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Hurricanes Over Yucatan

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2008. Since then, many hurricanes have passed near, through or around the Yucatan Peninsula. None of them have done as much damage as Hurricane Wilma (2005) or Hurricane Isidore (2002) to the Yucatan Peninsula so far. Hurricane Wilma was one of history’s most destructive hurricanes, if you measure destruction by damage of property. Wilma caused 63 deaths, 8 of which happened in Mexico, and over $29 BILLION USD in damages. You can read all the gory details in this Wikipedia article. And now, guess what? It is hurricane season again! When the clouds gather and start to swirl, our thoughts turn to what we can do to prevent damage or prepare to wait out what might be coming towards us, because you just never know. A few years ago, Hurricane Ernesto had everyone along the Mayan Riviera stocking up their pantries and taping their windows, but Ernesto did relatively little damage. In Merida, Ernesto felt more like a storm than a hurricane. But one of these days, the approaching hurricane is bound to fufill our worries about the damage it can do, so it is best to be prepared. Perhaps this article on hurricanes in Yucatan will help.

The End of Summer… Not So Fast!

Santa Ana Church during Hurricane Isidore

You might find yourself in Merida at the end of the summer. As you watch the children return to school throughout the Yucatan, you might think that the threat of hurricanes is over. If you think that, think again. Hurricane Wilma revved up to hurricane status on October 18, right at the end of the season (which technically begins on June 1 and ends on November 1). September is recognized as the busiest month for hurricanes in the Atlantic. NOAA, the last word on hurricanes, predicted a near-normal season for the 2012 hurricane season, though they also have admitted this year that their 6-month forecasting ability is more like a guess, and not a skill. The season started even before the official start date of May 1 this year, but ended up very quiet. Just another lesson that hurricanes and hurricane seasons are nothing if not unpredictable.

Give Us A Hurricane Anyday

Every place on the planet has a tendency towards some natural disaster. Where we Working Gringos come from in California, we’ve been through raging fires whipped up by seasonal warm winds and sudden violent and devastating earthquakes. We’ve had acquaintances die and watched houses hang and then fall from cliffs in deadly mudslides. When it comes to our personal fear factor, we’d rather be living in the land of hurricanes. Give us a hurricane any day!

Isidore Approaches

We first moved to Merida in the winter of 2002. The weather was beautiful, with warm days, cool evenings and an occasional flashy thunderstorm. Perfect, we thought! Then summer hit… okay, maybe not quite so perfect, but certainly we could handle it. The summer often included afternoon thunderstorms which we found refreshing, in a tropical sort of way. Just when we thought summer was over and the days would be cooling off, September 22nd rolled around, and we were witness to Hurricane Isidore, a Category 4 hurricane. Hurricane Isidore was headed towards Texas when it took an unpredicted and unexpected hard left turn from its trajectory across the Gulf of Mexico, and barreled right over the Yucatan Peninsula and right over Merida, hanging over the city in all its Category 4 glory for about 12 hours.

Working Gringa in the HurricaneFor about three days we had watched Isidore on various weather websites (we list the best ones that we know of at the end of this article). We hadn’t expected more than the edge of it to pass by Merida, until we watched it change direction. When that happened, we, along with everyone else here, battened down the hatches and waited for the almost-inevitable.

Out and About in a Hurricane

When the winds and rain started picking up and it was pretty certain that the hurricane was coming, we turned off our computers and ventured outside with our cameras. This was our first hurricane and we didn’t want to miss a minute of it! Our house, like most here, didn’t have much of a view onto the street, so the best way for us to see what was going on was to get out into it. We walked down towards Santa Ana Park in shorts and t-shirts and took photos of flooded streets during Hurricane Isidoreourselves standing in calf-deep water in the middle of the Motor Electrico intersection (Calle 49 and Calle 62). Other than an occasional police vehicle, there wasn’t a car or a person in sight. This should have given us pause for concern, perhaps, but we were too busy enjoying the rush of the intense weather.

We kept walking, taking short videos with our little digital camera of the wind whipping the awnings around and swinging the stoplights on their cables. As we reached the park, the wind started picking up and we got great shots of the palm trees next to the church being blown hard in the winds. We saw a cell phone tower that must have been 30 meters high shudder a bit and then fall down completely. It was when a piece of lamina (corrugated tin roofing) flew by almost horizontally that it occurred to us that strolling around in a hurricane wasn’t such a good idea. We made our way back without a scratch or an incident and went inside our house to wait it out.

Watching and Waiting

Our house at the time was a 100-year-old colonial that had probably withstood more than five or ten such hurricanes (Casa Panadero, which you can see here). We felt very safe within Casa Panadero’s thick stone walls. Most of the windows were French-style doors that opened into the courtyard or into the garden, and most of them had wooden doors that closed over them to protect them from the elements. The ones without external protectors rattled a bit and leaked a lot, but even during the most powerful winds, did not break. We did learn, however, that with fragile windows it might be best to open them in a hurricane (if you can), rather than risk them being blown apart by the wind. Water and leaves are a lot easier to pick up than broken glass.

