Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Gilbert Memories - 30 years later | Jamaica moved back into a dark age

Published:Wednesday | September 12, 2018 | 12:08 AMShanna Kaye Monteith/Gleaner Writer
Shanna kaye Monteith/Photo Dunn

Like most Jamaicans, Karen Dunn was not prepared to face the wrath of Hurricane Gilbert.

Up until the morning of the great hurricane, Dunn, a resident of Southaven, St Thomas did not have a clue that the disaster threatened her country.

"The night I went to church and had a good time and then the morning, bright and early, I got dressed for work and went out on the road to look something to take me to work. Then I realised that I couldn't see any vehicle coming," said Dunn who worked on at a business Spanish Town Road at the time.

It was a passer-by who spotted her on the roadside and gave her the news that the country was in lockdown as it anticipated the category five hurricane.

"So I turned back and went home as I realised the place was getting very dark. It began to rain and the trees began to sway. I was living with my grandfather at the time and had told him we needed to move to someplace safe as I didn't trust my house. He refused to leave and told me that I should go ahead with my neighbours," said Dunn.

She did as she was told and faced the storm from the floor of someone else's house. When it was safe to leave, Dunn went home to find that her roof had withstood the breeze, unlike many around her.

She said Hurricane Gilbert left Jamaica in more primitive era.

"Life after the hurricane was terrible. We didn't have any power for about six weeks. We had to be buying ice so if you had a generator at the time then you were like a king," said Dunn with a laugh.

"We went back to the olden times using self heater iron and carrying water from the pump. Night come down quick because the days were very dark and everybody had to have their lamps.

"Me eat tin food and salt fish until I was sick and tired because there was nowhere to store meat. It was awful for a while and it was very primitive, like the dark ages."

But there was one good from the drama as Dunn argued that the lack of power forced people to socialise more.

"It caused a lot of bonding between friends, neighbours and families because there was nothing else to do and no work or school to go to as we rebuilt as a country," said Dunn.