Tales of Hurricane Dean
‘Tis the season for boarding and packing up all earthly possessions. With a quiet 2007 hurricane season so far, the news of Dean’s arrival was not too great of a shock for us living on the Riviera Maya coastline. The projected path showed his landfall to hit far more north than where Dean did finally rake across the peninsula. What did that mean to us living in Akumal? Town underwent the same preparations we all had become overly familiar with in 2005 when Emily and Wilma both paid us a destructive visit.
The difference this time is that everybody got down to business quickly and the town of Akumal was one solid piece of plywood days before the storm was due to hit. Visitors were evacuated to other inland towns or chose too fly back home a few days earlier than scheduled. The houses and condos had all breakables and valuables packed away in back rooms. Some hotels even opened up their first floors, removing all doors, windows, cabinetry, mattresses, and all others goods in order to let the storm surge just pour through. All boats were out of the water, tied to palm trees, to each other, and to any other heavy, stationary item. The town of Akumal was well prepared.
A few of us locals created bunkers in our homes, as long as we were off of the water. People were finding their chosen places to weather the storm in other towns or in houses of friends. The mood was one of deep concern, then Dean turned south. Not good for the Costa Maya, or southern tip of Quintana Roo, but a comforting thought for those of us living throughout the Riviera Maya. Our major concern shifted from one of intense winds, rain, and sheer force of a category 5 hurricane to effects of being on the northern side of such a huge storm. We knew our wind speeds were not going to be too bad, but due to the counterclockwise rotation of a storm, it pushes its highest waves and surge to the north.
As we all settled in for the night with our cooler, our plethora of ice, candles, drinking water, canned food, and pre-prepared food, the winds did begin to pick up in the early evening. By about 10:00 pm, the waves at Yalku Cai (the best place to see the true magnitude of the storm surge) were already crashing up to the ocean-side patios. A few random rogue waves began to break over the wall installed after Wilma between Vista del Mar and La Buena Vida by about 11:00 pm. The storm had not even reached its height, and the road began to show signs of rocks, boulders, and other debris from the sea. Not much later, the waves began to crash into a few of the first floor condos on Half Moon Bay and pour out the front of La Buena Vida down the stairs. The wild spectacle of the driving force of the Mother Ocean was immense and extremely humbling. However, one block off the beach, you would not even know there was damage being caused, only a little rain and a bit of gusty wind.
The night was quite calm, and aside from a bit of a sauna-like effect caused by boarded windows and loss of power, sleeping was quite peaceful. Early the next morning, people began to emerge. Dressed in yellow rain jackets, those of us who remained in town began to trudge through the water, the debris, and the fallen vegetation in order to access the damage done to our tiny coastal town. The winds were still quite intense, the ocean was still quite high, and the water level in the street was also high in certain places. Most people were smiling; their buildings fared very well. The hardest hit was the southern end of Half Moon Bay where resides Vista del Mar and La Buena Vida. However, the owner was already making phone calls and arranging machinery to arrive immediately and clear the blocked areas of the road. After checking out all ends of town, the consensus was that we were, in all actuality, very lucky. Without any way to hear about how the Costa Maya fared the direct hit of Dean, all we could do was hope for the best.
Power was restored by early afternoon, and most everybody went back to un-doing all of the preparations we had spent the better part of the past week doing. Those with damage were organizing and orchestrating their crews and coming up with time estimates for re-opening in order to inform clients with nearing reservations if they were going to be ready. Only a few days after the storm, there are already a few condos occupied and a handful of tourists walking down the street. Some restaurants have already opened, and many more are expected to be open by next week.
All in all, Akumal will be fully up on its feet in a few weeks. A few buildings will require a bit more time, but the best news is that nobody was injured and it will only take some cleaning, replanting the palms that fell, replacing some windows, and a bit of rebuilding, and all will be good as new. One could say that Dean simply gave Akumal a deep clean and it will be shiny new for the next round of visitors.