The power went out shortly after we returned from our ill-advised adventure, and we lit up the candles. It was hard to relax, though, because hurricanes are incredibly noisy. Not only was there the sound of the wind, the rattling doors and the rain, but there was the high-pitched whining of the wires strung from various cell and radio towers near the house. There was also an old veleta (windmill) across the street that was whirring faster than the designer intended and throwing sparks in its frenzy. (That veleta never did fall down, although it did lose most of its blades before the end.) The noise was deafening, the rain was intense, and we spent a lot of time plugging up leaks around the windows with our towels, trying to prevent the storm from coming in the house. Silly mistake, but we didn’t know any better at the time.

The hurricane raged on throughout the night and at about two in the morning, we had gotten used to the noiseWorking Gringa assess Hurricane Isidore damage. Not only that, we were exhausted from the excitement and the leak-plugging and we finally fell asleep. It seemed incongruous at the time to fall asleep with such weather raging outside. But we didn’t seem to be in any danger, so we saw no reason to stay awake, and were grateful that we were able to get some needed rest.

The Aftermath

When we woke the next morning, the storm was almost gone and we were left to assess the mess. And, oh, what a mess it was!

Our neighbor’s lovely mango tree that used to drop ripe mangos into our yard had lost a few limbs and been whipped about unmercifully in the course of the storm. Eventually, the tree would die and be removed, as mango trees do not tolerate stress well. Our own trees were all pretty young at the time, and though some of them were practically horizontal, we propped them back up and they went on to live healthy lives. No plant in our garden was left untouched, and many plants were naked of their leaves. The leaves had gone through the Cuisinart of a Category 4 hurricane and leaf-bits were strewn everywhere. We would find leaf-bits for the next six months in corners behind doors, in crevasses between stones… everywhere!

My Kingdom for Electricity

It wasn’t long before we noticed that it was getting quite hot again. During the storm, despite the fact that all the doors and windows were closed, we had been fairly comfortable. But the next morning, the temperature started to rise, and we had no electricity. Every towel we owned was wet because we had used them to stem the flow of water that had seeped in through, under and above the old doors. The floors that did get wet dried fairly quickly. But did we mention there was no electricity? As the temperature climbed into the 30′s (Celsius), we realized we had no air conditioning, no fans, no washer and drier, no Internet, no nothing. We had candlelight at night, and we had phone service (but only a wireless phone system which used, you guessed it, electricity). For the next five days (which is how long it took for the electricity to be turned on in our part of the centro), we endured the most difficult part of the hurricane. We were prompted to go right out and buy a generator, which as it turns out, we have not had occasion to use since. We discovered that sitting through a hurricane (in a safe spot) was nothing compared to dealing with the wet humidity for five days afterwards without the basic comforts of modern life. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t fun either.

Out and About Afterwards

When the hurricane had passed, we were one of the first to go out in our car and look around. The hurricane had indeed wrought havoc with our beautiful Merida. Triunfo in Merida after Hurricane IsidoreHuge trees were down in the Plaza Grande, along Paseo de Montejo and just about everywhere we looked. Our friend at Casa Santana had a tree fall onto the house (This was repaired quickly, and a new ceiba tree was planted a few months later, which was huge just four years later). Any stores that had large plate glass windows now had piles of broken glass and debris in front of their facades. We found the employees of Triunfo, the store on Paseo de Montejo, emptying out the store and bringing everything down to the garage so they could clean up. They were back in business within a week, as we recall. The car dealerships had been badly hit and their lots were strewn with broken glass and twisted aluminum. Billboards were ripped to shreds. There was some flooding in the southern areas of the centro, but the drainage in most parts of Merida was incredibly effective.

Paseo de Montejo and the Prolongación were barely passable and full of debris. Leaves? yes. Tree limbs? yes. Soldiers? Yes! Soldiers! The Mexican Army was out in force, moving trees out of the street, cutting trees that were too big to move and directing traffic. They were a beautiful sight to see, called out to help with a disaster and coming to aid their fellow Mexicans. People were out in the streets, and were already starting to clean up their yards and assess their damages. Over the next few weeks, large piles of tree limbs, leaves and other green waste would appear outside people’s houses in the centro to be carried away by the garbage companies. The electricity was restored to the buildings around the Plaza Grande after one day, and most of the city had electricity within a week. It took another month to get electricity out to the pueblos, which included replacing over 5,000 concrete electrical poles which had snapped and fallen in the high winds.

