BAR HARBOR — Businesses across Mount Desert Island are planning fundraisers this week to support fellow islanders in hurricane-damaged communities in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“The world as you know it is broken” when you see the hurricane damage, said Jeffrey Anderholm, who owns Bass Cottage Inn bed-and-breakfast with his wife, Teri. They have a house on St. Croix, and he was there last month when the island took a direct hit from Hurricane Maria.
“It was the second scariest thing I’ve ever been through,” he said, after a major car accident many years ago. “There’s this phase beforehand of anticipation and dread. Then when it happens, the fear and feeling of being insignificant in the face of nature.”
As Maria approached Sept. 19, he closed up his own house and went to stay with friends whose house is at a lower elevation. His Airedale terrier, Riley, was with other friends on the island.
“The power was turned off about 4 p.m. that day because they didn’t want wires coming down and starting fires,” he said, “and everyone got inside.”
Then around 10:30 p.m., they left the house and walked to two small concrete cottages. The cottage Anderholm was headed to was only about 45 feet from the house, but in 100-mph winds, the walk was harrowing.
“I was hunkered down and holding onto things. It was loud, the winds were whipping around, the palm trees were whipping around. It was very scary.”
He spent the night alone in the 150-square-foot cottage with an LED flashlight, getting up every once in a while to check the windows — the 175 mile-per-hour wind was trying to rip off one of the storm panels.
“The wind was thrashing the cottage, and things were bouncing off the roof.”
Back in Maine, Teri Anderholm was worried sick about her husband, her dog and her house. Even though power and landline phones were out, enough of the AT&T cellular network had remained intact that he was able to reassure her with a text message in the morning that he was okay. Riley was fine, too, but it would be a day-and-a-half before his hosts could clear their driveway with chainsaws to get a vehicle out.
“I opened the door at 6:30 a.m.,” Anderholm said. “It was still raining, but the winds had stopped. When I went to sleep, all the hills had lush, green vegetation, but I opened the door, and it was all brown. Every leaf was gone. There’s piles of rubble and metal roofs and signs from stores that have flown off. The family next door to where I was staying lost part of their roof. And they have five kids.”
His own house had solar panels and fences down but was not severely damaged. St. Croix did not experience much flooding, but storm surge damaged marinas and waterfront property.
Local police and the National Guard established a curfew. People lined up at grocery stores to get food, water and ice.
“All the phone poles were down or leaning, wires were ripped down,” he said. “Basically everything has to be rebuilt. I was really impressed with the local Crucians. They said, ‘Well, we can fix it.’ That’s why I think it’s important to note these charity efforts. It’s gonna be a long road back.”
Anderholm returned to Maine Oct. 2 via a seaplane to St. Thomas, whose airport had just reopened after Irma.
Bar Harbor businesses plan an “Island Aid” event Friday, Oct. 13, and will donate a portion of their proceeds from the day to United for Puerto Rico and the Fund for the Virgin Islands. The latter was established by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, a nonprofit that has been operating in the islands for more than 25 years.
At press time, participating establishments include Chart Room Restaurant, Cottage Street Pub, Galyn’s, Havana, Side Street Cafe, The Blue Door, Thirsty Whale Tavern, Peekytoe Provisions, ImprovAcadia, Window Panes, Bistro on Eden (in the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel), Geddy’s, Amy Madden Roebuck (Bar Harbor Blues Chocolates) and West Street Cafe, Acadia Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Echo Salon and Bar Harbor Hemporium. Contact Galyn’s at 288-9706.
On Sunday, Oct. 14, Rogue Cafe in Southwest Harbor plans its own benefit harvest buffet lunch and auction from 12-3 p.m. Funds will go to Chefs for Puerto Rico/World Kitchen, Unidos por Puerto Rico and the Sato Project. Contact 244-7101.