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Thread: Hurricane Pre-Planning for Next Year & Beyond

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    Default Hurricane Pre-Planning for Next Year & Beyond

    A coupe of posts in the Hurricane season thread have prompted me to post this new thread. It was posted that the possibility of another crazy season is in store next year and maybe this time DR will not be so very lucky.

    As I have mentioned in another thread, I have recently been working along side loss adjusters in the USVI following the impacts of both Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and have been a resident in the Caribbean for more than 17 years and involved in the design and construction of numerous buildings of all types as well as living through many tropical storms and hurricanes, but not seen anything so close as this years major storms.

    In DR we were incredibly fortunate the tracks of either of those storms was not 50 to 100 miles further south or west, or DR would have suffered badly in certain regions and the festive season would have been grim.

    I thought I would share a few thoughts to home owners and renters in DR on what could happen, based upon what I have seen inspecting numerous windstorm damaged dwellings and businesses and interacting with the experiences of the insured in the badly damaged USVI.

    Only when both Irma and Maria were heading in our direction, DR1 members were desperate for information on what to do with their property. It is too late then, so now is an opportune time to plan ahead for the next season and beyond and I hope the following helps:

    • Look at your power situation locally. Look at the power transmission in particular and if the feed is by overhead power line and expect significant long delays (several months perhaps) in restoring power and cable services. Some areas of DR have private providers and underground distribution and they will likely be served better after a storm. I am thinking that the East Coast and Las Galeras might fare better. But my suggestion is that you look at solar photovoltaic DC supply and battery storage and inversion to AC. I met insured persons who had solar but entered into contracts to sell the electricity to the grid and were sat at home without power and regretted their short sightedness. Generators are a secondary option and noisy and need regular maintenance if your power is out for months.

    • Also change to cooking by gas and maybe also for water heating. Electric stoves may look good but are absolutely useless with no juice.

    • Think water supply. Even if you have cistern storage without power you might not be able to access that source of water and showering will become a desperate need. And time to think water purification too. We are fortunate here on DR1 to have jstarebel who has invaluable, perhaps unsurpassed, experience of water systems regionally.

    • Think laundry. No electrical supply and a need to wash clothes sodden with sweat.

    • Thankfully not so many homes in DR have timber frame constructed roofing however, I’ve seen many such roof failures from the ring (bond) beam detaching itself from the block wall due to poor vertical reinforcement to rafter uplift through poor hurricane strapping to purlin uplift where nailed rather than screwed. But by far the most common roof damage is the uplift of the roof covering again due to poor fixing. And often the solar panels go too because of poor fixing. Well fixed panels don’t go anywhere. Good roof truss construction and proper hurricane clipping to a bond beam which is anchored down to the foundations through continuous rebar in concrete infill columns and concrete filled block voids.

    • But water ingress is the costly event. Make sure that roofing is good first then look at your windows. Louvre windows and jalousie will be no use in severe rain driven winds and the water will find it’s way in through them. Even through poorly constructed external doors water finds it’s way in. Mosquito screens will get destroyed so best to remove and store them. Don’t think hurricane shutters are the answer either. I’ve seen the folding ones fail due to poor fixings. Consider the fabric ones or better still the time proven permanent Bermuda type shutters. I’ve seen windows screens behind hurricane shutters blown out. Big windows screens and sliding doors are a big risk. I've seen external walls blown in and find out that the construction has been cement board on stud framing and stucco...it doesn't work with these powerful storms.

    • Check all your window and balcony door fixings and if they are spaced more than 12 inches apart question the adequacy. If they are corroding, change them to stainless steel.

    • Back to roof. The roof sheeting should be overlapped by two upstand profiles. And properly sealed and screwed. Look at all the flashings and especially the ridge capping. Gutters will take a hit for sure. Concrete roofs will normally fare well but keep the elastomeric roof paint maintained but any parapet capping may suffer. If you have roof tiles or shingles expect a lot of damage. Even properly installed standing seam roofs let water in…generally at the details. Out door balconies are also subject to extra uplift forces. The wind gets into these areas and exerts significant stresses and can be the beginning of the end for the main roof. Look at you balconies and any porches and imagine the worst.