The Yucatan Countryside

Of course, there were those who were not so lucky. The day after the hurricane was over, we drove to Costco and WalMart, both of which were operating on their own generators and were open the same day that the hurricane passed. Knowing that the people out in the pueblos probably didn’t fare as well as those in Merida, we stocked up on basics like rice, beans, diapers, water and masa (cornmeal used for tortillas). We set out to visit our friends in the May family in Oxtapacab, to see how they were doing and to give them some of the supplies that we had in the truck if they needed them.

It takes about an hour to drive to Oxtapacab from Merida. Along the way, we passed kilometers and kilometers of beaten-down selva (forest), every tree stripped of leaves, and hundreds of those fallen concrete power poles. In some pueblos, the houses were high and dry but missing their palapa roofs, and the families appeared to be living outside. In others, the houses were below the level of the road and were flooded in up to two or three feet of water. When we got to Oxtapacab, we were pleased to see that the May family had survived well. They have two concrete houses (bunkers, basically) on their property, and they stayed in those during the hurricane. They had lost all their turkeys, a lot of trees, and the lamina that covered their outdoor cocina (kitchen). They were grateful for the food and diapers, and promised to share some of it with their neighbors.

Food packages in Timicuy after Hurricane Isidore

On the way back, we still had about half the supplies that we had bought at Costco in the back of the car. We decided to stop in a pueblo where every house was underwater and the people were sitting around looking a bit stunned. We parked, opened up the back of our truck, and asked the people closest to us if they would like some food. Their eyes lit up and before we knew it, the car was surrounded with people, grateful for some free food from the ricos in the truck. It was one time when we really didn’t mind being seen that way. The truth was that they needed help and we were pleased to be able to provide some. A little farther on, we were also pleased to see that we weren’t the only ones helping. In Timicuy, a town’s worth of women in huipiles lined up at the town hall, waiting to receive basic food supplies from a handful of soldiers. Back in Merida the next day, we were also happy to help our street guy, Jose, whose family had survived the storm, but had lost their roof. We gave him the $200 pesos he asked for so he could buy a new lamina roof for his home.

What We Learned About Preparing for a Hurricane

So now that we have lived through a Category 4 hurricane, we have learned a few things. We see that living in Merida, which is not right next to the ocean, is a safer place to live than on the beach. Burger King in Merida after Hurricane IsidoreWe had a few friends who lost everything at their beach houses, and others who lost nothing. The waves were, not surprisingly, quite capricious in their destruction. Many houses on the coast suffered heavy damages. At the very least, we realized that less preparation for a hurricane is needed in a typical colonial home than in a beach home. We learned from those whose houses did survive at the beach that a beach wall helps, but isn’t a guarantee. We also learned that wherever you are, the aftermath can be more difficult to endure than the hurricane.

So next time there is a threat of a hurricane, we will stock up on dry towels and clothes, putting some aside to be used after the worst is over. We’ll put gas in the car and make sure our tinacos are full… an empty tinaco can easily fly off the roof during a hurricane and we saw a few. We might go up on our roof and lay down the mini-split air conditioners, because they will probably blow down anyway, they are less likely to be damaged that way and you cannot use them during a hurricane. While we’re there, we’ll make sure the drains are clean and that water can flow easily. We’ll either make sure our satellite dish is secured or we’ll unscrew it and lay it down as well. We’ll make sure we have an old-fashioned telephone, the kind that gets its electricity from the phone line, so if there is phone service after the storm, we’ll be able to use it. And most of all, we won’t worry (or let our family worry) about us during the hurricane. After the initial excitement is over, we will try to take the time to rest and read. And enjoy our chance to watch Nature’s fury up close, behind the safety of our stone walls.

Recovering in the Yucatan

During Hurricane Isidore, there was a lot of physical destruction of trees and plants, roofs, windows, billboards, power poles and beaches. We heard about two people dying in Merida during Hurricane Isidore: one a worker who was electrocuted and another an extranjero who got up on his roof during the storm. Wikipedia says that overall 17 people died on the Yucatan Peninsula during Hurricane Isidore, but doesn’t give any details. This part of Mexico knows how to deal with hurricanes, and they have a long history of surviving them. Because of the good organization of the government and the verdant nature of a tropical environment, both man and nature seem to bounce back quickly after a hurricane in these parts. The recovery of Cancun after Hurricane Wilma is one example. To this day, as we drive along the Maya Riviera we can see small remnants of the massive destruction from that year, but most of it was gone in a few years, replaced by new construction and beautiful plant life. And in Merida, now twelve years later, there is little to no evidence of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Isidore.

Be Forewarned, But Not Afraid

We are not suggesting that anyone take Nature’s power for granted, nor would we suggest stepping directly into the face of danger. If you live in the Yucatan, you must resign yourself to dealing with a hurricane at some point during your stay. The word on the street in Merida is that there is a devastating hurricane here every fourteen years or so, which would seem to imply that there will be a hurricane of note sometime before 2016. We’ve learned to stay inside during a hurricane, and hope you have also. In Merida, most houses are built with stone walls, and many of them have survived many hurricanes, so you will probably be safe if you stay inside your house. We suggest you use internet websites and local newspapers to track the progress of approaching storms. And prepare your tinaco, your air conditioners, your pantry, etc. If a hurricane comes to town, we will all have plenty of warning and practically no worries at all.

