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Hurricane Dean Struts His Violent Way

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It is a he this time — Hurricane Dean is making a destructive appearance.

He has hit the Dominican Republic and is ramming Jamaica as a force four storm. There have been casualties and surely there will be pain and suffering. Now, in the path of the storm there are massive preparations and evacuations being made. The Cayman Islands suffered enough three years ago. I met many of those who fled from the wind and rising waters as the islands submerged. They had come to hospitals in Miami including Baptist Hospital where I was being treated.

Paradise can turn mean.

Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is preparing for a category 4 storm if it does not increase to the category 5 — which has been predicted. Hurricanes are fickle phenomenon and may or may not do what the most astute scientist predicts. It does look from the maps and satellite images that the Yucatan will come under attack with the storm hitting south of Cancun. That puts us close enough to the eye to be immersed in the storm. The differences will be in seconds of latitude, a few miles north or south.

For now the storm is due to encounter Mexico by Tuesday morning latest and appears to be heading yet again for the island of Cozumel and the resorts of the Mayan Riviera from Cancun south. Mèrida will also probably be hit as the storm exits the peninsula for the Gulf of Mexico.

The question now is whether or not we in Bacalar, we around Chetumal at what is still the southern edge of the “proposed track”, whether we will see the force of the storm or just the edges. The most recent report predicted the path to more directly include us.

State and federal authorities have already sent text messages to the population (cell phones are ubiquitous in developing nations which were not wired in the 20th c. as was the US) advising us to pick a secure place and stay put or follow the orders of “the authorities” in going to a shelter. They have large press conferences — something beloved in Mexico — where the governor and heads of agencies all get a chance at the limelight while reminding us that, in the crisis, we have the ultimate responsibility to care for ourselves. Good advice. The alert status for storms here is now orange and reddening quickly.

They stress having bottled water, food, documents stored in waterproof containers and, great advice, not listening to rumors. Turn off all your electrical system and uncouple the bottled gas. Keep a supply of purified water which is usually done here since drinking water should always be purified.

In 1954 Chetumal was almost completely destroyed by a storm. It was then a small outpost city with a lousy port (it is too shallow for anything of substance), no road or rail transport at the best of times. Buildings in the city were primarily built of wood in the caribe style or less sophisticated. It was, after all, only a small city in a territory of Mexico far from the capital with a history of violence and war against Mexico.

We once met a Mayan woman who had lived through the storm in '54 and described the chaos, flooding and winds. Now it is growing affluent with shopping malls, a Sam's Club and two highways connecting it to the rest of Mexico and Belize.

The 8PM reports tonight on a number of Internet sites like Accuweather and Weather.com had reports from Santo Domingo and Kingston, Jamaica telling of high winds — 100 mph sustained winds in Jamaica and 138 mph gusts. This is at category 4 and 5 is being predicted for Yucatan landfall around Tuesday morning by the National Hurricane Center in Miami. A category 5 fuels winds of 160 mph.

Dean had already killed at least 8 persons before it hit Jamaica. It is a deadly force, this force of nature. The Cayman Islands are trying to get people off the island with an influx of empty airplanes being sent in to evacuate people from a relatively posh resort. At Cancun airport there were said to be lines of planes to fill with lines of tourists. Not everyone will get a seat on a plane. Foreign tourists are to be evacuated to hotels in the city of Cancun which is not as much of a danger as is the Hotel Zone.

This video clip is worth a look.

The state TV station in Chetumal continues its warnings to residents to evacuate homes that are not secure and lists the many shelters available. The shelters tend to be schools which are made of cement with cement roofs but are not totally closed in, do not normally have cooking facilities and do not look very comfortable. But, compared to a bamboo hut with a thatch roof; they could be life savers.

In Cancun, lines of planes have been taking lines of tourists to safety. That still leaves many who will shortly be ordered off the “hotel zone” — a barrier island connected to the mainland. A mandatory evacuation is expected.

One weather person broadcasting from Cancun noted that the people have seen so many large, destructive storms that they are used to it. I don't think it is possible to get used to them nor to lose the fear of such astounding force unleashed on our planet. Here in Bacalar stores were chaotic today with people buying up as much basic items as possible. Bacalar's stores do not have large amounts of supplies so the town will soon be laid bare.

The storm is coming and it is not yet known to the “the perfect storm” but it has been storming around as if it wanted to strut its violent stuff. Worse yet, it seems to have me in its sights. It is also sighting itself on the Mayan Riviera where those who can afford to be on the shore will be those most at risk. Poorer, local people live inland where it is hotter, less elegant, … and safer.

