“Batten down the hatches,” I read a couple of days ago on a post by one of my Facebook friends. “Storm force winds forecast for Sifnos on Monday. Beaufort 10.”
10! My heart leapt. I have some sense of what Sifnos is like with winds of almost such strength and, as this friend has lived there for a few years, he understands much better than I. At his house they’ve charged the batteries, he said, stored water and made sure their small camping stove has plenty of gas. He’s moved his neighbours’ flower pots and, I’m betting, checked how many candles they have on hand.
On the Beaufort scale, every movement of air, from a wee puff to a sustained hurricane along with its attendant effects, fits into one of its categories from 0 to 12. The higher the number, the stronger it is. Winds at force 10, the scale states, are seldom experienced on land and would lead to considerable structural damage and broken or uprooted trees. At sea, well, you can imagine. The forecast for Monday’s storm – I checked – calls for waves up to 5 metres high. Little wonder that the Sifnos radio station is broadcasting the following bits of advice: don’t go out of your homes … watch out for flooding … secure everything you have outdoors … batteries … flashlights … clear drainage gutters at your home. I checked, too, the wind direction to see who on the island I needed to worry about the most.
I’ve been on Sifnos during force 9 winds before. The first time, my husband and I were actually scheduled to be on our way to Piraeus right then. But in weather like that, the ferries all stay in port, and it was on that day we learned in concrete terms how wise it is to always plan at least one day in Athens before a flight home. I learned, too, that there is almost literally nowhere on the island where you can escape from a Beaufort 9 wind and even the snug house we were staying in had cracks that it found. When we did go outside, I struggled mightily to stand upright, and the vehicle we were in rocked and rolled. It felt almost as if the island itself was threatening to come unmoored. These photographs are ones I managed to take on that day. Less than twenty-four hours later, the weather had calmed down a lot, the ferry arrived and we were on our way.
Sifnos, this small chunk of rock in the middle of the sea, has through the ages endured countless storms and it will survive this one. Hopefully with a minimum of harm. May it, in these days of modern communications that connect its friends around the world, feel less alone.
Sharon Blomfield is the author of The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle and, new this spring, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales. These books are available at To Bibliopoleio, The Book Shop in Apollonia, Sifnos, at Tithorea, a Greek food shop in Rockwood, Ontario, Canada and on Amazon.