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Dominican Republic Hurricanes
Every year between June 1st and November 30th, hurricanes threaten the United States, Mexico, Central America and of course the Caribbean. When a hurricane unleashes its fury on a populated area, it can cause vast destruction. It can kill thousands of people and result in billions of dollars in damage to property. Hurricanes bring with them a ton of rain. Over the course of just a day or two, a hurricane can leave enough rain in its wake to flood an area completely. The high winds that accompany a hurricane can destroy structures, move cars and turn any loose debris into dangerous projectiles. When a hurricane makes landfall, its winds can push a destructive wall of ocean water called a storm surge in front of it. This storm surge can be so powerful that it can level buildings. Hurricane winds can also spin off into dangerous tornadoes creating even more damage. In this article, we will examine hurricanes and how they directly affect the Dominican Republic.

A “Hurricane” is a name for a tropical cyclone that forms in the Atlantic. They do develop in other parts of the world but outside of the Atlantic, are known simply as cyclones or typhoons. They first develop as tropical depressions. A tropical depression is defined as a forming storm with sustained winds of less than 39 mph. If the winds increase to above 39 mph, the depression becomes a tropical storm. In order for a tropical storm to become a hurricane, the winds have to increase to over 74 mph and display the following characteristics:
  • Its winds have to swirl around a central “eye”.
  • It has to be considered a low pressure system meaning that it has to have a low barometric reading.
How do hurricanes form?

In order for a hurricane to form, there has to be the presence of water that is at least 80 degrees F in temperature, moist air and converging equatorial winds. When the converging winds meet, they push the warm, moist air upwards, causing the speed of the circulating winds to increase. The barometric pressure is the weight of the column of air that extends directly upward from the waters surface. The lower the reading, the stronger and more intense the hurricane becomes.

Hurricanes are categorized by wind strength on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the weakest and 5 being the strongest category. For a hurricane to be a category 1, its winds have to measure between 74 and 95 mph. For a category 2 hurricane, the winds have to be between 96 and 100 mph. For a hurricane to be a category 3, its winds have to be between 111 and 130 mph. For it to be a category 4 storm, a hurricane has to have sustainable winds between 131 and 155 mph. And finally for a hurricane to be categorized as 5, it has to sustain winds over 155 mph. Naturally, the higher a hurricane is categorized, the higher the winds, the more severe the storm surge and the more devastation it can cause.

The origin of the word hurricane is thought to come from the Taino word “huracan”. It is thought that the Tainos actually adapted this word from the Caribs, the cannibalistic tribe that also inhabited the island. Huracan was the Carib god of evil and that word is thought to have come from “Hurakan” who was the Mayan god of wind and storm.

Hurricanes that affect the Dominican Republic have the potential to make landfall in the United States. Because of this risk, the US National Weather service has to closely monitor any hurricanes that are in the Caribbean, as a result, the Dominican Republic benefits from all of the information that becomes available.

How are hurricanes named?

Hurricanes are named by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. They maintain and update the list of names that was created by the National Hurricane Committee in Miami, Florida. Six lists of names are rotated year over year with each list switching back and forth with each letter between a male and a female name. The names for the 2005 hurricane season were Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Dennis, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irene, Jose, Katrina, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Phillipe, Rita, Stan, Tammy Vince and Wilma. If a hurricane happens to cause considerable damage, its name is removed for sensitivity purposes. That was the case with the following hurricanes, which hit the Dominican Republic in the past 25 years, Inez (1966), Beulah (1967), David (1979), Hortense (1996), Georges (1998) and most recently, Jeanne (2004).

Hurricanes hitting the Dominican Republic, contrary to most people’s beliefs, are really not very common events. If you look at the hurricanes that have hit, they are spaced out over the course of time. When they do strike, they rarely hit the north coast but more often strike the southern and western parts of the island instead. Following is a list of hurricanes on record that hit the Dominican Republic, their respective categories and the areas they affected:
  • Jeanne (Category 1). 16 September 2004. East Coast, Samana and Puerto Plata.
  • Georges. (Category 3). 22 September 1998. 190 km/h. Santo Domingo and La Romana on the southeastern coast.
  • Hortense. (Category 3-1). 10 September 1996. East coast from Punta Cana to Samana. 148 km/h.
  • Gilbert. (Category 3). 11 September 1988. Barahona on the southwestern coast, with winds of 200 km/h.
  • Emily. (Category 4-2). 22 September 1987. Bani on the southwestern coast, winds of 220 km/h.
  • David. (Category 5-4). 31 August 1979. 240 km/h. Santo Domingo on the south central coast.
  • Eloise (Category 1) 13 September 1975 240 km/hr on Northeast coast.
  • Beulah. (Category 4). 10-11 September 1967. Barahona on the western coast with winds of 225 km/h.
  • Inez. (Category 4-3). 29 September 1966. Barahona on the western coast, winds of 204 kph.
  • Edith. (Category 2). 26-27 September 1963. La Romana on the southeastern coast, winds of 160 km/h.
  • Katie. (Category 1). 16 October 1955. Barahona on the western coast, winds of 125 km/h.
  • San Zenon. (Category 3). 3 September 1930. 200 km/h. Santo Domingo on the south/central coast.
  • Lili. 21 September 1894. Primarily affecting Santo Domingo and the southwestern coast.
Note that the last hurricane to hit the capital city of Santo Domingo was Georges (Category 3) on September 22nd 1998 and before that, hurricane David (Category 5) in 1979. This the likelihood of getting caught in one is very small.
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