Hurricane Season: What You Need To Know

hurricane season dominican republic caribbean

Hurricane season is a phrase that can stir dread in visitors to the Caribbean. In Cabarete, we are shielded by our natural surroundings, meaning storms usually bounce away from our shores.

The best way forward is to be informed.

Here’s what you need to know about hurricanes to keep your cool this autumn.

What is a Hurricane?

A hurricane is a big tropical storm that forms over the Atlantic Ocean or the Northeastern Pacific Ocean.

Storm systems are categorised by wind strength and where they occur in the world.

Tropical cyclone is the most generic term for a storm system that forms over tropical waters.

Tropical depressions are the mildest sort. Once a depression intensifies to sustained winds of over 39mph, it becomes a tropical storm. After a tropical storm reaches 74mph winds, it graduates to become either a hurricane, cyclone or typhoon, depending on where it forms.

The only difference between hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons is where in the world they form. They describe the same weather phenomenon: a rotating structure of thunderstorms and strong winds.

Storms with winds reaching over 74mph that form in the Atlantic or Northeastern Pacific Ocean are called hurricanes. The same weather disturbance over the Northwestern Pacific is called a typhoon. Strong storms that originate in the Southern Pacific or Indian Ocean are called cyclones.

Storms: What are they good for?

Storms get a bad rep for obvious reasons, but they actually play a really important role in balancing the natural world.

We see this up close at eXtreme hotel, as we watch the beach bank erode over the Spring months. Tropical storms carry sand back to Kite Beach and help to maintain the island’s coastline.

Tropical storms also carry rainfall to areas that need it, disperse seeds, mix up bacteria in the ocean, and help balance out the temperature over the Earth’s surface. They are part of our planet’s natural rhythm, albeit a scary part.

Of course, tropical storms have devastated communities in the past, and as such they are feared and respected.

In Cabarete, we are in a very fortunate position where we are shielded and protected from the force of most tropical storms and hurricanes. This is thanks to a combination of our island’s size and position in the Caribbean, our hurricane-repelling mountain ranges, and our shallow reef.

All these factors make the North Coast unattractive to a passing storm, so the bad weather tends to steer clear of our shores.

Hurricane Irma 2017

You may well have followed the progress of Hurricane Irma in early September 2017, and the damage she caused across the Caribbean and the US. With winds of 180mph and pressure of 921mb, she was the strongest Atlantic storm on record.

The Dominican Republic was lucky to escape Irma with minimal damage and no loss of life. In Cabarete, we boarded up the beachfront resorts in preparation, but everything was back to normal after just a couple of days.

Storms don’t usually come close to us, and we have the highest peak in the Caribbean Pico Duarte to deflect any that do.

This is one of the reasons why they call the DR the Garden of Eden, and we are so grateful for our island’s natural defences.

Naming Storms

Tropical storms are named from a list of names selected for the season, and assigned in alphabetical order. That way, it’s easy to tell when a storm happened at a glance. For instance, Florence is the sixth major tropical storm of the season. The next one will be called Gordon, then Helene, then Isaac, and so on.

Names can be recycled after a period of six years. If a country is badly affected by a storm, the name can be retired from the list to avoid confusion in the future. So, there will never be another hurricane Katrina or Ivan.

Often, several storms can be building at the same time, so it’s super important for them to be clearly named and distinguished. It’s very serious, as a mix-up could easily spell disaster.

Naming storms is helpful for all kinds of people: meteorologists and researchers, but also emergency response teams and ship captains, and of course ordinary people. It’s essential to know exactly which storm you are talking about.

Stay Informed

You can check out much more information about tropical cyclones on the US National Hurricane Center site.

Here, you can keep track of any new disturbances and check for weather warnings.

Using reports like the one above, you can stay informed. This is the best way to keep unnecessary panic at bay.

Just to reiterate, Cabarete is a reasonably safe place to visit in the Caribbean during hurricane season. The storms usually steer clear of our shores, and we have mountains that help keep us safe from dangerous weather.

The Atlantic storms bring awesome swells to our coastline, meaning there are some epic waves to be surfed in Playa Encuentro during the winter months!