Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | June 1, 2009
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'Gilbert was my worst experience'

At 77 years old, Ronald Douglas has seen it all, but the nerve-racking experience of Hurricane Gilbert, in September 1988, has been his worst nightmare. He lost 18 sheets of zinc from his roof during the disaster.

"I can remember hurri-canes from as early as 1944 when they did not have any names in those days. But of all the hurricanes since I was born, Glibert is my worst experience," the elderly businessman told The Gleaner last week.

"When you heard the sound of the breeze outside, that alone made you afraid. Then when the zinc start to fly off the roof, that was another horrible feeling," said Douglas, who is popularly known as 'Mr Mac' in the Southside community of central Kingston, where he has been living for almost two decades.

"I remember walking from my house across to my shop and when I looked up, the ceiling was gone," said Douglas, who originates from Drapers district, Portland.

Hurricane Gilbert started as a tropical wave exiting the African coastline on September 3, 1988. It developed into the 12th tropical depression of the season on September 8, while approaching the Windward Islands. Rapidly strengthening to hurricane status on September 10, a west-northwest motion brought Gilbert into the eastern Caribbean Sea.

Gilbert passed directly over Jamaica on September 12, becoming the first direct impact for the island from a hurricane since Charlie in 1951. Winds gusted to nearly 150 mph as Gilbert produced a nine-foot storm surge along Jamaica's northeast coast.

Jamaica was devastated as the eyewall traversed the entire length, of the island.

- G.S.

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