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  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    I liked it better when all the hurricanes were she’s. It seemed more fitting…

    More political correctness trash…

    Good article. I can’t say I “enjoyed” it – it is about destruction and death after all; that’s never fun or entertaining.

    But it was a good article, anyway. Thanks for keeping us all informed.

  • Ruvy. I thought of all the old jokes about “her”-icanes and “his”-icanes and decided Dean was just showing that sex doesn’t matter — just meanness.
    Today, Monday, at 3PM our time the day has progressed from sunny, blue and very still to some small storms passing by and increasing humidity. Dean is projected to hit the coast of Yucatan by tomorrow morning but it will lead with plenty of storms. It is now east of Belize City about 300 miles and heading west to west-northwest. The warnings are for Belize City north to Cancun and then for Merida and Progreso the next day.
    The state of Quintana Roo (Chetumal to Cancun) is busily preparing, constant TV reports promise that the military and civil authorities have everything in readiness for the shelters and the post-storm repairs. We have, I learned, 23 ambulances in the Chetumal area — not that I would expect more than a few to have trained EMTs or oxygen. The hospitals in Chetumal promise to keep functioning. The medical center in our own village is useless at the best of times.
    My velador and I have just finished preparing the house with shutters closed, the car filled with gas, gas for the generator, a pile of canned and fresh foods and the hope that all will go easily and I will be able to continue my life which was complicated enough this week without a meteorological catastrophe.The power will probably be cut by CFE (national power authority)tonight before the storm does it for them.
    The state noted that Q.Roo had over 90,000 foreign tourists, many of whom have been able to leave. I assume Cancun airport continues to evacuate foreigners.
    Note that the US Consulate in Mèrida is at (Mexico country code 52) 999-925-5011, but is now closed for the storm.
    It may be reachable at merconsATprodigyDOTnet.mx or through the State Department
    For now Americans in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Merida areas have been urged to leave or to follow the instructions of local authorities. “The U.S. Consulate in Merida and Consular Agencies in Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen are closed for regular business. American citizens with questions should contact the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City at 5080-2816, 5080-2107, or 5207-0546 (country code 52, city code 55). The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City is open 4:00-10:00 PM Sunday, August 19, and 24 hours a day beginning 8:00AM on Monday, August 20.” American citizens can also contact the Hurricane Dean Task Force in Washington at 202-647-6611.
    Which is to say: “You’re on your own.” The Weather.com widget on my desktop and frequent visits to the National Hurricane Center of NOAA and AccuWeather all suggest that Dean knows where I live and is planning to roll up my driveway. I and most of the rest of the area have finished the preparations and are sitting back to wait the sound of distant thunder.

  • It is 11:00 PM here in Bacalar. It is still quiet although a rain has begun. There is a quality in the air and the humidity that recalls Bogart, Bacall, Edward G. Robinson and Lionel Barrymore in Key Largo. Anticipation, perhaps a touch of fear and resignation — the preparations were done and now the wait to see that it was done well.

    State & municipal leaders continue to warn more energetically of the danger coming. It is now a cat 5 storm, “Red Alert”, with sustained winds of 260 km/hr. They are warning of a direct hit on Chetumal or the north part of the Laguna Bacalar.

    Weather.com gives me more confidence and projects landfall of the eye tomorrow morning around Felipe Carillo Puerto some 50 miles up the road. Carillo Puerto is a very small city that was the center of the Caste Wars of the Maya against the Spanish/Mexican colonials of the haciendas who were growing very affluent on the trade in hemp for ships’ rigging during the 18th & 19th centuries.

    It is the gateway to the Si’an Ki’an Biosphere, the home of a growing group of Maya learning to make crafts, and a place hoping to be included in the tourist, eco-tourist industry that has not totally reached it yet. It has charm and it has many people living in less-than-secure dwellings.

    I don’t want Dean to roll directly over me but don’t want it to destroy others. I cannot influence the monster from his path. Even at this stage of the night there is still question of where he will land and how much water will precede him in the storm surge. The Weather Channel has a good collection of maps including one projecting wind damage. I am in the yellow near the red line. On the line but not, as was just said on state tv, in the bulls-eye.

    It now seems that the high winds will hit about 3AM. It shows not to believe rumors. An earlier text message warned power would be cut at 7PM. It wasn’t.

    After the Wilma experience that cost billions the authorities are trying to avoid pulling a New Orleans. The Secretary of Tourism is already talking of how quickly the tourism industry can be brought back in the aftermath.

  • We took a direct hit from Dean in the village of Bacalar. I have added a comment to my Hurricane Dean Update describing the storm and the aftermath.