With the exception of our off-island tours or vacations, we closed every window on our house for the very first time on Tuesday. The occasion? The arrival of Typhoon Pedring, internationally named Nesat. This is easily the strongest typhoon to hit Corregidor since we have lived here, with the possible exception of Basyang, which blew through while we were in the States in July, 2010. Pedring was a very large storm, causing high winds here for over 48 hours, with eight inches of rain measured in our backyard during a 24-hour period. Pretty amazing considering that the center of the storm was north of our area by a long shot. It was raining and blowing so hard that it reminded us of snow squalls at times. A young swallow even sought refuge under our over-hanging roof, clinging to the upper edge of our American flag.
The Corregidor “family” came through the storm unharmed. Because the 100-year-old drainage system is still functional, Corregidor can pretty much take all the rain a typhoon can dish out. Metro Manila, only 26 miles from here, is recovering from flood waters now, some of the worst along the Manila Bay beachfront in decades. We’ve been told that you can see some interesting footage of the waves shooting over Roxas Boulevard on YouTube. Try searching for “Manila” and “Pedring.” We also read that the American Embassy, which is along the bay, had some flooding.
It’s kind of strange spending a whole day indoors, but we really had no choice. The winds were so strong that if we left any windows open, things were blowing around inside the house, and rain blew in as well. Obviously one should not go outdoors during such storms, given the risk of being struck by flying objects or falling trees. Fortunately the house suffered no structural damage – it is quite sturdy – although we of course had damage to some trees and bushes. As usual the rains came in waves, super-heavy for awhile and then almost stopping briefly. We have encountered similar rain patterns in Michigan and Minnesota, but to our recollections they were always accompanied by lightning and didn’t last nearly so long. No lightening, no thunder with Pedring.
Normally when we lie in bed at night some of our bedroom windows are open, and we hear all kinds of sounds. Most of them are birds, frogs, lizards, and insects, especially crickets. Once in a while we will hear a branch fall, and sometimes we hear sounds that neither of us can identify. Almost never are these sounds scary. Recently Marcia awoke, hearing a scratchy sound at one of the bedroom window-screens. She had to drag Steve out of bed, and they walked toward the nearest open window, looking for what was making the sound. There, clinging to the outside of the screen, we spotted a land crab with maybe a 12-inch leg span, harmless but a little scary looking at four in the morning, especially having been startled from sleep.
Being inside in a totally closed house on the island is a different sensation entirely for us, the wind vacillating between near-calm and howling, and rain occasionally lashing the house as well. You feel kind of helpless, like there ought to be something you should be doing, but you just have to wait it out and trust that everything will be alright when you get up the next day.
On the second morning – Wednesday – Steve took a walk from our house on Middleside, following the road to Topside. Workers were already busy clearing the fallen trees that were on the road, but it was evident from all of the leaf debris that a lot of damage had been done. Most obvious was a large, old tree at Topside which is in front of the former Fort Mills Administration Building. This massive tree completely blocked the road and a crew of six men worked the whole morning to cut and clear it. This required skillful chainsaw work, since it is very easy to pinch the blade when a tree is not lying flat on the ground.
The road in front of the Ordnance Repair Shop was blocked, a tree having been torn from the ground by its roots. It’s kind of surprising to us that a tree here could have such shallow roots, since it can often go six or seven months without measurable rainfall, but with the ground saturated it was hard even for deeper roots to withstand the wind gusts. Steve observed many trees down on the road to Batteries Hearn and Grubbs on the western part of Topside. Three of our bougainvilleas out front are lying on their sides and will have to be cut back to the ground to await new growth. A few of our cili (hot pepper) plants are lying down as well, though still rooted.
As he was walking back down to Middleside, Steve was surprised by what he saw at Battery Geary. In the middle of the battery is a hole in the ground where the central powder magazine was originally located. It was blown to bits by the Japanese in 1942, leaving a deep crater behind. It is temporarily a pond, with so much storm water having accumulated that it apparently has not yet had enough time to seep into the ground.
Steve was also able to drive down the hill to access the Internet on Wednesday morning, after missing email since Sunday. At the south beach, the waves were occasionally coming up as high as the dock. It was very difficult to photograph because the spray from the waves was hitting the camera lens. Also, winds were so strong at times that it was difficult to stand up straight. You can really feel the power of nature while standing on a beach, even at the backside of a typhoon. And remember, we weren’t even that close to the center of the storm!
Because of rough sea conditions, boat traffic is – of course – restricted by the Philippine Coast Guard. This has stranded a number of the island’s regular workers in Cabcaben on Bataan. And of course it means the banceros who bring supplies are not able to make their daily runs. We try to keep a good supply of non-perishables – canned fish, corned beef, Spam, spaghetti, rice, beans, etc., on hand just in case we are cut off from the mainland for an extended period of time. At present there is another storm that could choose to head our way…we hope it will track north of here. If not, we could be in for more surprises. Ahhh, tropical adventures!
Steve and Marcia on the very wet Rock