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Weathering Storms: Tales from English Harbour Radio

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Mocka Jumbies and Rum...

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  • Nestled within the quaint beauty of English Harbour, Antigua, my daily routine takes an unexpected turn when clouds gather over Shirley Heights. Clad in my English Harbour Radio uniform, I step into the role of a weather broadcaster, tasked with keeping both residents and seafarers informed about the impending weather patterns.
  • The urgency of the situation is palpable when our phone starts ringing incessantly, usually accompanied by anxious inquiries from concerned individuals who have caught wind of an approaching tropical wave, depression, or storm. With a blend of information sourced from the Antigua Met Office and the National Hurricane Centre in Miami, my trusty dogs and I set out to provide clarity to the callers.
  • While my broadcasts typically echo with warm greetings, arrival announcements, and quirky tales, the atmosphere transforms when hurricanes loom. A vivid memory surfaces – Hurricane Luis in 1995, unleashing 150-knot winds upon us. I recall hunkering down with family, pets, and essential radio gear, connecting with the world outside amid the raging storm. Such experiences underscore the vulnerability and resilience we share as we navigate the whims of nature.

At the first sign of a larger than normal cloud bank appearing over Shirley Heights, our telephone will start to ring.

It will usually be an obviously worried yachtsman or house holder who has heard via Pakistan or somewhere that apart from ball tampering, we should be aware that an active tropical wave, depression or storm is coming straight at us.

This could be at anytime of the day or night and is usually because every morning at 0900, I don my English Harbour Radio uniform. And, courtesy of both the good gentlemen at the Antigua Met Office and also the hard worked staff at the National Hurricane Centre in Miami, the dogs and I do our very best to explain to the caller that Tropical Storm Fred is about to kick the living day lights out of us.

It should be made clear, for goodness knows how long now (with the aid of ever-faithful and long suffering Judy ) I do the weather forecast from my bedroom at our house on the shores of English Harbour, Antigua.

During the season this same radio broadcast is mostly full of birthday wishes, arrivals and farewells, and who fell head first down the W.C. at one of our late night bars and restaurants. But during the hurricane times it can really get busy.

I will never forget Hurricane Luis in the summer of 1995 which blew 150 knots or thereabouts for close to 36 hours. We had boarded up our house and taken up residence in the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel inside Nelson’s Dockyard. With us came the dogs, our parrot Rosie, my daughter Cary Lee, and her son Jolyon Justin. Also an antenna, battery and radio gear for two or three hourly broadcasts to the outside world! In the morning of the second day the population of Antigua looked more like the inhabitants of London during the never-to-be-forgotten Blitz. They had that strange nonfocusing look on their faces ! But it is not often that we in these islands have to put up with 150-knot winds.

Jol Byerley’s Aug 06 Letter from Antigua
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Anyway, most of you will have noticed the sheer size of the area covered by Tropical Storm Ernesto. Thank goodness it never got to hurricane force while it was close to us in Antigua. But once again, we in our island lucked out and I can only hope that the islands of the Caribbean get through this season unscathed. As it is, we are about to jump on one of those great big silver things that flash around the world and take a break from worrying about what tomorrow may bring. So we will talk to you all again from, of all places, dear old England.

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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