****

Want to see more photos? Check out our Hurricane collection in the Photo Gallery!

Places to watch hurricane progress on the Internet

The definitive word is at the National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov

Accuweather’s Hurricane Center: hurricane.accuweather.com/hurricane/index.asp

Intellicast’s Storm Alert Center: www.intellicast.com/Storm/Hurricane/Track.aspx

Dr. Jeff Master’s Blog is a great place to follow the progress of a hurricane.


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46 Responses to “Hurricanes Over Yucatan”

  1. We visited Merida in September of 2002. I was there for 2 week but my wife and kids stayed behind to spend a month or so with her family. She hadn’t seen them for six years. Little did we know that a week after I left, she was scrambling to find a flight back. My youngest child, 4 months old back then, had come down with pneumonia and bronchiolitis because of the excess humidity during and after the hurricane. Once back in the U.S., my daughter was in the hospital for a week with all kinds of tubes sticking out of her. This was a bad time for us. But like you say in your article, I would take a hurricane over an earthquake, any day.

  2. All fingers crossed here for good luck. Your readers will be thinking of you.

  3. I would think an old colonial would be the perfect place to spend Dean. We’re trying to decide whether or not to head north or south. South probably. We’re better self-contained with the RV but can’t even begin to think of staying here at the beach.

  4. May the working gringos and all Yucatecos have as little damage as possible from Hurricane Dean…

  5. We have been watching the news of Hurricane Dean, and we hope that it weakens and spares the Yucatan and all the Islands in the Caribbean as much as possible.

    We live just north of Houston, and endured tropical Storm Allison in 2004. We had no warning, in this age of modernity. It happened on the first day of the season, and we were told that we had some pretty good storms off the coast, the night before, that they had organized a bit in the morning, and they announced at 11 o’clock that it was a Tropical Storm and would come ashore in two hours.

    It was a wet, slow-moving storm, and it pounded the area south of Houston, flooding and creating terrible havoc. It passed us, dumping around eight inches of rain, and we are twenty miles north of Houston. It went north 100 miles, was hit with a front, stood for 12 hours, and then turned around and came back through. It started raining on Friday afternoon, and rained in straight, wind-driven sheets, for nearly twelve hours. Houston did not do well.

    The Houston Medical Center is extremely low, and the idiots running the hospitals, in most cases, had put their emergency generators in the basements, which in this area, in the rain, and during storms, are essentially, indoor pools. The hospitals were in desperate straits.

    The Baylor Medical School had all their lab animals in the basement, and brave students, faculty, staff, and researchers braved chest high water to reach the School and saved as many animals as possible. They lost twenty years of research.

    Semi-trailers were FLOATING in the freeways. People were stranded in groups on the enbankments over the freeways, and flooding was unbelievable. We went to an area near our home early the next morning and helped people who lived in low-lying areas swim their horses out.

    People were plucked off roofs from flooded homes for two days, and thousands of homes, not built of stone were flooded.

    A Class 4 or 5 storm would do BILLIONS AND BILLIONS OF dollars in damage, and when the area tried to evacuate for Hurricane Rita, there were so many deaths because people ran out of fuel, it was 102 degrees and gasoline and stores had all closed.

    This time, supposedly, they are going to have fuel stationed along the routes, along with supplies, and contra flow of the freeways leading to Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and further north, are supposed to flow North for a much longer period before the storm. We were delayed, and attempted to leave but turned back, and further secured our home and hunkered in. Our group included my two grandsons, my daughter-in-law, no son, who was in China working, and two dogs and a cat. NO ONE WAS GOING TO TELL ME THAT I COULDN’T TAKE MY PETS.

    We are afraid that Dean may hit here, and if it does, the refineries located here will be demolished, believe me, and gasoline will be $5.00 a gallon, if we are lucky. A Class I hit the Houston area head on in 1984 and it took weeks for all the people to get their power on.

    We have our generator, will get cash, as all financial systems were down, a manual can opener, fill our propane, board our windows, bring in all things which can fly, and listen to the radio or TV, and hopefully stay safe. It is sad, when one realizes that a manual can opener is not part of many modern homes here.

    I think the Yucatan, and Merida, from the sounds of it, would fare much better than our so-called modern world here.

    Good Luck to all and I hope that all stay safe.

    Brenda Thornton

  6. Thank you for your article. Could you kindly tell me more about hurricane preparation (or point me to a website) for those living on the beachfront. We are looking at a beachfront lot in Sisal and just wondering what things we should be aware of. Again thank you.

