The Storms that are to Come

Tremayne Brown

My Gleaner column of September 13, 2017

You have to wonder whether Hurricane Irma was rudely intervening in the debate about the sustainability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the 21st century. With unerring aim she slammed the most vulnerable ones in the Caribbean–Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Martin/Maarten, St. Bart’s, Anguilla, Tortola, Anagarda, Virgin Gorda, the entire British Virgin Islands, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks & Caicos, Ragged Island, the Southern Bahamas, Bimini, Grand Bahama and Cuba. “My heart breaks,” wrote curator Holly Bynoe, Chief Curator of the National Gallery of the Bahamas, herself from the tiny island of Bequia, part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, after listing all of the above on Facebook.

Social media was the go-to place to haplessly wring your hands during the unnerving passage of Hurricane Irma, exchanging notes and advice with others all over the Caribbean and its diasporas. People even took swipes at the naming of storms suggesting like Greenpeace USA “We should be naming hurricanes after Exxon and Chevron, not Harvey and Irma.” “They should start naming hurricanes after notable climate change deniers,” suggested another tweeter.

Thank you very much but there’s already a hurricane named Trump in the hemisphere. “The region is facing a difficult period. Condolences and sympathy to our Caribbean family, Mexico and the USA. You are all in our prayers,” tweeted the Jamaican Prime Minister @AndrewHolness acknowledging the deadly earthquake that rocked Mexico during the same period.

“I’m sure the rest of the Caribbean will also send condolences to Ja for over 1000 people murdered in Jamaica this year,” radio talk show host @SimonCrosskill tartly responded to the PM’s tweet, earning him the wrath of many. It’s not such an ill-considered thought, for although Jamaica was spared a natural disaster this time, it’s true we’ve been ravaged by unprecedented levels of crime and violence this year. The number of those killed by Hurricane Irma pales in comparison to our murder rate in the last 8 months.

When an external catastrophe threatens to collide with the catastrophe you’re living in weary cynicism is the order of the day. The Washington Post quoted a Port-au-Prince resident about preparations for Irma in Haiti:

“I guess we are worried, but we are already living in another hurricane, Hurricane Misery,” said Nadeige Jean, a 35-year-old mother of three who was selling fruit at the Olympic Market in the capital city. “How much worse can our lives get? … So they say I should board up my house? With what? Wood? Who’s going to pay? With what money will I buy it? Ha! I don’t even have a tin roof. If the winds come, I can’t do anything but hope to live.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Rutgers University Professor Yarimar Bonilla, who was ruminating on Hurricane Irma the day before it hit Puerto Rico, where her family lives.

“Puerto Rico is now about to be in the eye of the “perfect storm”: a climate-change fueled mass of angry waters that is about to smash into a failing economy, an already dismantled public sector, and a vulnerable population that has already been lulled into accepting austerity and precarity as the inevitable fate of a bankrupt colony.”

“Ironically enough,” Bonilla continued, “one of the many people I interviewed this summer about Puerto Rico’s economic crisis was a local ‘wealth manager’ who was extremely upbeat about the economic climate. Investments in the wake of Trump’s election have been doing very well, she said, ‘The only thing we need now is a hurricane.’ She was referring to how such natural disasters bring in federal funds for reconstruction and provide a boom for the construction industry. (She encouraged me to invest in Home Depot stock). “

In the midst of all the mayhem and confusion an unexpected ray of sunshine appeared. In Trenchtown, dwelling place of Bob Marley before his ship came in, a 12-year old boy was swept away in a gully engorged with rain from Irma’s outermost feeder bands. As his mother and others watched, seemingly unable to do a thing but wail and scream, a young man named Tremayne Brown jumped into the swiftly moving water and grabbed the boy.

The two were swept along by the floodwaters and carried far from their homes to Marcus Garvey Drive where Tremayne managed to catch hold of a tree branch and hold on till they were rescued. What struck me about the interview I heard with Tremayne on Nationwide radio the next day was his British accent. It turned out he was a deportee from Britain.

