Hurricane Update from Alachua (New Raman Reti)
Posted October 9, 2004
Florida has been hard hit by hurricanes this season. Charley hit from the west side and did so much damage down south. Ivan ravaged the Panhandle at Pensacola, but Frances hit from the east side and the Gainesville-Alachua areas were seriously affected on the weekend of September 4th. The storm lasted for four days. Alachua is about 80 miles inland so it had a chance to slow down a bit. The winds were 45-70 MPH. The rainfall was about 12-14".
This part of Florida is famous for its large and stately Oak trees. In fact, Gainesville is called the "Tree City". In Gainesville, many dozens of these large Oaks were blown down by the winds taking power lines with them. And there was flooding.
Alachua was not hit quite as hard it seems. The real disruption, besides rain and wind, was the power outage and the fact that Frances hit on Labor Day weekend. We were just about to have our three-day Janmastami festival. After the storm began we were advised not to leave our homes and there was an 8pm to 8 am curfew. We had no power at my home and only had the radio for communication. I live close enough to the temple (5 miles) to receive the radio transmission so I could hear that many of the programs were going on in spite of the storm. However, many were afraid to venture out so there was less participation than usual.
I did manage to hitch a ride with neighbors to Midnight Arati in the pouring rain. On the way there was not a light on; no street lights or anything until we arrived at the temple. The building was all lit up! Like a torch light in the darkness. And Sri Sri Radha Syamasundara glowed at midnight for the pleasure of the devotees.
How was it that the midnight program went on in spite of the black? Long ago we planned for Y2K with a back up generator system.
Before Y2K, Ambaisha prabhu had an alternative power system of generators and solar panels set up for his home. He then thought it wise for the temple to have a system as well. Bhakta Clay was encouraged to educate himself on the subject and then Ambarish prabhu funded the endeavor.
Bhakta Clay, our dedicated New Raman Reti temple mechanic and electrician, took some classes on alternative power sources. Within the budget given was constructed a cement block building to house the equipment. He then designed and installed a system of solar panels and generators to supply power to the main temple appliances: The temple room, pujari room, and kitchen, the cooler and the well pump. Diesel Detroit generator supplies 25,000 watts of power, the solar panels supply 2,500 watts. Also the temple shop was placed on the alternative grid. He also installed a hand pump as well for emergency water supply.
"During hurricane Frances, which hit on Janmastami, we also added two other generators to give enough power for the festivals." Clay said, "Because the regular power was out on the farm for almost 8 days, we then ran a line to the temple office so the office could remain in operation as well. This paid off after hurricane Jeanne hit only two weeks later, with more power outages"
So, although all around the county there were power outages, the temple program did not miss a beat. No serious damage was done on the temple property from the storms but the property was covered with tree branches. There was an "After the Hurricane Clean-up" at the temple and 60 devotees showed up in their work clothes with their rakes, chainsaws and pick-up trucks to clear away the debris of fallen branches over the five acre are surrounding the temple and office. Everyone was well fed with a delicious breakfast and lunch.
There were a few personal tragedies among the devotee community members however. During hurricane Frances Jatayu's home had several trees fall on it while he and his children were inside. One hit the roof and gave them a start but then the next one hit and smashed the roof and rain started poring in. The interior of the house was destroyed from the rain but it will all be replaced by the insurance company and the help of FEMA.
During hurricane Jeanne, Harinama dasi had a rough time of it. She was
home alone preparing to heading out to a friend's house to ride out the
storm when a tree fell on her car, smashing in the roof. Then another tree
fell on her back porch and smashed the awning. Taking shelter of the Holy
Name seemed like the natural thing to do during this time of distress for her.