    • Internal gutters will prove a disaster in the making in general. They won’t handle the rainfall and outlets will back up with the wind-blown debris. The ponded water on the roofing will then find its own way down under gravity and that could be through concrete cracks and weaknesses.

    • Plan for water ingress. Protect any thing vulnerable. Design to avoid vulnerability. Make sure your content cover is enough. Internal finishes easily get damaged and internal doors invariably are ruined along with kitchen cabinetry and toilet vanities. Water also gets under tiling and especially in DR where there is a tendency to lay 1st floor tiles on a bed of mortar this could be a big issue. Sheetrock will get damaged and be ruined and a source of mold growth and if the water is from above all will need to be changed.

    • Look at your garden and surroundings. Even neighbours places. I’ve seen whole roofing slammed up against another house and the insured may get a small sum to clear such debris which was not theirs. Check your insurance policy carefully for what is covered externally. Weather heads will go and are they covered?

    • Also check if your property is sufficiently insured and the value at risk is sufficiently covered.

    • And importantly before a storm hits or is a probability go take record photographs before the event and in the unfortunate event plenty immediately afterwards for the insurance claim.

    • Water being the main problem could impact you through flood damage depending on where you live and how your house is sited. Check your cover.

    • Finally check your deductible. It is a percentage of the sum insured and quite often a large sum. Insurance premiums will go up throughout the Caribbean for everybody even if the storms missed you. Understand your insurance and evaluate the risks as your number one New Years resolution.

    Again, please take some time to evaluate your property well before hurricane season comes around and take early actions to avoid the potential misery that has afflicted so many islanders this year.

    I do wish the Dominican government would do so likewise.

    As always plan for the worst and hope for the best.

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    thank you for the nice summary!

    I was looking on the internet about sandbags and found some long, cylindrical bags you can fill with water.  I will definitely be buying some of these for next year to keep the water from blowing in underneath doors and such.  And I will consider those cloth shutters instead of plywood.

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    Excellent post ju10prd and spot on. There are a few things that I saw happen after this years hurricanes that I'd never thought of before so i figured I'd share with yall.

    First of course is water. Fill your bathtub and every gallon jug or container you can find with water. Islands were without water for up to two weeks and some even more. filling the tub will give you accessible water to flush toilets with. For those with cisterns, I suggest making an investment into a hand pump. They're cheap and easier than using a bucket and rope. If you have a cistern, fill it up before the storm. http://www.ebay.com/bhp/pitcher-pump. https://www.coleparmer.com/i/mn/7060700. Also buy as much drinking water as you can afford to before the storm. There were robberies on St. Thomas for water and food believe it or not. People were that desperate.

    Fuel. Not only fill your vehicle gas tank, but have spare fuel available and again as much as you can afford and store. I saw lines at the gas stations where people were spending the night in their cars just to get gas at the stations that had backup generators which weren't many . Diesel was even harder to get and we were buying 55 gallon drums to keep our vehicles running after the storms.

    Food is another essential and was impossible to come by in the aftermath for about two weeks. stores were looted of food, so I suggest buying and keeping a good stock of canned food items including meats to get you through the first couple of weeks after the storm.

    For those with solar panel back ups, take them down before the storm and stash them safely away. Don't believe that your steel frames will support your panels and they will be fine because they wont be. If you remove the panels, you will reduce the windage on the frames and increase the possibility that they will survive the winds. Also make sure your batteries are fully charged and placed somewhere where they will be safe from water intrusion just in case. It's cheaper and easier to re-install everything afterwards than to buy a new set up.

    For those with anything other than concrete roofs, prepare for the worst. Flying over Tortola afterwards I was amazed at how many blue tarps I saw covering houses that had lost their roofs which brings up the topic of ditch bags and ditch plans. Think about what you will do if your roof blows off? What you will need, and where you will go? Pack essentials in a suitcase or two, and figure a place that they will be as safe as possible from the winds. Many people spent many hours sitting up against the toilet in their bathroom with their feet up against the door to keep it from blowing in as the storm raged around them. When they came out the next morning, everything they owned was just gone. Look this up on youtube if you think I'm kidding.