To my mind this made the daring rescue all the more remarkable. Apart from the fact that the UK deported a hero they might have been better off retaining you have to wonder whether it was that very upbringing in the UK that made him jump into the gully without hesitation. After all not a single one of the others seemed willing to risk their lives to save a child, not even members of the community he came from.

If we could clone Tremayne Brown we might stand a chance of weathering the storms that are to come.

Hurricane Sandy of the thousand foot windspan…Hang tight everyone!

A note on Hurricane Sandy as she menaces the East Coast of the United States.

The Hope River in spate - Varun Baker photo. Email:
The Hope River (Kingston, Jamaica) in spate – Varun Baker photo.

UPDATE! Seven people came to this blog today searching for “hurricane sandy in jamaican patwa”. Can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

SANDY. A hurricane event with a windspan so broad (1000 miles wide) she’s menacing the United States from New York and the East Coast all the way to Chicago. And this after ravaging us in the Caribbean from Jamaica to the Bahamas, through Cuba and Haiti. People don’t understand how a Category 1 hurricane can do so much damage. Satellite shots make it look as humdrum as buttermilk seething in a giant churn but Sandy is dangerous because she’s slow moving and large–as i said her windspan is unusually wide, and she’s adept at the slow creep. So though not packing as much power as a Cat 4 or 5 storm usually does over a much narrower radius Sandy’s still deadly because of the water she brings with her. She dumps so much rain on affected areas as she creeps along in slowmo that the earth gets sodden and trees and poles are no longer securely anchored toppling over once the wind starts plucking at them. Its the flooding Sandy produces that will be the real threat, especially to people in what are called “low-lying areas” (like the homes in the photos by Varun). Meanwhile the relative height of one’s locality is just coming home to people. As the writer Hari Kunzru (@harikunzru) said on Twitter:

Beginning to appreciate the ‘hill’ part of Clinton Hill. #sandy

The Hope River in spate - Varun Baker photo. Email:
Varun Baker photo.
A view of the coast at Palmyra Rosehall, St James - Hoween Griffiths Photo. Email:
A view of the coast at Palmyra Rosehall, St James – Hoween Griffiths Photo. Email:

At any rate that was our experience with Sandy here in Jamaica. A lot of trees went down or were brutally pruned. She seemed to have something against banana plants…people think they’re trees but they’re not, they’re large plants…so yes, we’ll have no bananas for the next 6 months because both Portland and St. Mary, the banana parishes, have been devastated.

So good luck to all the folks in the US of A who aren’t used to tropical weather events such as hurricanes…its like a wet tornado i guess. And hopefully by the time Sandy has swept through the East Coast you won’t be emerging into a political cyclone as the Republicans and the Democrats go head to head and Mittens and Big O face off for the big one on November 6. We hope that whichever candidate wins he will take the threat of global warming seriouly. Again i turn to Twitter for some instant wisdom on the matter:

RT @TonyKaron: Sandy’s disruption of electioneering is nature’s poetic rebuke to both candidates for their silence on climate change #fb

PS: Breaking News! As of 8 pm EST it was declared that Sandy is now a post-tropical storm. She has morphed into a cold weather event.

and i eavesdropped on this twitterati convo:

SalmanRushdie's avatar
Salman Rushdie @SalmanRushdie

Lights flickered off/on. Wind crazy.Watching the big old tree out back. It’s a tough New York tree. It can take it. Right, tree? Am I right?

IamDeepaMehta's avatar
Deepa Mehta @IamDeepaMehta

@SalmanRushdie You absolutely are , right that is. Hang tight tree. Hang tight Salman XX

harikunzru's avatar

@IamDeepaMehta @SalmanRushdie having same feelings re tree outside our place in Clinton Hill


and look at this photo posted by @nycarecs
Official Twitter feed of the New York City Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Service (NYC-ARECS)

AN OCEAN ON NY’S LOWER EAST SIDE. Never happened ever like this. #sandy #nyc via @nycarecs

Hang tight everyone!

Got this from
“Sea water flooded the Ground Zero construction site.”
Photo: John Minchillo/Associated Press

oh my various gods! will the US Presidential elections have to be postponed…? at this rate? things are deteriorating rapidly in NYC, don’t think they can recover by Nov 6…

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