I’m Samuel Cruz and along with my wife Vivian, and our three kids, we purchased a Jim Barna log home and had it shipped to Puerto Rico & built in 1991. It sits on 2 ¾ acres in the mountains. The 2700 sq. ft., 8” saddle-notched house (built on a concrete slab and anchored to it with “J” bolts) is surrounded by trees on three sides. It has been through several tough storms such as Hortense, Georges, Irma, and now, Maria.
Hurricane Irma made landfall on September 6 of this year. With the exception of a few downed trees near us, damage was minimal. Elsewhere, it knocked out 800/1600 phone towers. Maria, on the other hand, arrived as a category 5 Hurricane with winds of between 175 and 185 mph with gusts of up to 200 mph.
At the last moment, early in the morning of September 20th, we headed to my mom’s concrete home at the pleading of two of our grown kids. We all thought we’d be there 2-3 days; 100 days later, we’re still there.
All night long the winds beat against her home on all four sides with driving rain that sounded like machine gun fire. While hundreds of miles away the winds were at about 150 mph before the eye of the storm would arrive. When the full force arrived at 7 a.m. everything was flying outside: metal sheds, roofs, wooded structures, etc. The sounds were terrifying. The winds were now whistling loudly.
Two days later I was able to go with our son to check our cabin. Concrete light posts were down everywhere. Devastation was all around. Most roads were inaccessible. Two bridges to our home were washed away. We both wondered if our cabin-in-the-woods would even be standing. But there it was! Our cabin had survived! Our son exclaimed, “Look Pa, I see the deck & all!” Our neighbors described that dreadful night as if an atomic bomb had been dropped there. Almost all our trees went down with many looking like they were burnt. Definitely, sadness was everywhere.
The island lost 100% of landlines, the remaining 800 cell towers, Internet, electric power, drinking water, gasoline, diesel, etc. We couldn’t communicate with the outside world for two weeks. Islanders were even more difficult to reach. Lines to buy ice ran for several blocks. We attempted to get gas for four days including staying put on one line from 5:07 a.m.-8:44 p.m. with no real breakfast, lunch, or dinner; no water, no bathroom breaks, and no gas either. After waiting 15.5 hours, the tanker never arrived. At one of the only 4-5 stations open, some people waited 3 days before getting $40.00 of gas. It’s been horrible with no traffic lights, no police at intersections, supermarkets closed, no US Mail for two weeks, and no doctors to help out. My wife went three weeks without her heart/high blood pressure medications.
Our cabin lost a section of roll roofing over our bedroom dormer causing buckets of water to gush in. The same happened over our workshop and shed. Structurally, the cabin is sound with only a plastic awning and shingle tabs lost. Up there, we lost power before Irma arrived. So far, it’s been 99 dark days. We believe the roofing to be the most vulnerable item during a hurricane and believe the windows would have survived. All of which have homemade, built-in shutters, which I just screw in place with 1x material. I remove and store the larger front window shutters. The newer windows, wind-doors, and all outside doors by local company, Valcor, with thick glass had no shutters at all. They all survived without any issues. They endured the full brunt of the storm. One neighbor, though, boarded up his windows and wedged 2x4s against them in his concrete home and had some blown out & the rest bent.
We’ve been heating water every night and again at 3:45 a.m for showering for 83 days at my mom’s place before heading out to work. Thankfully, her power returned last night! We don’t know when we’ll be returning home. FEMA declared almost all of us unqualified for benefits or help of any kind. The road to recovery is a long one considering we waited just shy of 18 years to have running water two-days-on, two-days-off, and 25 yrs. for full water service. Supposedly, we’ll have to wait until March 2018 or beyond for power restoration.
Our home features a 36x16’ family room, a decorative Kiva fireplace, three bedrooms, 3 baths, a study, living room, storage, etc. Our deco includes Southwest, Native American, Cowboy, Mexican, as well as items from Peru, Honduras, Argentina, Tanzania, Bolivia, & Spain. We even have a Wildebeest skin from Africa. We love color and unique pieces like our teak root-furniture. Floors are ceramic tile.
We’re glad to have a strong home and love log home living but with so much hardship, and having gone from zero taxes to over 100 taxes in one single year with current tax at 11.5%, we’re eager to move to be with our daughters in Fl. We’ve been roughing it for a good 26 years. Our cabin faced off with the strongest storm the US has seen in a century and it’s still standing strong.
Samuel & Vivian Cruz