    Last is figuring out how to secure your home and family from intruders and looters. I know this may sound weird, but in the aftermath on St. Maarten, thugs had broken into police and customs quarters and stole weapons and uniforms. The French brought in two garrisons of military troops that regained control quickly, but the Dutch side was in complete havoc as residents didn't know friend from foe. Robberies, rapes and killings were a reality on the streets. If you prepare properly for the worst, you won't have to leave your home for any reason and this is for the best. No need to go out and look around as you will be inviting possible trouble. Best thing is to keep you and your family locked up (if possible) and if not possible, revert to your ditch plan and implement it. Don't worry about your personal things and think only about surviving.

    It's been over three months since Irma and Maria, but Islands still don't have full electricity restored. St. Thomas, St. Maarten, PR, Tortola, and Virgin Gourda are some of the islands who are still working on restoring power. Take a look at whats happening on the island of Dominica and the havoc that is still going on there. This is why preparation is so important. The hospital on St. Thomas is still not operational and the emergency room is the only thing operating now. People in need of medical treatment are being flown to Miami and PR depending on the severity of their situation. The point I'm trying to make is that you can't place a timeline on how long the recover is going to take and need to prepare for the long haul.

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    Hopefully, it won't happen but Heck, will I be prepared. Thank you @ju10prd and @jstarebel!

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    So, what would be the best brand for a generator, say 5 - 7 kW? How much and where to buy in DR?

    I have read something somewhere about a hybrid Diesel and LPG?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jstarebel View Post

    There are a few things that I saw happen after this years hurricanes that I'd never thought of before so i figured I'd share with yall.

    The point I'm trying to make is that you can't place a timeline on how long the recover is going to take and need to prepare for the long haul.
    You said it all in the two sentences...along with a great deal of other excellent points.

    Time to re-plan for such historical and major events which will be more likely going forward, is now. The climate is changing and there is no new ice age in sight and the hottest years historically on record are during the past few years.

    I have changed my thinking radically after my experiences of USVI and PR along with the information received from friends in the other islands. This was a remarkable season and it is now vividly clear to me that a hit of such a major crossing DR from somewhere between La Romana and SPM up to the North coast would wreak havoc on much of the country for a very long period and the central mountains would have limited effect on the effects of the storm other than plenty of water. Any other hit would also be catastrophic and for large areas too.

    It was easy to think that one could migrate away from a passing storm but it quickly sinks in that the direct impacts of such huge Cat 5's is a recipe for problems for many months and maybe years if it impacts your home area. DR doesn't have the resources to put everything right quickly. It's infrastructure creaks more than PR and it doesn't have big brother to help.

    Water is the big problem. Believe me once the dwelling is penetrated and water gets in, the problems explode and become very costly. If you are away for the peak season your property could still get damaged and soaked and the best laid plans could see plenty of property ruined. Closed shutters with damp air trapped within soon leads to unbelievable damage through mould. Shutters are for the storm passing and no more and as soon as it passes mop up and ventilate the property and seal those breaches.

    I still strongly promote solar energy and my experience has seen that well fixed panels survive but those poorly fixed fly.....but then STX only had 99mph sustained and gusts to 136mph according to the official record. it was till enough to mangle a complete solar field on the edge of Christiansted, yet the other larger one which was exposed to higher winds near the airport largely stood up.

    For those of you who thought it was bad in the East Coast for Maria , the official record did not show many sustained periods of wind above minimum tropical storm with gust below hurricane force so try and imagine the damage seen in a lesser hit island where the mahogany trees of over a hundred years have been felled, power poles snapped in half, concrete ring beams pulled away from blockwork attached to roofing, roofing panels flown away en masse, warehouses collapsed, large sections of roof malls torn away, trees and electric poles blown over damaging houses and boats sunk. St Thomas is another much worse picture with some massive masonry walls blown in and much roofing blue tarped over 4 months on.

    In every case it comes down to where properties were located and how things were put together. Now is the time to check and review your property. Well built and maintained properties will weather such storms.

    After this year, no longer just hope that a storm avoids you in DR, plan for the worst and like Puerto Rico that could be a very long period without electricity, data and water.

    And don't think because your property cost a lot to build that it is built well. jstarebel will know of Mahogany Grove in St Thomas and to see villas there still with major structural damage and no roofing after Irma and no progress putting things right will give you an idea of the challenges to be met after such catastrophic events.

