Have you ever dealt with an “extreme weather event”?

My column this month for the Expat Focus website talks about the weather. How very British! We love the weather in this country, I would go so far as to say it’s a national obsession. But actually it’s not something I gave a huge amount of thought to until I moved elsewhere.

In the article, I talk about how it was only when I was living and travelling in New Zealand – an “outdoorsy” place if ever there was one – that I really started to understand why it is important to figure out  the weather. Hiking, diving, even tandem-parachuting: these were all activities undertaken by me without much thought to whether the weather would be in our favour or not. But after a few close calls (we probably really shouldn’t have done that dive – or that freezing cold walk wearing just our shorts…), I started to understand that getting to know a bit about wind direction, precipitation levels and thermals (and no, I don’t mean thermal underwear) wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Fast-forward a few years and I was living in the Caribbean. Now this is one place where you really can’t avoid having at least a passing understanding of what the weather has in store for you. At least, during hurricane season. And boy did I ever learn this the hard way! First, in Jamaica, there was Hurricane Ivan (a force 5 that clipped the coast), then there was Dennis, with Emily close on it’s heels. And later still, living in St Lucia, there was Tomas.

Hurricane Ivan

Hurricane Ivan

Now we were in a much better position than a large percentage of the islanders, living as we did in solid homes with proper concrete walls. Sadly, there were a large number of deaths during these storms – Ivan in particular wrecked some of the islands completely. But it was still a terrifying thing to go through. We were stuck indoors for at least 24 hours (in the case of Ivan) and only ventured out when we were sure there wouldn’t be any more tree branches being thrown around in the wind. The devastation was awful, and the clean-up took days.

In St Lucia, our house was flooded by Tomas and the storms that came afterwards. We actually missed this one as we were in Miami at the time, but came home to find the remnants of the 6 inches of mud that had filled our kitchen.

Of course bad weather can happen everywhere – we’ve had tornadoes and terrible flooding in the UK in the last few years. But it’s only since living in the path of hurricanes that I’ve really come to appreciate the importance of understanding what it means when a small swirl on the other side of the Atlantic starts to gain in size, day-on-day, and then gets a name, then a Force number….

I intend to come back to this topic in a future post or posts and would be interested to hear your stories.  Have you lived through any bad weather events while living overseas? How did you deal with it? Have you ever had to be evacuated because of a storm or other weather-related event?

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