Welcome to hurricane season 2019.
Actually the official start was June 1st but things don’t generally get active in the Caribbean basin until August. We woke up this morning to discover a little tropical wave working its way toward the Greater Antilles ( Hispaniola, Cuba - us). This is a good thing as we desperately need the rain, as long as it doesn’t strengthen into something more sinister. Any who, we thought this was an opportune time to throw out some Hurricane knowledge. We’ve been through more than we can count, Irma and Maria smacked us pretty good over in the VI’s/PR. Good bye condo, good bye car, good bye boat…. we may have lost some material possessions but we didn’t lose our lives. We packed up and left St. Thomas the day before Irma hit. We watched the facebook feeds from our friends who stayed from our cozy hotel room in San Juan Puerto Rico. Those feeds evolved from poolside hurricane parties during the first small squalls into sheer terror as the winds strengthened and the hurricane force winds began to hit. A few weeks later we watched Maria destroy our boat in Puerto Rico this time from Miami live via the marina webcam, that is until a 100 mph gust ripped the cam off its pole. People on the west end of the island were not too concerned about the storm, you see Hurricanes never hit that side of the island due to the mountains, offshore reefs and ocean currents - rolling eyes. Maria didn’t care, she plowed right across the island without changing course.
We hear the same nonsense here in the Dominican Republic. The mountains, ocean currents, and offshore reefs steer the storms away from the island. Take a look at the photo we attached showing the track of every hurricane since 1920. It’s best to think of the Caribbean basin as a giant dart board with a 4 year old child throwing the dart (Hurricane). Sooner or later, the D.R. will get hit.
Hurricane prep for us started a few weeks ago. Ocean One went over to Dr. Bob for his yearly vaccinations and a new health certificate. Our planning starts with the acknowledgment that if a major storm approaches we will be on the first plane out of Puerto Plata. We’ve been through enough hurricanes (7) to know that THIS is NOT the place to be during or especially after a major storm. It took almost a full year to get the lights back on in Puerto Rico and that was with hundreds of utility trucks, supplies and relief workers sent in from the United States. That ain’t gonna happen here. As we all know the construction standards here are a bit, shall we say… lacking? A category 3,4 or 5 storm will absolutely devastate this country.
So your first decision when storm planning is to decide whether you are going to stay or leave. Typically your going to have about 3-5 days of warning to get packed up or to get yourself storm ready. Keep in mind thousands of other people will be doing the same so make your decisions quickly and stay ahead of the masses. The airlines will start cancelling flights and the airports will close about 24 hours before the storm hits. So don’t mess around with trying to get on the last flight out.
If your plan is to leave….
Decide where you would go today. Be ahead of the curve and know which airline and route you would want to utilize. Knowing this ahead of time will allow you to jump on the web and buy a ticket in a hurry. Flights WILL sell out quickly.
Make sure you have arrangements made for your pets. If they are going with you get the shot records and check with the airlines about travel rules for pets.
Pack up anything that cannot be replaced. Important paperwork, art, photos, etc. Expect that whatever doesn’t get damaged during the storm will probably vanish before you return.
If you have a trustworthy friend or neighbor who is staying ask them to check on your house.
Be a good neighbor. Secure your house and your yard before leaving. That old pool lounger that you care nothing about can turn into a missile as it gets propelled into your neighbors house at 150 mph.
Staying put? Here are some considerations. The generator that your community or condo has runs on fuel. Once they burn through that fuel, however much they have stored, your lights are going to turn off. In the VI’s and Puerto Rico most of the community generators lasted about 72 hours before they ran dry. A few of the most of the gas stations had back up power but without trucks resupplying the tanks went dry quickly. The roads are going to be closed due to fallen trees, electrical wires and debris. Cell phones will go dead after the first gust over 110 mph as most of the towers are not constructed to withstand hurricane force winds. We had one tower left standing in PR and there were hundreds of cars sitting along side the highway trying to make calls out. So plan for all of the above.
Hit the grocery store first. Stock up on bottled water (you cannot have enough), canned goods, rice, pasta, energy bars, booze and pet food. The shelves will go empty so get there first!
Batteries, batteries, batteries.
Medications, refill those scripts and double check your first aid kit. Have the ability to deal with cuts, bruises and burns.
Fill up on fuel - car, moto, generator, extra fuel tanks. Plan on at least two weeks before you will have access to fuel after the storm hits.
Candles, matches, fire sticks and flashlights
Board up your windows.
Clean up your yard. Tie down or stow anything that can fly away.
Send an info packet to relatives and friends who live off island. Your address, email, phone number and passport info. Tell them where you plan on staying during the storm and let them know that you will probably be without communication for an extended period.
Pack a ditch bag. If you need to run during the storm have a bag packed with essentials. Wallet, passport, set of keys, change of clothes, flash light, energy bar, medications - all of it goes into your ditch bag.
Identify a safe room in your house. Interior walls, rooms with the least amount of windows, sometimes even a bathroom. Place a flashlight, blanket and water in that room. This is where you go if all hell breaks loose.
Leave a couple windows cracked open an inch. Air pressure inside the house is a problem as the storm passes over. The house needs to equalize and the air needs to be able to escape.
Stock up on ice. Your going to need a stiff drink after the storm passes.
It is super important to keep a close eye on the weather this time of the year. Don’t rely on word of mouth for weather forecasts and storm tracks. There is always some old salt walking around who knows exactly where the storm is or isn’t going to hit…. nonsense. Here are some links to actually weather forecasting sites and meteorologists who specialize in tracking tropical storms.
Levi at TropicalTidBits has one of the best sites in our opinion. tropicaltidbits.com
NOAA and the National Hurricane Center nhc.noaa.gov
Passage Weather passageweather.com
Using all three of these sites will give you a pretty good picture of what is going on out in the Atlantic. Above all, please do not be complacent. Granted, it has been a long time since this county was directly impacted by a large hurricane. But that does not mean that we live outside of the Hurricane zone.
Some photos from Irma and Maria are posted below.