We answer the 10 most frequent asked questions about hurricane season in the Dominican Republic
When is actually Hurricane Season in the Caribbean?
We do keep an eye out for storm developments and hurricanes from June until December as this is the warmest time of the year. Extreme humidity, sometimes up to 85-90% and a very high ocean surface temperature as well as faster atmospheric winds are creating perfect conditions for weather phenomenons like Hurricane Irma.
That does not mean you should avoid traveling this time of the year at all. But have in mind when planning a trip to the DR, you could have some rainy and stormy days. Usually they do not last that long and you have plenty of time to soak in some sun and relax on the beach without worrying if a storm is on it’s way or not.
Does El Niño have an influence on the weather and the building of Hurricans?
Yes it does!
Both El Niño and La Niña are opposite effects of the same phenomenon: the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation). Both are an oscillation in the temperatures between the atmosphere and the ocean of the eastern equatorial Pacific region, roughly between the International Dateline and 120 degrees west and have a direct effect in the change of weather patterns in the Atlantic ocean and specially the Caribbean.
El Niño is a phenomenon where ocean surface temperatures become warmer than normal in the Pacific area close to the equator. During those years we do typically have more tropical storms and hurricanes in the eastern Pacific and a decrease in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
But in the years of La Niña, it is the opposite and conditions are more favorable for hurricanes in the Caribbean and central Atlantic area.
As you can see global warming has a direct impact on the intensity of the weather phenomenons like this, but doesn’t mean that it is a guarantee to form hurricanes all the time.
Where do most of the Hurricans come from?
Most of the storms form far away from us , close to the African coast, Cabo Verde and the Canaries islands and travel thousands of kilometer gaining strength over the Atlantic ocean. Almost all storms develop above the equator line and take a turn to the open ocean, up north and therefor are not a treat to the Dominican Republic.
Really often clouds form up and resolve again and nothing really happen.
But in some cases they get close enough to the Caribbean and when crossing the Virgin Islands, Barbuda, Antigua or Guadalupe and all the other small islands the systems find ideal conditions to grow as they enter warmer water and find lots of humidity.
Is Dominican Republic at risk to get hit every time?
No, our island is located between Cuba and Puerto Rico. There is a water channel called Mona passage between the island of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, that is known for its very strong currents and wind conditions, that work in our favor and push storms further North towards the open sea of the Atlantic ocean.
The last Hurricane that hit directly the island was George in 1998. So you see it is not that common that Hurricanes have a direct impact, not saying that we do not have quiet often tropical storm watches on the north and east coast of Dominican Republic. But those you find back home probably too during autumn or winter season.
How do you know when a Hurricane is on it’s way?
First up, don’t worry! It really does not happen that often that official government channels call the emergency state for our island.
So what are we doing?
We do it Dominican Style! Once there is a warning we start preparing, other than this we enjoy every day to the fullest and relax and you should do the same! Enjoy your hard earned vacation.
The National Hurricane Center of the United states (NOAA) has quiet a few weather buoys on the ocean close to the Caribbean and is on a constant look out for any system that could have a potential to develop and issues warnings with a lot of anticipations.
When certain that a storm could be on it’s way, with a chance to become dangerous to people living here or tourists, tour operator and airlines will inform their guests. Nobody wants to spread panic, as it is not necessary to always evacuate and look for shelter.
What do you do when a Hurricane Warning has been issued?
Contact your representative to get more information first! The local staff has many years of experience and will give you correct information, rather to cancel your vacation and evacuate immediately or stay and wait out the storm.
Many airlines like AirCanada, Sunwing and United Airlines have send this time extra air planes to pick up their guests that wanted to leave earlier to get home before the Hurricane got to the island.
Don’t follow ONLY the posts on Facebook or other social media that spread a lot of panic and false information.
Stay calm! The hotel staff will have meetings for prevention and action plans for these situations and will inform you as soon as possible.
If you have decide to stay, most likely get a letter that looks like this handed out
What to do before storm?
Follow instructions of hotel staff or resort
inform yourself frequently on the notice board
Only leave the hotel if you have been given instructions to do so. They have to know where to find you!
Grab a few things to eat and some bottles of water extra to have on your room, so you won’t have to leave if the storm last a bit longer
What to do during the storm?
Stay indoors and away from glass windows and balcony doors
Keep curtains and blinds closed
Don’t be fooled when there is suddenly everything quiet- Do not go outside! It could be the eye of the storm and winds will pick up again.
Be careful after the storm:
Do not leave your designated area until you receive the all clear from the hotel staff
There might be some storm damage such as fallen trees that have to be taken care first to guarantee your safety
There might be an interruption to electricity supply or phone service
The hoteliers will bring the operation back to normal service as fast as possible
Seek medical assistance if you have been injured
Inform your family about your well being as soon as possible to take off worries
How does it look on the beach areas of Punta Cana and Cap Cana after the storm?
See for your self! The local authorities together with many volunteers and helping hands from hotel staff cleaned the beaches, fixed the sun beds and filled up the swimming pools again and it looks as if nothing ever has happened.
Some damage has been reported to the wooden structure of a local market on the beach of the hotel Ocean Blue, but is being repaired already. The day after Hurricane Irma a lot of sea weed has been washed up on the shores, but this is normal and will go away with seaward currents, back outside to the open sea.
Sun is out and in all hotels the daily routine of pool entertainment and 5 * resort service has back to normal.
Has the countryside of Punta Cana been affected?
In a few rural villages that we visit with our countryside tours in Punta Cana, wooden houses have suffered really minor damage. A few zinc roof came of, but where fixed really easily. Some trees here and there have fallen down and blocked roads, but Civil Defense volunteers together with the families and our Outback Adventure team have been able to clear off most of it and it will not affect any of our Adventure tours in Bayahibe or Punta Cana.
Local flooding has been reported, but as well no life has been lost and after a day of rushing mud waters, everything has stabilized been cleaned up.
What does the north coast around Puerto Plata looks alike?
Since the center of Hurricane Irma passed closer here than at the east coast, bigger waves and gushing winds have produced much bigger flood damage. As they ocean went back it left a lot of debris, washed up at the shores of the beautiful beaches of Sosua and Playa Dorada, stops we go with our TerraCross Adventure tour or Outback Safari.
Our team did a fantastic job cleaning, collecting washed up garbage and fixing broken roofs and fences.
The countryside reported blocked roads due a lot of broken trees and bushes and it took almost two full days to be passable. Thanks again to all the volunteers that gave a helping hand so we would be back to normal operation already the Sunday after storm.
What YOU can do to help the people of Dominican Republic?
Do NOT cancel your vacation. Most of the employments in the Dominican Republic are directly or indirectly connected to the tourism. You help them by coming here, staying at the all inclusive hotel in Puerto Plata or Punta Cana and go on tours, purchase their products, so they can earn money to rebuild what has been damaged or broken.
If you have a little bit of space in your travel bag or luggage, fill it with some essentials like hygiene products, tooth brushes, soaps and shampoos. Bring some school material for the local kids and hand out your donations to hotel staff or locals while on one of our tours. Everything is pretty much appreciated and you can be sure it gets to those who need.
We want to say THANK YOU to all our guests and friends that have been checking on us on all our social media channels and we want to assure you, the Outback family is fine!
We are stronger and better than ever.
Come and join us for a day of fun and excitement and let us show you that no storm force can stop us from what we know best: Make this day of your vacation you spend with us, one of the most memorable ones, one that you will be talking about for a very, very long time!
Thanks to Matthew Mason for its detailed post about El Niño and its effects.
and the pictures of NOAA and their updated reports when Hurricane Irma approached.