• Liz Lopez

La Soufrière and her volcanic ashfall

‘All I know is this has been my best volcano experience yet.’

Lopez, noon AST, April 10th, 2021

Apocalyptic life steps:

  • Step 1. Move the family to Barbados to avoid COVID

  • Step 2. Watch COVID outbreak hit the island, which leads to a three-month hiatus from the beach, island-wide activities, and life in general

  • Step 3. Watch your friends drop like flies from Dengue

  • Step 4. (April 8th) The island opens back up; no more timed beach restrictions and curfew lifted Sunday-Tuesday and pushed back to 11 pm the rest of the week

  • Step 5. (April 9th) Volcano in St. Vincent erupts; Barbados on high alert for volcanic ash to hit our skies

  • Step 6. (April 10th, Morning) Videos and pictures start circulating the internet; St. Lucy is snowing ash with crazy winds and night-dark skies

  • Step 7. By 330 pm, skies are nearly black with ash; cars are covered with a layer of ash and I wear two masks and a towel over my head to step outside

  • Step 9. Plans to drop off birthday gift to family friend are re-scheduled; driving should be avoided if possible; advised not to turn on wipers or the windshield will get cut to hell

  • Step 10. Hope that we can drop off birthday gift tomorrow, but thinking that any plans in the next 48-72 hours are sketchy

The group chat started discussing the volcano yesterday. Here’s some highlights of what to do or not do “IF” ashfall occurs.

*Close windows and doors – no running AC or the dryer – if outside, seek shelter and wear a mask (I’ll wear two thank you very much) – if possible, don’t drive – park your car under-cover or cover it (let me just run to the store and grab a car cover?!) – keep pets indoors (Bow’s so happy about that one) – check on livestock; you may need to shelter them if ashfall is heavy*

Sounds fun, right? I first heard about the volcano on Thursday, my second afternoon off spent with Faith during her spring break. We were at dinner and the owner told us she was watching the latest press conference; she was the one who shared the best-news-ever about the latest COVID update and all I could ask was ‘Are the escaping Vincies vaccinated?’ I’m ready to enjoy this island for the home stretch and while I like to think my compassion runs deep, if they couldn’t contain visitors at Christmas I wouldn’t expect anything different for another several thousand visitors, regardless of circumstance. I don't want COVID.

Indeed they are all vaccinated, and indeed the Caribbean nations have banded together to aid their neighboring island. From emergency supplies to offering temporary housing for nearly 16,000 evacuees, countries are lending a hand. Carnival Cruise Line helped by transporting residents to nearby islands, and Princess Cruise is expected to bring another ship for refugee transport.

Adding to the already difficult situation, normal protocols are impacted by COVID. All travelers escaping to neighboring countries are required to be vaccinated, and local shelters in St. Vincent are encouraging those entering their care to be vaccinated. There’s still a portion of the island uninterested in getting the shot based on (false) claims by anti-vaxxers.

According to scientists, often the first blast is just the beginning. The first one rang off early in the hours of April 10th, with a second one hitting the island in the afternoon.

Currently, there have been no reported deaths or injuries. The last notable activity was in 2005 when sulfurous odors and a haze swept the island. Prior to that, the most recent blast was 1979 and the series of eruptions lasted thirteen days. It erupted in 1902 with 1,680 deaths. This year’s explosion burst over 33,000 feet in the air, and nearby islands including St. Lucia and Grenada were advised of impending ashfall, although most of it was expected to head into the Atlantic on the Northeast side.

Truth be told, I hadn’t imagined the size or scope of the volcano just a mere 24 hours ago. The images online of La Soufrière are terrifying, with plumes of smoke up to nearly 39,000 feet. The history of the volcano is explained in this heartbreaking but informative article.

So far Faith has made egg-free cookie dough for everyone to munch on (who runs the oven when your windows are closed in Barbados). Cal has caught the ball twice during his first time trying the game Jacks we picked up yesterday in Bridgetown. Lopez has sung in the shower to Spanish music since Alexa played that instead of ‘Singing in the Shower music’. The dog is now too hot to care that she can’t play; the house is getting stickier by the hour. Penny and Cal are watching a movie and eating popcorn while I write and Lopez is laying in his vagina hammock (seriously that’s what it looks like, and it’s now what everyone calls it.. except ‘hammock’ is dropped from its name). Lopez is wondering how he’ll survive with no air conditioning or airflow at bedtime while I wonder if tomorrow will see clear skies.

A few friends have checked in to see how Lopez (who musn’t stay in one place for too long for fear of insanity), but he’s handling this natural disaster much better than man-made regulations. Even if we wanted to leave, the airport is shut through tomorrow and will remain closed if ash is in the air. We couldn’t leave if we wanted, given that all air travel is suspended due to flight control system damage, among other maladies.

As our friend Mélanie put it, 'You are lucky; after seven years in Barbados, no hurricane, no tsunami- but this year, COVID and volcano. A lot of stories for you when you get back.’

Mélanie is spot on. Let’s hope everyone stays safe, gets their vaccine, and makes it to safety. Most of all, let’s hope that La Soufrière ceases this nonsense immediately. In the words of Lili, ‘Fu*king natural disasters and plagues. I am over this biblical shit.'