Road to Recovery

Judy Joyce’s Hurricane Maria Experience

Judy JoyceIn just 15 hours, Hurricane Maria went from a feisty Category 1 to a disastrous, life-altering Category 5 storm. With this rapid development, not everyone was tuned into the extreme danger heading to Dominica. This included Rosalie Bay Resort Activities Coordinator Judy Joyce, who was en route to the island.

Returning to Dominica

After a vacation in the United States, Judy was returning to the island on Sept. 18 by way of Boston, Atlanta and San Juan. Once in San Juan, Judy was ready to board her 2:30 p.m. flight, still unaware the eye of the storm was heading directly for the Caribbean’s Nature Island. Her flight was then cancelled, stranding her in Puerto Rico – another island in Maria’s path. Luckily, she evacuated in time via a special Southwest flight.

Finally back in the US, Judy waited anxiously for island communications to be restored. As communication gradually improved, Judy says, “all I did was live on Facebook.” She spent hours a day on Facebook, constantly checking her friends’ pages for updates and pictures, and helping friends try to find out if their loved ones were safe. When aerial shots were posted, she carefully tried to locate key landmarks among the drastically changed landscape — the resort, her home, her friends’ homes, etc. Finally, someone sent her pictures of her house, and the results were devastating.

“Here’s your refrigerator back.”

A few weeks later, Judy made it back to Dominica. She was dumbfounded. Everything looked just as devastating as portrayed in photos. “All of the color in life was taken away,” shared Judy. She recounts that the trees were completely stripped of their bark, houses had collapsed into one another and debris was everywhere.

Dominica after Hurricane Maria

Visiting her own home was equally unsettling — her doors, windows and roof were gone. Her neighbor’s refrigerator and stove had even blown into her house. Another neighbor shared they had a device to measure wind speed during the storm clocking a tornado during the hurricane that measured 263 mph.

She cleaned for 12 days non-stop and says, “If it didn’t fly out the window, it was soaking wet and dirty.” Downed power lines became laundry lines and Judy recalls seeing salvaged bedding and clothing lining her village streets for as far as she could see.

Judy's House after Hurricane MariaJudy’s House. She comments, “We didn’t have as much destruction as others.” 

Seed Project

Judy says one of the priorities needs to be planting, in order to grow food. Judy has started a fundraiser to bring seeds to Dominica that can be planted and provide long-term sustainable solutions.

She prefers the heirloom seeds, as their results are usually fruitful and the pollination is pure. Heirloom seeds are valued for their sustainability and consistent harvests, a great need for the people of Dominica who are truly beginning life all over again.

Currently back in the US, Judy continues collecting seeds. She will be packing them in her luggage for her return to Dominica in early December.

Bloom Where You are Planted

“It’s a lot to think about, and it will be a long time before Dominica gets back to where it was. The resiliency of the Dominican people is amazing.” Taking root once again, Judy and others already started replanting gardens and just recently the island’s children returned to school. Persevering together, the community looks forward to sunny days ahead and Judy couldn’t be happier working alongside her neighbors on the road to recovery.

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