When disaster strikes

In early 2016 we took a house sitting position in Fiji. We looked after a small boutique resort for two months during the off-season.

There were no guests booked in, so the small team of staff had a long list of maintenance tasks to get on with. Our role was to oversee the staff, look after the swimming pool, and care for two bull dogs. Simple.

Unfortunately, the weather in the southern hemisphere had different ideas that season, and the sit ended up being far from simple. Cyclone Winston built slowly over a period of days, and after quite a bit of back-and-forth around the region, headed directly for Fiji.

In consultation with both the owners and the managers of the resort we came up with a plan. Important paperwork was packed away in a safe waterproof spot. Electrical items were unplugged. Chairs and tables were secured away, and everything was lashed down as tightly as possible. Once we had prepped the buildings as best as we could we headed out with the two dogs to find a safer location to sit out the coming storm.

Winston turned out to be one of the biggest cyclones ever recorded in the southern hemisphere. It utterly devastated some areas of Fiji and the out-lying islands.

Our resort fared pretty well. The eye of the storm had been predicted to pass right over our location, but had veered away at the last minute, passing by about 20 miles to the north.

We still had a huge clean-up task, and saving the swimming pool from turning green was a bit of a challenge.

But with willing staff we soon got on top of things. We even managed to save our neighbors’ pool from turning green in their absence – they had headed out to New Zealand for a week or so to avoid the storm.

18 months later, here in Barbados, we felt a certain sense of deja-vu as Tropical Storm Harvey headed right for our little island, where we are currently house sitting a lovely home with one cat (Heidi below) and a swimming pool.

We didn’t experience the same wind strength we had in Fiji, but the torrential downpour filled the swimming pool to the brim. Fortunately we had prepared in advance. Our home owners are well prepared for such events, and we’d had a thorough briefing before their departure.

On the evening the storm was due to hit we set up the emergency siphon pumps in the pool, and pumped about an inch (2.5cm) of water out. It is a good job we did this in advance, as the pool would have certainly overflowed otherwise. And because the pool sits on the same level as the house, the house itself would have been flooded.

When the storm hit around 2am the electricity went out, and we couldn’t pump our any more water. We just had to watch the level rise, hoping we wouldn’t have to try to stem a serious flood. With millimeters to spare the storm abated, and the electricity came back on.

We put the pumps on immediately and pumped about 5 more inches (12cm) of water away, averting disaster.

As I’m sure you are aware, Harvey grew to become a Category 4 Hurricane, causing utter devastation in Texas, with rainfall beating all previous records.

As I write this, Hurricane Irma has just passed to the north of Barbados, making a direct hit on Barbuda and the Virgin Islands which have been devasted. We’re still waiting anxiously to hear from friends house sitting there. It looks like Florida is probably going to be the next to face the wrath of this monster.

And a glance at the satellite imagery shows yet another storm building behind Irma. Apparently it is going to be a record-breaking hurricane season this year.

I know, I know, this all sounds terrible. It’s not all doom and gloom in the tropics, even in hurricane season. We have been house sitting in beautiful Barbados for almost five weeks now, and have only had one really wild night. The rest of the time the weather has been gorgeous, and we have enjoyed the beaches and headlands of this lovely island.

I am simply trying to highlight the benefits a home owner enjoys in such locations when they use the services of professional house sitters.

At times like this, when home owners are away, and disaster strikes, it is better to have a house sitter on site. When a sitter knows how to prepare for the worst, the outcome will almost always be better than if the property was left empty.

And as a house sitter, there is a tremendous satisfaction in knowing that we have saved the owners’ property from potential disaster.

There is lots more on this topic in this month’s issue (Sept 2017 – Issue #14) of House Sitting – The ultimate lifestyle magazine.

We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we have enjoyed creating it.

Happy travels, and stay safe!

Ian and Vanessa

(currently house sitting in beautiful Barbados)

  • September 17, 2017

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