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Dominican Republic escapes the major destruction of Hurricane Irma

The satellite images of the major storm as it passed to the north of the country did not tell the story at all. Instead, the best scenario of forecasts for Category 5 Hurricane Irma was what happened.

The Dominican Republic had prepared for the worse, with government offices, banks, schools, restaurants (with the exception of hotels) shutting down on Thursday, as the country braced for the passing of the storm. The government had called red alert for 24 of 32 provinces.

Intense wind gusts did cause damage to some plantain farms, especially in the northeast. Other farms in the Cibao were affected by flooding waters due to the opening of dam floodgates to lower levels in preparation for expected heavy rains. But Osmar Benítez, executive president of the Dominican Agribusiness Board (JAD) said that he has not received reports of major damages and that the situation is normal in most farm areas.

The Center for Emergency Operations alerted the population to the damages and locals prepared. Dominicans took to supermarkets with a vengeance, clearing out the shelves and preparing to bunker in with dominoes and beer. Most stores closed. Diesel and propane companies did record sales, as buildings stocked up to weather the storm.

Canadian airlines took extra precautions and flew out thousands of their customers. Others in resorts where flooding could turn access difficult, chose to move their guests to hotels in Santiago city and Santo Domingo. An estimated 7,500 tourists were relocated from resorts in Samana, Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. Those who stayed at their resorts, bunkered in and followed the news, celebrating as the storm climbed to the north.

As it turned out, the Dominican Republic was on the right side of the storm. Timing was right. Samaná in the northeast would get the highest surf, followed by the north coast, wind gusts in southeastern La Romana, but nothing major or as the saying goes… “nothing to write home about.”

City governments, the Ministry of Public Works and Civil Defense have been quick to get to work to clear debris affecting roads and streets after the passing of Hurricane Irma, especially in coastal cities in Samana, María Trinidad Sanchez (Nagua) and Puerto Plata provinces. No casualties have been reported. Most of the damage has been to houses located in high-risk areas and beachside property, much built within the 60 meters stretch where construction is legally banned.

The Center for Emergency Operations (COE) on Friday, 8 September 2017 maintained the weather alerts, indicating that rainbands would continue through the weekend. The COE reported that on Wednesday and Thursday, more than 6,800 persons were evacuated in 24 of the 32 provinces under alert. Civil Defense reported there are 2,055 dwellings damaged and 10 communities are incommunicado due to rainstorms or flooding.

In its Thursday, 8 September evening update, the COE reported that 19,116 people had left their homes and of these 7,926 sought refuse in 96 official shelters. Others relocated to homes of friends and family. COE reported 103 homes were destroyed, while another 2,238 were partially affected.

The COE, had announced that the least affected provinces would be Elías Piña, Bahoruco and Independencia, on the border with Haiti (green alert), followed by Dajabón, Santiago, San Juan de la Maguana and Valverde. All other 24 provinces have been declared on red alert subject to major flooding due to the rainstorm bands in the sequel of the departing hurricane. The government released water from the major dams to prepare in advance for heavy rainfall.

On the morning of Thursday, the director of the Center for Emergency Operations alerted that “the worst is not over” saying that the tail of the storm could bring torrential rains that could cover all of the national territory and cause flooding.

The country’s leading airports were prompt to reopen for flights as normal on Thursday, with Punta Cana International Airport receiving a first flight from Argentina on Thursday morning at 8am. The passing of the storm caused flight cancellations on Wednesday, affecting around 100 flights arrivals and departures on Wednesday.

The Santo Domingo Metro reported normal service would be resumed on the morning of 8 September 2017.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education ordered the teachers, school staff back to work on Friday to prepare schools for reopening on Monday, 11 September 2017.

The director of the National Health Service (SNS), Dr. Nelson Rodríguez Monegro, reported that government hospitals had not experienced inconveniences and demand for emergency services was reported to be light, as reported in El Nuevo Diario. He said no health service facility was affected by the passing of Hurricane Irma.

The city government of Santo Domingo and security forces closed off the Malecón sea-bordering drive in Santo Domingo to regular traffic. In past storms, hundreds of people have conglomerated on the avenue to watch the spectacle of the raging seas, many times putting their own lives at risk.

Source: DR1, DiarioLibre, Hoy

Sep 9, 2017

Category: DR News |

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Last updated September 20, 2017 at 12:27 AM
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