    I haven't mentioned storm surge but I am helping on a couple of coastal claims where the storm surge came into play and with such a force of water nothing but the most robust stands a chance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ju10prd View Post
    A coupe of posts in the Hurricane season thread have prompted me to post this new thread. It was posted that the possibility of another crazy season is in store next year and maybe this time DR will not be so very lucky.

    As I have mentioned in another thread, I have recently been working along side loss adjusters in the USVI following the impacts of both Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and have been a resident in the Caribbean for more than 17 years and involved in the design and construction of numerous buildings of all types as well as living through many tropical storms and hurricanes, but not seen anything so close as this years major storms.

    In DR we were incredibly fortunate the tracks of either of those storms was not 50 to 100 miles further south or west, or DR would have suffered badly in certain regions and the festive season would have been grim.

    I thought I would share a few thoughts to home owners and renters in DR on what could happen, based upon what I have seen inspecting numerous windstorm damaged dwellings and businesses and interacting with the experiences of the insured in the badly damaged USVI.

    Only when both Irma and Maria were heading in our direction, DR1 members were desperate for information on what to do with their property. It is too late then, so now is an opportune time to plan ahead for the next season and beyond and I hope the following helps:

    • Look at your power situation locally. Look at the power transmission in particular and if the feed is by overhead power line and expect significant long delays (several months perhaps) in restoring power and cable services. Some areas of DR have private providers and underground distribution and they will likely be served better after a storm. I am thinking that the East Coast and Las Galeras might fare better. But my suggestion is that you look at solar photovoltaic DC supply and battery storage and inversion to AC. I met insured persons who had solar but entered into contracts to sell the electricity to the grid and were sat at home without power and regretted their short sightedness. Generators are a secondary option and noisy and need regular maintenance if your power is out for months.

    • Also change to cooking by gas and maybe also for water heating. Electric stoves may look good but are absolutely useless with no juice.

    • Think water supply. Even if you have cistern storage without power you might not be able to access that source of water and showering will become a desperate need. And time to think water purification too. We are fortunate here on DR1 to have jstarebel who has invaluable, perhaps unsurpassed, experience of water systems regionally.

    • Think laundry. No electrical supply and a need to wash clothes sodden with sweat.

    • Thankfully not so many homes in DR have timber frame constructed roofing however, I’ve seen many such roof failures from the ring (bond) beam detaching itself from the block wall due to poor vertical reinforcement to rafter uplift through poor hurricane strapping to purlin uplift where nailed rather than screwed. But by far the most common roof damage is the uplift of the roof covering again due to poor fixing. And often the solar panels go too because of poor fixing. Well fixed panels don’t go anywhere. Good roof truss construction and proper hurricane clipping to a bond beam which is anchored down to the foundations through continuous rebar in concrete infill columns and concrete filled block voids.

    • But water ingress is the costly event. Make sure that roofing is good first then look at your windows. Louvre windows and jalousie will be no use in severe rain driven winds and the water will find it’s way in through them. Even through poorly constructed external doors water finds it’s way in. Mosquito screens will get destroyed so best to remove and store them. Don’t think hurricane shutters are the answer either. I’ve seen the folding ones fail due to poor fixings. Consider the fabric ones or better still the time proven permanent Bermuda type shutters. I’ve seen windows screens behind hurricane shutters blown out. Big windows screens and sliding doors are a big risk. I've seen external walls blown in and find out that the construction has been cement board on stud framing and stucco...it doesn't work with these powerful storms.

    • Check all your window and balcony door fixings and if they are spaced more than 12 inches apart question the adequacy. If they are corroding, change them to stainless steel.

    • Back to roof. The roof sheeting should be overlapped by two upstand profiles. And properly sealed and screwed. Look at all the flashings and especially the ridge capping. Gutters will take a hit for sure. Concrete roofs will normally fare well but keep the elastomeric roof paint maintained but any parapet capping may suffer. If you have roof tiles or shingles expect a lot of damage. Even properly installed standing seam roofs let water in…generally at the details. Out door balconies are also subject to extra uplift forces. The wind gets into these areas and exerts significant stresses and can be the beginning of the end for the main roof. Look at you balconies and any porches and imagine the worst.

    • Internal gutters will prove a disaster in the making in general. They won’t handle the rainfall and outlets will back up with the wind-blown debris. The ponded water on the roofing will then find its own way down under gravity and that could be through concrete cracks and weaknesses.

