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This post has been in the works for almost two weeks. Every time I sit down to actually write, no words come to me.
On Sunday, August 2, Typhoon Soudelor tore through our small island home of Saipan. And guys, it left devastation everywhere. Everywhere.
We are no stranger to typhoons and tropical storms. In fact, this was our sixth typhoon since we moved to Saipan. Usually, we have some minor damage (banana trees knocked over, patio furniture all over the yard), and a few days without power.
But this was completely different.
I mean, the warning and prep was the same. In fact, even though the projected path predicted a head on collision with Saipan, Soudelor was still a Tropical Storm Sunday morning. Losing power Sunday evening was pretty par for the course, storm wise. We’d filled our tubs and sinks with water earlier that day (so that, should we lose power, we’d be able to flush toilets and rinse dishes for the next few days) and settled in. In fact, since we have a small generator that powers the internet and fridge, we were watching movies on Adam’s computer around 10 pm, commenting on how it hadn’t been too bad so far.
And then everything changed.
Water was pouring in through the windows and doors, all of them, flooding everything. Windows and doors were blowing off and exploding in. It was like the typhoon had moved into our house- I can’t quite describe how loud and how strong and how crazy the wind was.
And then our ceiling started caving in, room by room. The kids and I were actually in the guest room when that ceiling fell (downstairs was completely exposed, the kids’ room was getting the brunt of the flooding and the master’s was a mess of glass [plus, also no ceiling]), so the three of us were in the guest room.
We moved to their room briefly, but could hear their ceiling cracking as the wind whipped through.
I talked to 911 again (Adam got trapped in the master for a couple hours earlier in the night, so I had chatted with them several times at that point) and they warned us not to drive anywhere, that the winds were actually picking up and that driving was unsafe. (Sidenote- when we saw all sorts of big trucks flipped on their sides the next day, we were glad we heeded that advice.)
Since our carport is nestled into the least exposed front of our house, and has concrete on three sides, we gathered a wet bag with electronics and a change of clothes for each of us plus the blankets and pillows that weren’t soaked and waited out the next couple of hours in our car, in our carport.
Around 5:30 AM, we ventured up our driveway. We’d originally planned on heading to one of the shelters that were set up in schools around town, but quickly realized that we wouldn’t be getting that far. Every tree taller than 20 feet was snapped in half, uprooted, or blown over, making the roads a tangle of power lines, foliage, and pieces of homes. We made it about half a block to our neighbors’ home and waited out the rest of the storm with them.
The following week was a whirlwind of mopping water out of our house, trying to salvage our stuff, throwing away our stuff that couldn’t be salvaged, no power or water, and making plans to evacuate until we have somewhere to live.
We’re stateside now- staying with family and trying to piece together a plan for the immediate future. In the meantime, our island home still reeling, still without water and power, still recovering bit by very slow bit.
We’ve been overwhelmed by people’s prayers and offers of assistance. For those of you who have asked how to help- the following are a couple of organizations that are doing fantastic work on the ground-
United for Saipan (a grassroots organization headed up by some really talented friends of ours- dedicated to distributing water, food, and other essentials to those in need in Saipan)…
…and Billy and Joylynn Jones Typhoon Relief Fund (the pastor of our church and his family- they have been meeting needs of families who’ve lost their homes and also have partnered with Salvation Army to provide meals for those needing food during this time).
The thing we love about both of these efforts are that these people started out just meeting needs that they saw, spending their own money and resources, while trying to raise awareness. Adam and I trust that any contributions given to these efforts will be managed well and will go directly to meet needs in Saipan.
I can’t say this enough- thank you for your sweet concern, for your assistance, and especially for your continued prayers for Saipan.
*Pictures gathered from friends’ Facebook feeds (or off my own phone).