Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wild Wilma

It didn’t ask permission before coming ashore; it just did whatever it wanted to. The ocean’s wild and forceful waves came pounding over its normal boundaries and displaced corral, sand and seaweed in an event which reminds us all of the power of nature. Cyclone Wilma, which was suppose to hit Samoa, luckily, passed to the south and spared this tropical island for the most part. However, despite the cyclone not hitting directly, I could certainly tell that there was a storm out over that ocean somewhere, because for three days, the sea was putting on quite a show for its spectators.

Beginning on Friday evening, the waters around Samoa were turning up the bottom of the ocean floor as one wave after another crashed with violent force. Saturday was impressive and Sunday even more so. Each time I looked out over the water, or walked along the shore, I thought I had seen the biggest wave ever, but then later they would get bigger. Saturday morning I was out jogging my usual route which stretches high above the ocean and overlooks the rugged rocky shores below. Very little slows me down when I’m out for a run, but on Saturday, the sight of a huge wave crashing into the rock face caused me to stop without hesitation and gaze at the sight. For five minutes I stood there in awe of that ocean and reminded myself of how spectacular God’s creation is. The force He unleashed when He created those waters is one that has not been tamed since, and only could be by His hand alone.

Saturday afternoon, I walked down through my village and saw the excitement on the faces of those in my village as they watched the waves right in front of their houses. I knew then that this particular storm must have been impressive, if it was drawing the attention of those who’ve lived next to the sea for their entire lives. Some of the kids followed me as I took pictures of the waves and I could hear the excitement in their voices as they pointed in all directions as the waves became bigger.

Sunday morning I woke up to a stiff wind and rain. The rain later tapered off as I prepared to walk the 15 minutes to church in the neighboring village. Walking down the steep hill towards my village, I could see the ocean was still going at it, unleashing one wave after another. As I approached the other village where I was attending church, I could see that the entire road had been covered in corral, sand and seaweed. The ocean had thrown its waves over the road when high tide had come in and left one wondering where the road actually was. I thought to myself how my family back home in Michigan is slowed by snow drifts this time of year, and here I was dodging chunks of corral as my obstacle.

After church, I walked back to my village as the barrels on the waves seemed to be the largest I have ever seen before in my life. Water was still splashing up onto the road in some spots, causing me to run to avoid getting hit by a wave. I noticed that the very same sand volleyball court that people were playing on Saturday evening was now littered with all kinds of rocks from the ocean. It amazed me how with no effort at all, it had done so much damage. It would certainly take a fair amount of effort to remove it.

Sunday evening my neighbor and I went for a walk so I could take pictures of the road. I kept hearing him talk about the size of the waves as we walked through the villages. He was thoroughly impressed by the sites. We sat for a while and watched the ocean. Sometimes the sea would have waves extending three deep, all crashing at the same time, as if they were all lined up and taking a bow together. Each time I saw a wave start to form, it left me wondering how big it would get before it broke. Off in the distance I could see the rocky shoreline I had seen while jogging the day before, still being slammed with one wave after another, as water went cascading straight into the air after impact with the solid rocks.

On Monday we had the grand finale, from cyclone Wilma. The skies opened up and rain came down in all directions for hours. The rivers coming down out of the mountains near my house were overflowing onto the road, damaging all the work that had just been done to reseal and smooth it. Just when I thought it was raining as heavy as it could, it would get a little harder. The rain resulted in small mud slides, causing breadfruit trees and coconut trees to slide down the slopes near the road. It was another amazing day to watch unfold.

Now the word from the Peace Corps office is that another tropical cyclone could form by Thursday. I had a feeling that we might get a double punch, but we’ll have to wait and see what forms and where it goes.

I’ve been in fascination with weather events before: blizzards, thunderstorms, dense fog and torrential rains, but these past few days have rekindled my respect for Mother Nature and the way in which she makes herself known. Although the seas may be calming here in Samoa, I’m confident they’re getting violent someplace else in the world. They keep us feeling small and reminding us how fragile our lives can be. While praying that everyone has remained safe, here’s a big thanks to the South Pacific, for a wonderful weekend show!

Waves crashing in front of my village.

Big waves.

The road in the village next to mine where the waves covered the road with corral and sand.

Road after high tide came on shore with wild waves!

This was a volleyball court on Saturday, but on Sunday?

More waves!

During the worst of the rains, the river behind my house came over the road which had just been redone and tore it to pieces.

After the river let up, this was the damage to the road. Milo was checking the road conditions with me.

The river behind my house was out of control. The white PVC pipe is the water to my house, which was torn apart.

Waterfalls behind my house on Monday.

Another waterfall behind my house.

A rock that slid down the mountain's edge and onto the road leading to my house.

A waterfall flowing with force near my house.

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