Most hurricanes that affect the Caribbean region may make landfall in the United States. As a consequence, the US National Weather Service closely monitors these storms as they enter the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean benefits from the extensive information available. The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs 1 June through 30 November.
For the 2014 Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season, US forecasters point to a below average season. A typical season, based on the years 1981-2010, brings six hurricanes, including 3 major storms. This year the forecast is for 3 to 6 hurricanes, including 1-2 major storms.
Local Weather Office director Gloria Ceballos explains that Dominican Republic weather forecasts get input from the Doppler radar system in place at the Punta Cana International Airport. The government also has an agreement with the US storm-chasing airplanes to expedite clearance for these to fly over Dominican airspace.
For a storm to become a hurricane usually takes several days, even weeks. It usually will start as a tropical depression, and then be named once its winds reach tropical storm force.
The names for the 2014 hurricanes are: Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred. An international committee of the World Metereological Organization maintains and updates the list of names that were originated in 1953 by the National Hurricane Center based in Miami, Florida. Six lists of names are rotated.
If a hurricane causes considerable damage anywhere on its route its name will be removed from the list for reasons of sensitivity. This is the case of hurricanes Inez (1966), Beulah (1967), David and Frederic (1979), Hortense (1996) and Georges (1998) that have hit the Dominican Republic in the past 40 years. Three names of storms that caused devastating damage throughout the Atlantic Basin in 2007 were retired from the list -- Dean, Felix, and Noel.
Chances of being caught in a hurricane
Hurricanes are rare events. The DR has been hit by 11 hurricanes in almost 80 years. Historically, big hurricanes have been widely spaced out through the years and for the most part have hit the less populated southwestern and western coasts of the Dominican Republic.
Past recorded hurricanes that have hit the DR and with main affected area have been:
The hurricane season in the Caribbean is from 1 June through 30 November, with September historically being the peak month for the storms. There are exceptions. In 2003, hurricanes happened outside those dates. That year, the first regional hurricane hit the Caribbean in April and the last in December. And in 2007, the DR was affected by Tropical Storm Noel on 29 October and Tropical Storm Olga on 12 December.
Jeanne. (Category 1). 17 September 2004. East coast, Samana on the Northeast and North Coast (as tropical storm).
Georges. (Category 3). 22 September 1998. La Romana to Santo Domingo on the southern coast.
Hortense. (Category 3). 10 September 1996. East coast from Punta Cana to Samana. 130 kph.
Gilbert. (Category 3). 11 September 1988. Barahona on the southwestern coast, with winds of 200 kph.
Emely. (Category 4). 22 September 1987. Bani on the southwestern coast, winds of 220 kph.
David. (Category 4-5). 31 August 1979. Santo Domingo on the southcentral coast to the southwest.
Beulah. (Category 4). 10-11 September 1967. Barahona on the western coast with winds of 225 kms per hour.
Ines. (Category 4). 29 September 1966. Barahona on the western coast, winds of 240 kph.
Edith. (Category 2). 26-27 September 1963. La Romana on the southeastern coast, winds of 160 kph.
Katie. (Category 1). 16 October 1955. Barahona on the western coast, winds of 125 kph.
San Zenon. (Category 4-5). 3 September 1930. Santo Domingo on the southcentral coast.
Note that the last hurricane to hit the capital city of Santo Domingo was Georges (Category 3) on 22 September 1998 and before that, Hurricane David (Category 4) in 1979 and San Zenon, Category 4-5 (September 1930). Thus the likelihood of you being caught in one is very small.
What if I am caught in a hurricane?
If you do "luck" out, consider yourself fortunate. It will be the adventure and the story of a lifetime. With the exception of North Coast hotels, most hotels in the DR have already weathered a hurricane. Your safety will in no way be compromised as long as you follow the management's instructions.
By now, hotels have improved their hurricane contingency plans for the comfort and safety of their guests. One of the major problems guests in hotels in the East and Southeast suffered during Hurricane Georges in 1998 was when lines went down and telecommunications were lost. The telephone companies have remedied this by installing telephone lines underground. Hotels that found themselves incomunicado have installed special emergency satellite phones. This problem did not affect Santo Domingo where telephone lines were installed underground after David in 1979. Equally, telephone lines in the east were installed underground after Georges hit in 1998.
One of the worst aspects of a hurricane is the clean up and as a tourist, you will not have to deal with this. The worst that can happen is that you may have to be relocated to another hotel, as hurricanes can cause physical damage to weaker structures and can be merciless with hotel landscaping. Your flight home may be delayed, too, but the cost of the extra vacation days will be picked up by your hotel in the DR. The hotel may send you to another resort on another coast, so on the positive side you get a 2 x 1 vacation. And you will have the story of a lifetime to tell back home about the spectacle of wind, rain, and high surf.
If you are living in the DR, for preparedness tips, see http://dr1.com/living/worst/1.shtml/ or the ongoing link on preparedness at http://www.dr1.com/forums/weather-beyond/76033-2008-hurricane-preparedness.html#post645925
Tracking hurricanes in the Caribbean
Again, your chances of being in one are very slim. But you can reduce the odds by keeping in touch with the DR by way of the DR1 Daily News or the DR1 Weather Forum. If you are planning to visit, request a free subscription of the DR1 Daily News at www.dr1.com to receive daily updates or check back with the site as your trip date nears. The service posts continuous updates when the Dominican Republic is in the track of a hurricane. Hurricanes that come this way are usually born along the west coast of Africa and there is about two to three weeks between their start as tropical storms and their arrival at the DR.
To follow weather developments in the DR, subscribe to the DR1 Daily News or the DR1 Weather Forum
Also check out the following web sites:
Hurricane Outlook for 2014
The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) forecast for the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season is positive for the Caribbean. NOAA’s 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook indicates that a near-normal or below-normal hurricane season is likely this year. This is due to climate signals and evolving favorable oceanic and atmospheric conditions. The outlook calls for a 50% chance of a below-normal season, a 40% chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10% chance of an above-normal season.
The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to produce 8-13 named storms, of which 3-6 are expected to become hurricanes, and 1-2 are expected to become major hurricanes.
This is below the seasonal ranges of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
The main climate factor guiding the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season outlook is the likely development of El Nino during the summer or early fall. El Nino suppresses Atlantic hurricane activity by producing increased sinking motion, enhanced vertical wind shear, stronger easterly trade winds or a configuration of the African easterly jet that is less conducive to hurricane development from easterly waves moving off the Atlantic coast.
The Colorado State University forecasters, head by Philip J. Klotzbach and William Gray, anticipate the 2014 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have reduced activity compared with the 1981-2010 climatology. The forecasters say that the tropical Atlantic remains cooler than normal, while El Nino is in the process of developing. The forecasters anticipate a below-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean.
University forecasters say there is the probability of at least one major (Category 3-4-5) hurricane tracking into the Caribbean 10-20°N, 60-88°W).