I often get asked if I was here for the big one, Hurricane Dean in 2007, and the answer is, unfortunately I was. I had a very bad seat for that one too but I suppose it could have been worse. Since then, I have been through several more, to the point that hurricanes are really just another part of living here.
They hit us almost every year to varying degrees, and you just get yourself physically and psychologically ready to clean it up and then go do it. Being on the outer bands, or even a direct hit by a minor hurricane, are really fairly common. However, usually less than 20% of the annual Atlantic/Caribbean hurricanes are major classification, so the statistical likelihood of being affected by one is much less. The odds of getting a direct hit, category 5 are even smaller but that is exactly what happened to us that August night, in 2007. My caretaker and I watched the storm on radar as it approached and had planned to stay and ride it out. About mid-morning, we saw the storm kicking toward us and it was then we noticed there was no wildlife in the usually very alive jungle beach area where I was living. Not even a bird. With that, we decided to bug out and went and stayed with friends inland, down along the Belize border. As it turns out, it was a very good thing we did.
At the time I was staying in the small casita at the rear of the property, just a bit further from the ocean than the main house, which had been built some 20 years prior and was made of very solid concrete and steel. It was less than 50 meters from the ocean and had withstood many hurricanes before. Our plan was to stay in the upper floor of the casita building, the furthest away from the water. Ya know, drink a few tequilas, have a few laughs and say we did it. No problema!
Before Dean After Dean
As you can see, the building survived but it would have been a long night had we stayed. That building had water to the ceiling of the bottom floor from the 35′ surge and, had several pieces of the main house not landed against the base of the building, protecting it from undermining the foundation, this casita might have gone too. Yes, it would have been a very long night!
The main house was a sprawling 4 bedroom house and like the casitas, had withstood many hurricanes in it’s 20 plus years. Dean did it in like it was nothing. The entire left half of the house was totally gone and the rest was beyond repair.
This is a shot of our beach and all the mature cocos and beautiful white sand. It really was one of the most beautiful areas in all the Costa Maya shoreline before Dean. The other photo is almost the exact same location after Dean. The building on the right photo was my neighbors house and just clipped from the photo on the left. Same location though.
These two photos also are from almost the exact same spot, taken just a few weeks apart. That was the un-repairable part I was talking about earlier.
The town of Mahahual was about 14 kilometers to the south of Dean’s eye as he passed through. The storm surge was less on the backside of the eye but was still 25’ when it came in the downtown area. This is the area directly behind the beach at Calle Cherna. The other shot is the new and rebounded area today.
If you want to see an amazing 9 minute video of what the town looked like about a week after Dean, check this link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmBvxsKOeNI&feature=related It was shot from a truck on a press tour of the area. It starts about at the lighthouse and travels along what is the malecon today, turning at the soccer field and taking the back roads out. Very disturbing and different from the new and modern downtown that was rebuilt and we enjoy today.
Hurricanes come and they go in this part of the world, and just like mosquitoes and bad tacos, are all part of living in paradise. They hit and the Mexican government comes in and begins the clean up the very next day. No messing around with painting arrows and taking pictures. If you are fortunate enough to live in the town, the cleanup is fast and efficient. Usually in just a few days of spotty power and picking up of debris, and we are all back in business again. As I said, hurricanes come and go so much these days that, to be honest, I can’t remember one over the other, they are all the same. Just another day at the beach really. But there is that one … Dean, I’ll never forget that one.