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Why Doesn’t The North Coast Of The Dominican Republic Get Hurricanes?

Hurricanes Irma and Maria have just blown through the Caribbean and Florida, decimating some islands and at the least, downing trees and power lines in other areas.  Irma was a massive storm that was 400 miles (650 km) wide with winds up to 156 mph (251 kph).

Why then was our part of the island spared…again?

While there was some damage, the north coast recorded a tropical storm, not hurricane force winds or a direct hurricane hit.  Two days after Irma, an done day after Maria, businesses (on the beach) were almost all back in business.

old Caribbean sailing ship

It’s said that sailors have long known they will find sanctuary in the DR; its well positioned.  Time and again we watch as a hurricane heads directly for the north coast then abruptly moves northward and misses us, or loses it’s steam as it huffs over the mountains from the south.  Why does that happen?

Outstanding boutique hotel Natura Cabana (click to check out their website) has written an excellent article which explains exactly why there are no hurricanes on the north coast of the Dominican Republic.  Read below.  

How Hurricanes Work

The purpose of a hurricane is to bring warm water and air to the north. Trade winds that normally make for good kiting year round in Cabarete are the reason Hurricanes form. From the coast of Africa these trade winds create what is called tropical waves that slowly start to move west.

Warm water and wind is the life force of an Atlantic storm and causes these waves to grow into tropical disturbances, then tropical depressions, then tropical storms, and once the winds reach 74 mph they become hurricanes. The warmer the water these disturbances travel through, the more they intensify. All of the mentioned storm systems lose their strength once they travel over land or cold water.

The Mona Passage

The Mona Passage pushes Storms away from Dominican Republic

Our first line of defense against Atlantic storms is our positioning among our neighbor islands. We are almost perfectly centered between Cuba to our west and Puerto Rico to the east. The Mona Passage, a narrow body of water that connects the Atlantic ocean and Caribbean sea provides protection from storm systems since its strong currents and pressure system usually pushes storms away from us.

The Coastline in Dominican Republic helps minimize storm surges

In Cabarete and along the north coast we are fortunate to have reefs with an abrupt drop into deep ocean. Storm surges will do a lot more damage to a coast where the ocean floor slopes gradually. Just like when you stir your spoon in your cup and more water moves to center, in a hurricane the water piles up and needs somewhere to go.

At Natura Cabana, our reef protected us from the massive waves formed during Hurricane Irma so we were fortunate we had no damage and only debris from the trees and garden that surrounds our eco hotel.

Mountains in Dominican Republic Weaken Hurricanes

The DR is home to the largest peak in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte, as well as lots of other big mountains that help us during hurricane season. Our mountain ranges are cool and our coastline is warm creating varying temperatures and pressure systems that push storms away or decrease their intensity. As stated earlier, Atlantic storms need warmth and the cool air from our highest points are a deterrent to them.

It is important to note that despite our landscape, coastline, and placement between our neighboring islands all which help defend us, the Dominican Republic has definitely had it’s fare share of destruction and death from storms.  Nagua, just 2 hours east of Cabarete has a completely different reef than we do and storm surges swept away homes and neighborhoods. To the west of us in Dajabon, a small pedestrian bridge was washed away.

Content courtesy of Natura Cabana’s blog  Find out more about this beach side, bungalow style hotel including special offers.  

In the 60 or so years that hurricane record keeping has been done in the DR, there has never been a storm with hurricane force winds recorded on the north coast (Sosua/Cabarete area).  This makes our little part of the Caribbean an oasis of calm June through November.

Irma did cause some damage in our area.  The northeast (Samana and Las Terrenes) were affected by flooding due to the floodgates of the damn opening in anticipation of heavy rains.  No major damages in farm areas have been reported.  City governments and the Ministry of Public Works were quick to get going clearing debris off roads and streets.  No casualties have been reported.  It’s said that most damages were to beach houses built too close to the ocean and against regulations.  For more in depth information about how Hurricane Irma affected the north coast of the Dominican Republic, please click here.

The picture below is of Sosua Beach and was taken by Edward Rivas on Sunday, September 10th after Irma blew through.

Sosua Beach