The deadliest hurricane in Puerto Rican history began as a cluster of thunderstorms off the western bulge of Africa on Sept. 13, 2017. Fueled by evaporation from warm tropical water just north of the equator, the storms began to form into circular bands and rotate around the area of low pressure moving west across the Atlantic Ocean. Three days later as the winds in those bands reached 75 mph, Hurricane Maria was officially born.
After pummeling the Lesser Antilles, Maria approached Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as a powerful Category 4 storm. Traversing the island, the storm created devastation with violent winds (speed records were unreliable after land-based wind sensors were destroyed) and torrential flooding (almost 40 inches of rain fell on the mountain town of Caguas). Maria caused $90 billion in damage and, according to a George Washington University study commissioned by the commonwealth’s governor, left 2,975 people dead.
Scene: A black mailbox perches on a metal post 10 yards away from us in in the middle of a pastoral Hill County tableau. The Texas sky spreads overhead like an endless blue circus canopy.
Suddenly, a blast and curtain of white smoke. The mailbox launches out of the frame, finally crashing into the dirt a good five seconds later.
Our host, Sean Lindley, appears in the frame. A young Jim Carrey lookalike, he’s wearing a flak jacket, wrap-around shades and giant grin. “Apparently, the felonious ones of y’all were out there making unregistered destructive devices as children and blowing up mailboxes,” he says. “So we did that. And it was actually rather impressive.”
But you know what would be more impressive? A pipe bomb!
In quick succession, mailboxes are obliterated by a pipe bomb, an M26 fragmentation grenade and a stick of dynamite. The final blast is a