    Luchia

  7. Thanks for your postings on Merida and Yucatan living. I truly enjoy your vivid description of daily living in that area.
    I’m a Mexican living in the States, and now and then I think about going back to Mexico. Although I was born -and some of my family live- in Tepic, Nayarit, after reading your writings I’m interested in spending some time in Merida, where I have a sister.
    I’m not sure I’d like the idea of enduring the weather during hurricane season. I’m sure it is a big experience to see the trees falling and the leaves becoming confetti. I worry about the birds and other small animals living the trees. What happen to them? Do they know what is coming and look for refuge somewhere safe? Are them blown away? You mentioned that you have see the devastation on the streets, but have you seem dead or injured animals around?
    Thanxs again for your good work. You gives all a window of that beautiful area that makes us wish we could move there and enjoy the city as you do!
    One more question: Have you seen or known about cenotes and caves when a storm or hurricane hits? Does the water level changes and becomes a dangerous place to be around?
    Ahora si te digo adios…hasta luego!

  8. Very good article!
    We own a condo at colonia Miguel Aleman but only spend there from the end of Nov.
    to February.
    We love Merida and their people.
    Will be watching the news and tracking this new hurricane.

    Thank You, Noemi Guzman

  9. good luck to all who are in the storm’s path. we have food and water for the house in diaz-ordaz and we are boarding up the front of the store on prolongacion montejo. lets hope its all for naught.

  10. Luchia, There isn’t much different to be said about preparing on the beach than in other areas, but their is One Huge Rule: Do Not Stay There!

    Bring your things inside, cover/secure the windows and doors as much as possible, take the small valuable things with you – and Get INLAND. You need to be 7 to 10 miles in from the beach to be safe. A beach house is the worst possible place to stay through a hurricane. Of course, it is possible that nothing will happen and you will be fine.

    Or, it is possible that the storm surge will be so strong or so high that your house will be destroyed.

    When Isadoro came ashore, a large area of land (sand, really) was washed out to sea. To repair the highway, bridges had to be built where solid land once was.

    So, tie down, close up solid, lock up, and Leave Your Beach home when there is an approaching hurricane. You have the choice to leave on your own volition and go someplace you prefer… or if you wait, the government and army may come along, load you up and haul you to a shelter. Yucatan doesn’t mess around. That’s how only two people died during Isadoro, despite the fact that many thousands were left homeless in the countryside.

  11. For those of you who live at the beach and are experiencing your first big hurricane – PLEASE do not try to stay in your home. The little bit of pilfering that will go on is nothing compared to losing your life. Follow the instructions others give you – fill your tinacos, lay down your air conditioners, whatever they tell you… then go to a shelter. They are all listed here: http://www.yucatan.gob.mx/procivy/refugios/index.jsp

  12. Oh Miguel,
    Yes, some cenotes and caves have sudded and dramatic currents. If you are ever in a smaller boat off the coast, sometimes you may come across “fresh water boils” in the sea. These are places were the underground rivers that feed the cenotes finally emerge from the bedrock. The water “boils up” out of below due to the pressure and causes a sorta of hump of water in the sea. Very interesting and odd to see.

    Under hurricane conditions, the water pressure changes and all sorts of things can happen far away. Some older Mayan people have tales to tell of things that have happened in cenotes under those conditions. Don’t tempt fate during a hurricane.

  13. If you like, you could add this one: Weather Underground.

    I’m partial to their 5 Day Charts and Computer Model Charts. Everyone has their favorites.

  14. When Isidore hit Yucatan, I was busy getting ready for it to hit us in Louisiana – which it did, along with several more that year. All but one were “tropical storms” – but they were one on top of another – it was nuts. I did manage to fly into Merida, for a few days, 3 weeks later. To my surprise, except for a neat pile or two of straggling limbs here and there, there was no sign that a category 4 had just left town. Given a choice, I’ll take Yucatan any day over the States… and we don’t even want to think about what goes on during a hurricane in Belize, where many of the homes are not concrete. This was the home and resort of friends of mine before and after a category 4 in 2001 (turn down your sound): http://www.angelfire.com/la2/FarAwayPlaces/MonkeyHouse.html Its been a long time since then, but I can’t quite bring myself to take that old page down. They rebuilt, but only a 2 story concrete home for themselves. The Monkey House is no more. Get off the beach – PLEASE. The man who owned the Monkey House was trapped in the corner of the dining room – by a 20 ft. storm surge – and barely survived.

    Houston, you’re in my prayers. One of my grandsons is in Deer Park. Worst “ground zero” in the nation! I know they’ll get out and be ok – but I catch myself holding my breath already and Dean isn’t even in the Gulf yet.

