Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bermuda Adventure!

After getting no sleep, I left my house at 3:09am Thursday morning for Atlanta... I was extremely tired when I finally got to Atlanta, but it was a fairly smooth ride to JFK... I met Devin in the terminal around 4pm... We were excited and ready to get to Bermuda, as our plane was scheduled to take off at 5:25pm... Unfortunately, the weather had other plans! While we were taxing out to take off, you could see a nasty bow echo heading directly at us... This was the same storm that produced tornadoes in Brooklyn with 100mph wind gusts! I would say we easily saw winds gusting to 60-65mph or so... Because the squall line was now to our east, we were pretty much stuck in JFK!

After sitting on the tarmac for almost 4 hours, American airlines took us back to the terminal... Our flight was cancelled until 8am the next morning, and because it was an "act of God", American airlines did NOTHING to make our stay in the terminal a little more comfortable! I understand why we didn't take off, but at least a meal would have been nice! We did meet a really cool girl name Vanessa, so all wasn't lost! We made the best of a bad situation as we had an adventure in the JFK terminal that night! We really didn't sleep that night (second night in a row without sleep for me!), but we finally did take off around 9am the next morning... It was an adventure I'll never forget, and honestly looking back on it, I just laugh because it was actually pretty funny when you think about it!

Flying into Bermuda you could see all sorts of amazing coral reefs! This was my second time to Bermuda, and it was even more beautiful then I ever remembered... We checked into the Grotto Bay Beach Resort around 1pm (second time I have stayed at this hotel), and made our way to the pool area to get some lunch! There we meet follow chasers Michael Laca, Mark Robinson, Tim Millar, and George Kourounis! It was great to meet all the fellow chasers, and it was especially great to finally meet Michael in person since we have talked so much over the internet... They got some scooters to ride around the island on their own, where Devin and I went to meet up with a local Bermudian reporter named Patricia...

We meet up with Patricia and her boyfriend Glenn around 5pm and headed out around the island... I would really like to thank both Patricia/Glenn for everything they did for us! They were both so nice to drive us around everywhere! We saw parts of the island that tourist typically never see! What a great experience! On this particular trip out, Devin and I got some supplies and we also had the chance to see John Smith beach up close! The waves were incredible, and the locals were in complete amazement! Several locals stated that the waves were MUCH higher two days out, then even one day before Hurricane Fabian (120mph) hit in 2003... I know personally, I had never seen the ocean so pissed off up close! We took a lot of pictures/videos before heading back to the hotel...

After FINALLY getting some good sleep, Devin and I headed back out with Patricia & Glenn to John Smith beach around 9:30am... We went to a different spot where huge waves were crashing against a rocky coast/road, shooting 40-50 feet in the air! Another awesome sight! After shooting some videos/pictures we made our way through other parts of Bermuda! Again, it was really cool to see areas of Bermuda you typically would never see as a tourist! Patricia & Glenn were both so great to us, and I can't thank them enough for their kindness!

After getting back, we met up with the other chasers for lunch at the hotel... There is always a lot of great weather/chasing conversations going when you get 6 hurricane chasers together! I've said this before, but hurricane chasers are a tight-knit community! When you think about how many tornado chasers there are compared to how many hurricane chasers there are, it makes a lot of sense... Maybe 50 or so hurricane chasers vs. thousands of tornado chasers (when you think of all the schools, tour groups, locals, etc...)! After lunch I had a chance to talk to Michael Laca about all sort of topics relating to hurricanes, hurricane history, and hurricane chasing! Michael is one of the pioneers of hurricane chasing, and someone that I have always looked up to/considered a mentor... He is a hurricane encyclopedia/hurricane historian, plus he has shot some of the best hurricane footage of all time in my book! We talked for a couple of hours, which is very easy to do when get chasers together like that! It's always great to be around people that share the same passion you do!

By dinner we were started to get some light sprinkles, as the outer bands of Igor were starting to reach Bermuda... We also met fellow chaser Rob Jones... Rob was in Charlotte Harbor when Hurricane Charley hit, so we had plenty to talk about... Funny enough, Rob and Mike helped me find my exact chasing spot during Hurricane Charley using google maps! So instead of me saying near Charlotte Harbor, FL (Port Charlotte), I can now say I was at 21416 Olean Blvd... Which is basically where Jim Leonard was... Kinda ironic! lol...

