Hurricanes are so important to the history of the Dominican Republic, the term itself has its roots there. The native Taino people known as the fierce tropical storms passing through the Caribbean,”hurakans” that is thought to have been derived from the Inca word for their God of Evil. Therefore, the native word hurakan, quickly became integrated into the Spanish language.
The peak of the season falls somewhere between late August and early September. However, you should keep in mind that a number of the deadliest Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes have shown themselves earlier in the season. To put it differently, it’s not possible to predict for sure when the largest hurricanes of this season will hit.
The Dominican Republic shares the big island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Normally, Hispaniola gets a direct hit with a significant hurricane about every 23 years. But, close calls are a lot more frequent. Hispaniola gets brushed by the outer rings of a significant hurricane about every five years. Moreover, it’s fairly normal for the Dominican Republic to be pounded with tropical storms during the hurricane season. This is the reason why so many people planning a visit to the Dominican Republic are worried about the weather but I will return to this point later.
The intensity of hurricanes in the Caribbean area are grouped by the Saffir-Simpson hurricane intensity scale. The evaluations are based on the highest sustained wind speeds in the wall of the hurricane. In other words, the average rate of all of the winds averaging a minute or longer. Wind gusts associated with hurricanes that last just a few seconds can, and usually arefaster in speed. The Saffir-Simpson intensity ratings are intended to serve as a rough guide to the possible wind damage and storm surge (the wall of sea water that the storm pushes inland) a hurricane can deliver.
It’s important to remember that hurricane strength increases exponentially, not linearly, as you move up the scale by a Category 1 hurricane to a Category 5 hurricane. To put it differently, a Category 4 hurricane isn’t only 4 times as intense as a Category 1 hurricane, it’s about 255 times as intense!
Although it’s important to know more about the different kinds of hurricanes, it’s also important to realize that these classes can sometimes be misleading in regards to the quantity of damage they may inflict. There are instances when a Category 1 hurricane can wreak as much havok for a Category 3 or 4. In these circumstances, you need to look at other factors besides wind speed. By way of instance, a slow moving Category 1 storm may dump a lot more water in a place than a fast moving Category 3 hurricane. The size of the population of an area and the way sound the infrastructure is also very important to just how much damage a hurricane can cause. If there are a whole lot of people around which feeble buildings, a Category 1 or 2 hurricane can be completely devastating.
We should also discuss tropical storms. Tropical storms are described as well organized storms with an eye which has maximum sustained wind speeds ranging between 39-73 miles — in other words, basically a baby hurricane. The ability of these tropical storms shouldn’t be under-estimated just because they do not get called a”storm” in modern terminology. Odette is an instance of a tropical storm which did considerable harm — in actuality, as far as some hurricanes have caused. In 2003, Odette struck the Dominican Republic at 60 mph. Consequently, 85 percent of the banana crop was destroyed in addition to many other crops. Over 60,000 homes were lost throughout the area and 8 individuals were directly killed by the tropical storm. Therefore, you can see a tropical storm is nothing to sneeze at! Needless to say, when the Taino likely talked about”hurakans,” they didn’t make such a differentiation between tropical storms and hurricanes since they’re on the same continuum.
The first voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World in 1492 was created in the month of September, usually the busiest month for hurricanes. But he and his crew enjoyed quite pleasant weather that first voyage and never struck a hurricanes. Now that is one for the other novelists to take into account! In Columbus’ second and third voyages that he and his team did encounter hurricanes.In reality, ancient Spanish colonies on Hispaniola, such as Isabella named after the Queen of Spain, were completely destroyed by hurricanes. But it was the fourth voyage of Christopher Columbus that made the largest hurricane recorded in those early years of Spanish conquest but the history books have been lacking in pointing out the significance of this hurricane (see below).
In July of 1502, on his 4th voyage to the New World, Columbus noticed a veil of cirrostratus clouds growing, an oily swell coming from the southeast, and a lot of other indicators he took for a storm coming. He delivered a message to Ovando, the Spanish Governor of Hispaniola, to warn him not to send out the Spanish fleet of 30 gold boats which were due to leave for Spain. He also asked for permission to dock his ships in Santo Domingo. Ovando wasn’t a fan of Columbus and mocked his request and sent the fleet of 30 Spanish gold boats in their merry way. As they had been traversing the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, 29 of the 30 ships sank, killing everybody on board and dropping the massive fortune of gold. Historians think this hurricane was probably a powerful Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane. Some historians called it the”Columbus Hurricane” because he called it.
There have been many terrible hurricanes and fierce tropical storms in the Dominican Republic over the years — far too many to list them all here. However, I want to mention some of the more notable ones.
San Zenon was a Category 4 hurricane which struck the Dominican Republic in 1930. It’s widely considered among the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes on record. It was a Category 4 which was only under a Category 5 in relation to wind speed with150 mph winds. 2000 people died and it essentially leveled Santo Domingo. San Zenon was a really broad hurricane and its aftermath spread out within a 20 mile radius.
Considering the path of destruction that San Zenon left reminds me when the Taino people called a”hurakan” that they weren’t just referring to the real physical event but also the devastation it leaves in its wake. The lost lives, the accidents, the downed trees, the ruined plants, the ruined structures, the flood… all of this could have been contained from the Taino definition of the word hurricane.
Another hurricane that won’t ever be forgotten in the Dominican Republic was called David. It’s one of the biggest cyclones to be born off the coast of Africa. It was a Category 5 hurricane and it struck August 31, 1979. The wind speed of the catastrophic hurricane was clocked at a whopping 175 mph!! 70% of all of the plants in the country were ruined. 200,000 houses were lost. Entire communities were isolated and the consequences were felt across the whole country, even though the southern area was hardest hit.
Another very memorable storm was George which struck September 22, 1998. Crops were destroyed, pastures for livestock were destroyed, and food had to be brought in from outside the nation or the people would have starved.
Sometimes the smaller Category 1 hurricanes can cause a whole lot of harm and hassle if they hit in just the perfect location. This is definitely true for Jeanne that struck on September 17, 2004. This Category 1 storm affected the very popular tourist area of Punta Cana and other areas on the east shore. Bridges were removed and travel became impossible for some time.
Most visitors to the Dominican Republic aren’t from areas that are hit by hurricanes in order that they might not have a great understanding of what to do if they hear that a hurricane is coming. So, here is some advice on what to do If you’re going to the Dominican Republic during hurricane season. First, you shouldn’t worry too much about hurricanes. Yes, they can be enormous but the probability of a direct hit to your area is extremely low, even in the peak of hurricane season, AND the infrastructure is significantly better today. To put it differently, if you’re staying at a modern hotel, it’s build to withstand hurricanes. Second, do not forget that the resort operators and tour operators have been through hurricanes before and they’re well prepared. They know precisely what to do and they have contingency plans for coping with every possibility. They also have back up satellite communication devices if the principal communication goes down as well as lots of emergency supplies. Therefore, you’ll be safe if you heed their instructions.
The fantastic news about hurricanes is that you get loads of warning when they’re coming, unlike other natural disasters such as tornadoes that may hit with hardly any notice. The resort operators around the Punta Cana coast and south coast of the Dominican Republic are especially well prepared for large weather events. When they get word that a hurricane is coming, and this will occur more than 24 hours beforehand, they will execute their hurricane plans instantly. Furthermore, the buildings around the Punta Cana shore are the most modern and hurricane proof of any you will find anywhere in the whole Caribbean. They’re constructed with concrete blocks and steel rods and designed to withstand high speed storm force winds.