  15. As another native Californian who has lived through a few earthquakes, including the 1987 Loma Prieta, I’d take an earthquake over a hurricane ANY DAY. Why? Well, usually earthquakes don’t come with torrential downpours. So if your roof falls in, at least the house isn’t soaked. Two, once they’re over, they’re usually over. No one ever had to sit through 12 or more hours of constant shaking. Nope, after 30-90 seconds, aside from the occasional aftershock, they’re usually done. Third, especially in California where most houses are wood and most industrial/commercial buildings are steel, the odds of actually being in a collapsing building are fairly small. Fourth and best? Earthquakes give no warning. You don’t have to sit huddled for hours worrying about whether it’ll hit, what to do, etc. Earthquakes just happen. You take reasonable preparations, and then just go about life.

    Anyway for all you Yucatecos out there, good luck with Dean. Hope it goes out to sea, but the maps don’t look good.

    Kim G
    Boston, MA

  16. thanxs, Casiyucatecan.
    Could you tell me something about the fate of the animals when a hurricane strikes? I remember that during the tsunami two-three years ago in Indonesia, not too many animals died because they went to higher places before the event. Could similar animal behavior happen during hurricane season? Have you seen many animals, birds, dead or injured after the event?
    thanxs

  17. We’re in the process of buying our first colonial in Centro and have been watching from Texas as Dean travels his path toward the Yucatan. Having not ever lived through a Yucatan hurricane, we have been nervous – to say the least. The details of Merida making it through Isidore -especially the efforts of the community coming together to help each other out in the aftermath -really help a lot in calming the nerves of these “future ex-pates”. Thanks and Be Safe!

  18. We too prefer hurricanes to earthquakes! They give you time to prepare….. we are moving (retiring) to Merida before year’s end and know we will feel “at home” since we previously lived in Florida and for the last 20 months in the Dominican Republic. Yesterday, “Dean” passed below this country and it was felt in Punta Cana where we are. Lots of strong winds and rain. Please be careful, it is a category 4 heading to Merida, one good thing is that is is moving fast, not slow. We are here praying for you and our future home…. Merida!

    Jay and Marie
    Dominican Rep.

  19. Miguel,
    After the last hurricane, we heard about dead cows, turkeys, chickens… mostly ones that were kept in farms and open cages who couldn’t run and hide. I would imagine that most wild animals can find a place to hide. The birds probably head for the nearest cenote (that’s what I would do if I was a bird) or a cubby hole in some building. All the feral cats who lived on our block last time seemed to have survived. Because Merida is away from the water, there’s no danger of flooding… its mostly getting away from the winds. In the places that are near the water, I would imagine the animals know to get away from the rough surf. I’m sure some animals die in a hurricane, but we didn’t see evidence of an overwhelming number (or any, for that matter… ) last time.

  20. By the way, for those of you who are watching and waiting, the Yucatan is enjoying a beautiful day today. It was cool this morning and now (just after 1 pm) has started really heating up. Clouds are gathering in the sky for our normal afternoon showers. It was such a beautiful morning, we felt like gardening and puttering in the yard, but had to stop ourselves. No point in gardening when the garden is about to be ripped to shreds!

    Stay tuned to Yucatan Living… we’ll continue to give updates as we can.

  21. Our prayers go out to you, friends and family who are down in Yucatan. We will be conected in California watching and waiting.

    God Bless you!

  22. Thanks for the great articles.
    Thinking of all in the path of Dean.

  23. From Switzerland our hearts and prayers go out to all of you Working Gringos and to everyone in that wonderful region of the Yucatan.

    God Bless you!

  24. This is a great article. We have a beach home in Telchac Puerto which is about 40 Km. east of Progreso so we are very concerned about Dean and the damage it may do. Are you aware of any hurricane shutter suppliers in or around Merida that we can contact? We do rent our home out but fortunately we have no renters now. We are always interested in articles about Merida and surrounding area. We purchased our home in Jan/06 and just love the area. If anyone has info. about the area or would like info. about this area we would like to share our knowledge and experiences. Our e-mail is tiki [at] sympatico [dot] ca and phone in Canada is 519-351-1008
    Lance Babcock

  25. Thank you Working Gringos. I have always enjoyed your informative articles that paint Merida in such vivid colors. This article is of great interest for a much different reason. After being wooed by Merida’s charms after just a few visits my husband and I bought our dream home there. We just closed at the end of June and now I have to watch from afar to see its fate after a hurricane. You have quieted my racing mind. The house has been there a long time and I can assume, hope and pray that it will still be there after it meets Mr. Dean.

    Thank you!

  26. Me and my friends in Texas are praying for everyone’s safety in the Yucatan. I called many of my friends and my esposa Ariadna. All are prepared as much as possible. I was in Merida when Emily and Wilma passed over. I was in Fort Worth when a Tornado sliced through downtown Fort Worth in 2000. Have you guys ever been in a Tornado? Especially a Texas Tornado. Otra Vez, my prayers are with everyone. Be Safe.

  27. God Bless All the People of the Yucatan. I hope that the hurricane will lose strength and not affect anyone too terribly. We live inFLorida and had two within a three week period of time. It is an experiance you are not soon to forget. Our thoughts are with you.