    • Plan for water ingress. Protect any thing vulnerable. Design to avoid vulnerability. Make sure your content cover is enough. Internal finishes easily get damaged and internal doors invariably are ruined along with kitchen cabinetry and toilet vanities. Water also gets under tiling and especially in DR where there is a tendency to lay 1st floor tiles on a bed of mortar this could be a big issue. Sheetrock will get damaged and be ruined and a source of mold growth and if the water is from above all will need to be changed.

    • Look at your garden and surroundings. Even neighbours places. I’ve seen whole roofing slammed up against another house and the insured may get a small sum to clear such debris which was not theirs. Check your insurance policy carefully for what is covered externally. Weather heads will go and are they covered?

    • Also check if your property is sufficiently insured and the value at risk is sufficiently covered.

    • And importantly before a storm hits or is a probability go take record photographs before the event and in the unfortunate event plenty immediately afterwards for the insurance claim.

    • Water being the main problem could impact you through flood damage depending on where you live and how your house is sited. Check your cover.

    • Finally check your deductible. It is a percentage of the sum insured and quite often a large sum. Insurance premiums will go up throughout the Caribbean for everybody even if the storms missed you. Understand your insurance and evaluate the risks as your number one New Years resolution.

    Again, please take some time to evaluate your property well before hurricane season comes around and take early actions to avoid the potential misery that has afflicted so many islanders this year.

    I do wish the Dominican government would do so likewise.

    As always plan for the worst and hope for the best.
    In your experience, how are most policies paid out? I ask because you said to take photos prior to a disaster. Do they just write you a check, or do they only reimburse you for your costs to rebuild? If they only reimburse you for the cost to rebuild, what would happen in the case of one building consisting of 4 condos, where maybe only one condo is insured, and the other three are not? In the case an extreme disaster where the building is a total loss and the three other uninsured owners decide not to rebuild, what happens to the last owner who is insured, assuming it would be impractical to rebuild just one unit, and the insurer most likely would not pay to rebuild all four?

    Second, are all hurricane/flood policies the same? In other areas of the world, they differentiate between water coming in the window or roof, vs ground water entering the building. Ground water is considered flooding which requires a flood insurance policy, and is more expensive. If you live near the coast and expect a storm surge, do you need a regular homeowner policy AND flood insurance?

    Finally, do most policies cover earthquake losses, and if so would you expect the larger companies offering policies in the DR to have reserves sufficient to cover a large quake in the DR, or would I find a "Closed" sign on their door the day after a 8.0?
    Thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by reilleyp View Post
    In your experience, how are most policies paid out? I ask because you said to take photos prior to a disaster. Do they just write you a check, or do they only reimburse you for your costs to rebuild? If they only reimburse you for the cost to rebuild, what would happen in the case of one building consisting of 4 condos, where maybe only one condo is insured, and the other three are not? In the case an extreme disaster where the building is a total loss and the three other uninsured owners decide not to rebuild, what happens to the last owner who is insured, assuming it would be impractical to rebuild just one unit, and the insurer most likely would not pay to rebuild all four?

    Second, are all hurricane/flood policies the same? In other areas of the world, they differentiate between water coming in the window or roof, vs ground water entering the building. Ground water is considered flooding which requires a flood insurance policy, and is more expensive. If you live near the coast and expect a storm surge, do you need a regular homeowner policy AND flood insurance?

    Finally, do most policies cover earthquake losses, and if so would you expect the larger companies offering policies in the DR to have reserves sufficient to cover a large quake in the DR, or would I find a "Closed" sign on their door the day after a 8.0?
    Thanks
    There is a process settling a claim.

    You notify your insurer and they appoint a loss adjuster who will visit your property at some point and review your claim against the policy terms.

    In many cases it takes time for the insured to notify the insurance company of the claim...they may be off island in the case of a windstorm event. And then the insurance company may be inundated with claims and have limited staff to process those claims and pass them on to the loss adjusting company, which may in turn, and especially after a year like this, be mobilizing resources to locations without accommodation and services for the adjusters to do their work efficiently. And each adjuster gets a bunch of claims to process which involves visits to properties sometimes with technical support to review the damage.

