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.