  28. I have been watching the news of “Hurricane Dean ” on the TV and reading in the internet.Here in Istanbul-Turkey,I am praying that everyone will be safe when it comes and it will go away with minimum damage.Good-luck.
    I’ve never been to Cancun nor to Yucatan but planning to visit Cancun and Chichen-Itza end of September 07 .

    #The world is so empty if one thinks of only mountains,rivers and cities;but to know someone here and there who thinks and feels with us although distant,is close to us in spirit,this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden ( Goethe )#

  29. Thank you for your replies. Our thoughts and prayers are with you in Yucatan – take care and be safe.

    Luchia

  30. I woz supposed 2 be visiting the Riviera Maya from Aug. 29-Sep. 5, but it looks like its gonna be postponed….I’m a FLorida native and have MAJOR respek 4 Hurricanes!! Yes, better than quakes since U know their coming, but DEAN looks NASTY!! Best of luck 2 every1 on the Yucatan Peninsula and your in my heart and thoughts here in Las Vegas….now go show DEAN that your not 2 be messed with!!! CHEERS (0:

  31. Am praying that all the citizens of Merida weather Hurricane Dean without loss or hardship … especially the family of Dr. Castillo, whose daughter lived with us here in Nfld. Canada for a few months back in 2004.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with them!
    Perry, Maxx & Syd

  32. Nur,

    I hope you enjoy your visit to the peninsula! Please write a note and let we other readers know what you think. I’m curious to hear the perspective of someone who travels from so far away. And Istanbul is a place I’ve always wanted to visit.

    By the way, Chichen Itza is the most famous (probably) but Uxmal is truly a great place to visit also. And, the museum at Dzibilchaltun (conveniently close to Merida) is one of the best, in my opinion. Dzibilchaltun also offers the only known Mayan building with windows (an observatory) and a great cenote for swimming. The beaches at Cancun? Well, those are hard to beat! ENJOY!

  33. Casi,
    Thank you very much for your note.I am looking forward to visiting Cancun and I will keep in mind your recommendations.
    I am glad that the Hurricane Dean moved away without any major issues.
    Yes,Istanbul is one of the fascinating cities.The bosphorus,the old town,the grand bazaar are very attractive..There is an Istanbul forum on the trip adviser as you migth be already knowing.I hope that one day you visit Turkey.FYI,also the south cost (the Mediterranean sea ) and the west cost ( the Agean sea ) have a lot too see , both historical sides and nice beaches.
    Take care,
    Nur

  34. This article was good. I am sorry about what happened.

  35. Hi , and greetings from a cold and wintery Canada it’s nov22/2007 we have had a full week of rain and 48hrs of freezing rain and now they are calling for 5-20 inches of snow isn’t that just special I would first like to say what a great web site and I have learned a lot from you but I still have lot questions that I hope you can answer for me such as a 15 yr old grade 10 student that needs slight modifications to his program due to a slight learning disability,and with me being diabetic (non insulin) can the schools accommodate my son and can I purchase the same meds in Merida as I can in Canada?.And is the beach living as nice as it looks in the real estate ads? and overall what is the cost of living compaired to the rest of North America? thank you for any and all help…Paul

  36. Due to my own stupidity
    I have placed my questions in the wrong category I am truly sorry if I appear unsympathetic I am not.Furthermore I pray that the people of Tabasco will recover soon.

  37. I amgladthat you prefer hurricanes over earthquakes. I do like a bit of warning before a disaster hits. It would also be nice to have an idea as to about how strong the disaster might be. Living in the Sierra Nevadas, there are a few small earthquakes every week or so. I would like to experience a hurricane some day. I think it would be very interesting, but I am not sure that I would go taking pictures like you did.
    I am glad you are safe.

  38. We are thinking of buying property on the gulf near Sisal Mexico. The real estate agent said they never get hit with hurricanes? I find that hard to believe, any thoughts?

  39. Dear Phil,

    How about “almost never”? Most Caribbean hurricanes strike the east coast of the peninsula. If one of these manages to take a left turn at Cancun, then another left turn while in the Gulf, then it can strike the north coast, but this is very rare. The last hurricane to do serious damage to Sisal was Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, which is the second most powerful hurricane on record. And it cheated by cutting a path straight over the peninsula, which would quickly weaken most hurricanes.

    We have a special affinity for Sisal and have considered purchasing a beach home there ourselves. We wouldn’t want you to feel discouraged by the possibility of a hurricane, but we would encourage you to add the cost of a storm wall and hurricane insurance to the total cost of any coastal real estate purchased in Yucatan. When it comes to your investment, “almost never” really isn’t good enough.