    Those visits could be several weeks after the event, so contemporary records and pre storm records have real value. For contents claims you need good records because the value of those contents will be depreciated in claim settlement.

    And in processing a claim, the terms of the policy and the definitions within have significance along with any special terms such as window protection and roof connections, plus building construction and floor area. Any claim will involve a calculation being made which determines the dwelling value at risk when compared to the insured dwelling value. The loss adjuster will take measurements and it is incumbent on him to determine the value at risk based on actual measurements and his companies determined value per square foot or metre. If you are undervalued the full reinstatement value may not be fully covered using North American rules which are not so straight forward as in Europe where under valuation means the settlement is proportionally reduced. A cash value is an option in the case of a total write off and you need to refer your specific question on the condo to the insurers.

    Upon completion of his assessment the adjuster and the signed agreement of a settlement, the adjuster makes a final report closing the case with recommendation of settlement to the underwriters who along with the insurance company have to agree to those findings (some settlements get revoked and have to be reviewed again). Only then does a cheque get written

    So the answer to the first question is that the whole process takes time and only now three months after the windstorm events are some claims getting settled and some claims are still be added to the loss adjusters workload.

    What I have seen and in speaking to time served adjusters the policies vary greatly and are more complex than in Europe. Some American based companies are quite aggressive now in accepting settlements.

    The policies clearly define windstorm and flood events. I have been involved in a large claim whereby a public adjuster was employed and he tried to argue the case for a separate flood claim because there was a maximum pay out for windstorm. The evidence did not look good to support a flood claim based upon policy definitions. The easiest claims to deal with are those where roofing has blown or windows blown out and there is clear evidence of the water entry and the subsequent damage. Without that questions will be asked of the validity of the claim.

    If you are on a coastal location and a flood event which could include storm surge (check policy conditions), you will likely need dwelling windstorm, flood, other structures and personal property insurance and any other specific risks as well as loss of business covered. It can become extremely pricey and will likely increase after this years events. And of course there is the deductible.

    The policies I have been seeing include earthquake cover in the islands.

    I don't think the underwriters will go bust any day soon. They make money gambling on insurance cover. they will adjust premiums and the islands not affected will have to pay those higher premiums too whilst islands seen to be exploiting insurance cover may get higher deductibles.

    Believe me there are plenty of people trying it on with insurance claims and it can be a miserable job trying to settle a questionable claim with a difficult argumentative client or public adjuster when there are plenty of more deserving souls who you should be focusing efforts with. The politicians are the worst!! Having public adjusters (assessors) involved just prolongs the process.

    As my earlier posts state I am a chartered building consultant offering support to loss adjusters and have been dealing directly with some claims as the loss adjuster with support as needed, so I am offering observations and opinions only after my limited exposure in this environment. You need to deal with your insurer if you have any specific concerns.

    Hope this helps, and my main objective in this thread is to awaken home-owning residents in DR to think carefully about ones particular circumstances and act now if you consider the potential risks now warrant action.

    It has been an interesting and rewarding experience working in these difficult circumstances and utilizes my long experience in the construction profession, and I am going back for another stint in just over a week.

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    A most excellent and wise series of posts. Thank you both for this information and for your insights.

    As many here will remember, Georges (the female) did a major job on a lot of the South Coast; David, back in '79 blew away a lot of San Cristobal and Santo Domingo and dumped so much water on the mountains that the Cibao Valley was flooded from one end to the other. The winds, diminished by the mountains, were still enough to pretty much wipe out the banana and plantain crops from Santiago to Montecristi, and rice farms were covered in mud up to a meter thick in some places.

    Again, thanks for the reports.

    Cordially,

    HB

    Moderator DR1.com

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    Something I have missed that will need consideration for DR homeowners........your vehicles.

    Driving around the USVI, one is seeing many damaged vehicles. Wind blown debris and falling objects have taken their toll on ones second biggest investment, and here in DR with vehicle prices as they are, we are talking large sums of money at risk.

    You will need a secure enclosed compound for the well being of your vehicle away from risk of flood. Garage doors do get blown out. Seen several. Consider a hurricane rated garage door and make sure it is fixed to the manufacturers instruction for hurricane zones. It is small extra cost but could save thousands in car damage.

    And check your car insurance cover.

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