I got another good nights sleep, even though you could hear the winds picking up a lot overnight! Devin, Rob, Mike, and myself all went get some brunch before things started to really pick up! We had a great view outside, and by the end of brunch, the winds were tropical storm force, so it was about time to go out and shoot... I first shot around the hotel for about an hour, and then Devin, Rob, and I made our way to the dock/lagoon... I got lots of great shots of boats rocking in the bay (A couple that were washed up the next day), and other great action shots on the dock! I actually walked out there a few times which was a really cool experience! Trust me the video looks A LOT more dangerous than it was, as I was never in danger... I keep saying this, but it was mostly an optical illusion... At this time I got a couple wind gusts in the mid 60's range before my kestrel broke! It was pretty darn old, and somehow the water got inside it! Bummer! :-(

After meeting up with the other chasers at the dock, we all made our way to the Causeway around 5pm... Conditions were continuing to get worse, as we were staring to experience strong tropical storm force conditions... I got a lot of amazing video of palm trees blowing in the wind, and waves battering against the walls of the Causeway... I used caution around the Causeway as 4 people died on it back in 2003 during Hurricane Fabian... While I never saw this with my own eyes, a couple of the brick wall sections fell over... We stayed on the edge of the causeway getting all sorts of great shots while staying safe! All us chasers stayed until dark, when we finally made our way back to the hotel...

After drying off some, Devin, Rob, and I got a quick bite to eat at the bar... By then you could hear the hotel starting to "move around" a little as the winds were really starting to howl... I went outside to shoot some move video, and by this time the winds were hurricane force! I would say the worst conditions occurred between 10pm-midnight... Officially, I heard reports of 74mph sustained winds with gusts to 93mph... I believe it too, because I think we saw conditions very similar to that at our location on the hotel... While I couldn't get the best video at night, it was still a great experience! The winds would funnel through the front of the hotel, which was cool to watch... I went to bed around 2am, when the worst of Igor was pretty much over!

For the third night in a row, I got a good nights sleep, even though you could hear the winds blasting at times during the night (especially around 4-5am)... Plus, there was a tree banging against our hotel room for a lot of the night! Regardless, I got some good rest, and woke up fairly late (10am)... By then, the sun was already peaking through the clouds, and it was actually becoming a very nice day! Hurricane Igor was flying towards Newfoundland by this point... There was some minor tree damage and a couple boats did wash up onshore, but overall Bermuda held up very well against Hurricane Igor! The infrastructure in Bermuda is much better built compared to the US... Of course that makes some sense being an island that is affected by a lot by hurricanes! However, it was nice to see, and I would hope to see the US trend that way over time! Of course the structure of the real estate market in the US is much different, but again, any improvements in the infrastructure would be a great thing to see in the long run! If you live along the Gulf Coast, Florida, or the Atlantic Seaboard, it is only a matter of time before you are hit by a major hurricane!

Our flight out Tuesday was cancelled, but it was a beautiful day outside! The trough had moved through taking Igor with it, bringing sunny skies and a perfect north wind for us in Bermuda! Temps were in the upper 70's and I was ready to enjoy a great day! Devin went into Hamlington and I went to lunch with the other chasers... Mike Theiss meet up with us, as he rode out Igor near Elbow Beach... I have always enjoyed Mike's photos/videos over the years, and it was great to meet him in person! The rest of the day I took some underwater videos of fish in the lagoon... I remember swimming with the fish at this very same place back in 1994! It was something I've always remembered, and I really enjoyed doing it again 16 years later! I got some cool video also, which I'll eventually post on youtube! There is just something about crystal clear green/blue water in an island location like Bermuda!

For our last night on the island, Devin, Mike Laca, and myself decided to try to find a Jamaican grill that was supposedly not too far from the hotel... It was an adventure to find the place, and unfortunately when we did, it was already closed... So we went back to the Swizzle Inn (where we went for lunch), which has some good food... We had a great dinner filled with lots of great hurricane conversation! What a surprise! lol... After dinner, we went back to the hotel and tried to get a few hours sleep before our flight out Wednesday morning!

At the airport the next morning we ran into Vanessa again, as she was on the same flight back to JFK... Also, Tim, Mike Laca, and Mike Theiss where there waiting for their flight back to Miami... Everyone said their goodbyes, as it was the end of a great chase!

I would personally consider this chase a GREAT SUCCESS! While Hurricane Igor did weaken to a Cat-1, it was by far the most affects I have ever experienced from a Cat-1... I have never seen surf like that ever before in my life! Being on an island, and so close to the elements was a great experience! The Grotto Bay Beach Resort was a perfect spot to ride out a hurricane, and I'll be back again if another one comes that way... Bermuda is a little expensive, but it is also very beautiful... I would without a doubt come back to visit someday! When considering how small the island of Bermuda is compared to the vast Atlantic, I'm very pleased with our forecast and decision to chase! Hurricane Igor passed about 30-40 miles west of Bermuda, which is almost the perfect track from a chasing perspective! Especially again considering the fact that we were on a 21 mile long island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean! I'm telling you, island chasing is the way to go, and I can't wait to finally get a hurricane in the deep tropics someday soon! I'm very glad I went on this hurricane chase, and it's a chase I'll never forget! Well worth it! :-)