  40. I enjoyed your take on the hurricane. My first hurricane experience was on Cozumel when Wilma hit. We hunkered down in a tiny upstairs apartment for 60 hours while Wilma battered the walls. It started Thursday evening with the comision turning off power before it hit. There was about an hour break Friday afternoon when the eye passed over. Then it came again from a different direction and stayed over us until Sunday morning. The street in front of our house was thigh high water, we had no power for a total of 12 days, Wilma emptied our tinaco, and our wooden door was so swollen it wouldn’t shut. But really, it was merely an inconvenience for us. There was a shortage of food due to ferry problems the week before the hurricane and of course during the hurricane. Mexicans are amazingly resilient people and it seemed like no time at all before the streets were cleared and passable. Soldiers helped with the clearing and passed out food packages door to door.
    About six months before Dean we moved to Macario Gomez, about 15 miles inland from Tulum. We got ready for Dean the best we could and nothing happened to our place. There was rain, but nothing exceptional. Unfortunately the shoreline suffered greatly due to the storm swells. But inland…nothing for us.
    I haven’t been through an earthquake, but I feel I have a bit more control with a hurricane because you can prepare.

  41. Hello,

    Does anyone have any pictures (or links to websites that do) of the coastal towns East of Progresso BEFORE Hurricane Isidore?

    Thanks

  42. Hola,

    My husband and I will be moving to Merida in a month. We know to expect an occasional hurricane. The recent eathquakes have raised the question is Merida in a siesmological hot spot?

    Thanks!

  43. Hola Deb, we’re from California so we are especially sensitive to the whole earthquake situation. There has never been an earthquake in this area in recorded history. (knock on wood…)

  44. We dodged a good many hurricanes having moved to the Houston, TX area after their last one in the 80′s, but we did see Ike up close and personal. The surge was twenty feet high and went in almost 20 miles landward in the county east of the Galveston area. It pretty much took out everything and anything. The buildings which were twelve feet up on stilts got smashed about like they were matchsticks.

    We live twenty miles north of Houston, and normally would have been on the west side of the storm, but the manner in which it blew smacked on side of our house badly. We had a concrete tile roof, and the outline of our house was edged with shredded concrete and course grindings of it. We also lost enough tiles at crucial areas to require that the roof be replaced.

    I had purchased, cleaned and filled four fifty gallon garbage cans with water, cleaned two bathtubs and filled them with water, and turned down the frige and freezer, put milk bottles with water in them, beginning three days before the storm, and moved frozen ones into the fridge. We had enough canned soup, oatmeal, beans, luncheon meat, and bread and other crackers, canned fruit and peanut butter to last us a month, if need be. As it turned out, we had the use of our frdge due to our generator and it was wonderful. ICED drinks, yummy.

    Our area has huge trees and they tumbled down everywhere. Telephone servive was out for us for ten days, our satellite TV came on the next morning due to the generator, and cellphones could be used sometimes, with everyone being urged to TEXT instead of call. Since we had a generator, we had people from all over the neighborhood bring their things to be charged, but we said computers only two at a time. It damaged two large, spectacular trees in our yard, and BLEW IN TICKS, nasty, big ticks found in the coastal areas. We fought those ticks like crazy, had professionals spray twice, cleaned the carpet to suck them up, inumerable times, and both dogs were bathed three times a week in an oatmeal shampoo and then dipped one a month, and it has just begun to come under control with the freezes we experienced this winter.

    People grilled out on their propane grills, and since we had a generator and had put in some fuel at the beginning of the summer, and had filled our vehicles, we wondered about for brief forrays into the area starting on the second day. We ran our neighbors’ stocked freezer, everyone would bring a dish some evenings and have pot luck, and our frig got a good workout keeping perishables for others. We also continued to freeze water in milk jugs and take it to friends who did not have power or water service. Fortunately, IKE was not a big rain producer inland, and the weather actually cooled down into the lower 80′s with relatively low humidity. That was a blessing.

    Personally, I think Merida, with its’ stone walls and masonry walls, and windows which may be shelterd or under the height of the walls around many homes, is much better suited to coming through storms. They have no drywall, no insulation, carpet, and things which can’t be cleaned to control mold.

    Altogether, one would probably be safer in Merida, than in some parts of the states during hurricanes.

  45. Gilbert claimed 433 lives, mostly in Mexico. Exact monetary damage figures are not available, but the total for all areas affected by Gilbert is estimated to be near $7.1 billion (1988 USD). A preliminary report assessed Gilbert as the costliest Atlantic hurricane of all time with an initial damage total of over US$10 billion,[19] though it was not later confirmed.
    If I am not mistaken Gilbert also carried with it the virus that killed virtually every coconut palm in the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula. It seems to me that the trees began dying after my visit in 1990 and by my next visit in June there wasn’t a single tree left on the north coast highway between Progresso and Santa Clara. The cost of the loss of those trees has still not been calculated.

  46. True, Jack. Gilberto was very costly… I didn’t know about the palm trees. On this list of costliest hurricanes, Gilberto is #12 and Wilma is #4: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_costliest_Atlantic_hurricanes

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