Well! As the saying goes, you really DO have to watch out for what you wish for!
If you’ve read my last post you’ll know what a significant part water plays in life on this island and while most of us have been praying for rain throughout this long dry spell, I don’t think anyone expected our prayers to be answered so unexpectedly and in quite such dramatic way as last Saturday evening! As I climbed up onto the Bourtzi for my final shift at the art exhibition, I couldn’t help but notice how dark the sky had become as ominous looking clouds suddenly gathered and dominated the sky.
Not unduly worried, I turned my back on the bronzed holiday makers sipping their ‘Happy Hour’ cocktails in the cafes and bars along on the old port below and proceeded to open up for the evening. No sooner was the key in the door than all hell broke loose! Out of nowhere, gale force winds, driving horizontal rain and hail stones the size of golf-balls literally knocked me sideways! I managed (just!) to enter the building but suddenly, in securing the door behind me, all 8 of the 20′ high windows blew open, inwards, at once! Furniture was sent flying across the room, papers, wet now and soggy, as well as paintings were hurled high into the air though thankfully they remained attached, by wires, to their stands so no permanent damage was done (Thank Goodness!) but for 10 minutes or so as the freak storm – the likes of which I’ve never experienced in my life, let alone on Skiathos! – raged about, they circled in the air battered by the driving rain, hail and swirling pine needles (from the nearby over-hanging and very tall (Koukounaries) pine trees, which were by now being forced almost totally horizontal and practically stripped bare! The Paralia could no longer be seen at all – a solid white sheet of water obscured it from view:
Some youngsters who’d been playing outside and got caught unawares, sought shelter with me and what a sorry sight! They burst in completely drenched to the bone, eyes wide with sheer terror! To calm them down and distract them I set them to work (glad of both the company – I was pretty terrified myself – and the extra hands!). Between us we managed to secure the windows shut and then tried to restore some order as the building continued to be lit up by lightening flashes and battered and bruised relentlessly on all sides, for the next 10 – 15 minutes:
Then as quickly as it had arrived, the storm passed over and left us in a dazed silence facing the devastating havoc it had wreaked in it’s wake. As the port became visible so too in the aftermath, did the damage. Awnings were flapping about wildly and umbrellas had been turned inside-out, ripped and uprooted from their stands by the unprecedented violent gusts of wind. The suddenly abandoned tables and chairs, had been scattered in every direction, and everywhere soaked-through tourists and Skiathites alike were desperately trying to harness the boats dislodged from their moorings, that were bobbing about aimlessly, on the angry swelling sea. It was pandemonium! The next two hours were spent wading through and sweeping-up pine needles 10″ deep and mopping up the gallons of muddy water that had all but flooded the Boutzi inside and out.
Several hours later, with order resumed and the evening concluded, over a much-needed drink the stories of disaster were shared; Papadiamantis Street was described as having been transformed into a torrential river; sadly an elaborate wedding feast (planned for that evening at the Evangelistria Monastery, following the marriage of the daughter of a hugely influential Greek shipping magnate) had been a complete wash-out right down to the last tea-light blown from the trees while the luxury yachts of the wedding party and guests had sought safe anchorage in a nearby harbour. And, I learned after all that, not a single drop of rain had fallen east of Skiathos town – my garden remains as parched (although windblown) as the rest of the island that had somehow, miraculously escaped unscathed.
Since that night the island has been battered by high winds, night and day. I hate the wind – I’ve always found it so unsettling. Sweeping has become a national pastime (though it’s amazing there are any leaves left on the trees to sweep up!). What an experience! One I certainly hope I’ll never get to witness for many years to come!