Tropical storms are a bit of a new concept on the Big Island. Sure, we all know when it is tropical storm season; that comes right around Mango Season. We all get the Civil Defense teachings about them and know we’re supposed to be prepared.
The thing is, until this year we just haven’t had to worry about them. Until this year, there hadn’t been a storm here since before we were all born.
When Iselle hit a tiny part of our island this year, that reality changed for about 11,000 of us in Lower Puna District. The rest of the island mostly wondered what the fuss was about and enjoyed the day off from work while the storm hit us.
When we came out of our houses in the morning, every road was blocked with huge trees and downed power poles. It was an emotional blow to us. Our invulnerable island was suddenly vulnerable. Big bad winds could actually come get us. At our house, we felt it was miraculous the power company could get our power back on in less than two weeks. The neighborhood was traumatized and in shock, but everyone helped each other. Aloha isn’t just a catchword here; it is a way of life.
It’s been a solid month and more since we got power restored. The jungle has blunted the edges of the impact. I still see uprooted trees beside the road, but it doesn’t clench my gut the way it did last month.
Now we’re in the path of another storm, Ana, and struggling to quell our own anxieties while we do the best we can to prepare. Lessons I learned from Iselle are these: Fill up your gas cans and water cans, have an escape plan in case it intensifies at the last hour, and most of all, bake cookies ahead of time. When the power goes out, nothing tastes as good against the dark and the storm as a homemade cookie.