CINCINNATI — In a rare moment of connectivity with her family on St. Vincent, Tornia Wyllie witnessed one of the large volcanic eruptions threatening the small Caribbean island.
Wyllie, who lives in Hyde Park, was on a video call with her parents, soon-to-be-adopted daughter and much of her extended family Friday when La Soufriere erupted a second time. She took a screenshot as ash filled the air.
"I think the biggest thing is that helpless feeling where you want to do so much but there's not much you can physically do from here," Wyllie said.
The past couple of days have been traumatic, fraught with power and internet outages that cut off communication to her family. They live in the safer "green zone" about 35 kilometers south of the volcano, but they still experienced chaos after the eruptions.
"It became absolutely dark. It was thundering; kids were screaming," she said. "My daughter actually got so scared she was like, 'Mom, I don't want to die.' So everyone was really out of their minds. The animals were howling and then later that night, the ash began to fall."
Wyllie's daughter told her she had trouble breathing because of the sulfur and fine particles in the air Saturday night. Her niece, who has asthma, was having a particularly difficult time.
"Even if you close your house up, there's no way to avoid fine particles in the air, and they're quite irritating," Wyllie said.
Other parts of the island - "the red zone" - are under mandatory evacuation orders, threatened by mixes of lava, ash and rock, called pyroclastic flows. But, in the midst of a pandemic, emergency shelters are being overrun.
"What makes this even more complicated is the current COVID-19 pandemic, where people are trying to evacuate en masse but coming into centers where it's not possible to socially distance," Wyllie said.
La Soufriere had been dormant since April 1979, Wyllie said, but started rumbling and smoking in late 2020. Experts warned this weekend of more potentially major eruptions to come.