded up the windows in our house and reinforced the wooden parts of our workshop as best as I could. We cleared potential flying debris, hopefully well enough, and moved everything important in the workshop into the container for safety. The blue building has some stuff stored in it, but we expect that to get water, so there is nothing valuable in there anymore.
Our house is on a “relative” high ground, with lower properties for water to drain to on 3 sides, and it is “above” sea level, but not significantly. We are hoping the storm surge and rising ocean levels don’t cause flooding in our place, but we can’t be sure.
Around 2pm, we made the call to get our family out of Jacmel for the stormfall. So Jamie, Mara, and I packed up the car and drove north, to Port-Au-Prince, then up into the moutains above the city to an area called Fort Jacques where we are staying with our friends, the Lotz family. It’s a full house with Eric and Jennifer, their 6 kids, Kyle and Maddison (Jennifer’s niece and her husband), and another friend all here with us, but we’re secure and prepared as best as we can. We should avoid the heavy winds here, and should not flood because of the high elevation.
Back in Jacmel, our guys are staying at our house. We left them all our food supplies, as we had stocked up for the storm, and gave them permission to let friends/neighbors stay with them as needed.
Most people don’t realize how bad this storm could be, and I think it’s mostly because no one has memories of a big storm.
When Hurricane Sandy passed through a few years ago, it was only at tropical storm levels when it hit Haiti. That brought a lot of rain, and some gusty winds, but nothing too serious unless you were in a flood/landslide area.
For example, Joanes, a carpenter that works in our shop, came to “perpare” by putting away a wardrobe he had built. He laid it down in the driveway between the trucks and was content with it there. That’s how mild they expect the storm to be. They seemed surprised that I was boarding up the windows and that people were hiring them to cut solar panels out of their frames and move them inside.
The last Category 2 or above to hit Haiti was in 1963, so no one remembers how bad storms can be.
Please also pray for the aftermath, and realize that this will take a big relief effort.
Lord willing, I will return to Jacmel as soon as the storm passes. I may have to fly down with MAF because the mountain roads are likely to have landslides.
If needed, I will try to start clearing up in Jacmel, and even branch out to other areas, possibly even over to Cote D’ Fer since there are less people to help out in that region. Haitians are resilient, and will recover well, but it will take a lot of work. I’m considering the idea of having teams, but it would take some preparations and waiting until transportation issues are cleared up.