Hurricane Dean: A Little Closer
Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 19, 2007
Not much new today at the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden. Hurricane Dean is still out in the Caribbean causing trouble and inching its way towards us. It was a muggy day here in Playa, although the temperature dropped a couple of hours ago with an impressive thunder and lightning display. Right about the time that started, there was a very loud explosion down the street from the hotel. Everybody ran outside to see what had happened. Everyone is a little jumpy right now. It turns out an electrical transformer blew out down by Fifth Avenue. Scared the poop out of us and everybody else but sort of relieved the tension, and in a few minutes everyone was laughing and talking in the street.
Most of today we spent dealing with our guests’ concerns. Owning a hotel is a little like raising children. By that we mean at some times today we had to look braver than we were, we had to inform without frightening, and in some cases we had to take our guests by the hand and dial the airline number for them, explaining that they needed a new way out of town. Now.
Earlier today, the State of Quintana Roo (which is where Cancun and Playa del Carmen are located) issued a yellow alert, saying there was moderate danger from an oncoming hurricane and that preparation should now be taken to leave the area if you’re a tourist and secure your home and/or business if you’re a local.
We also received Civil Defense notices by telephone and email, explaining that the governor had requested all airlines to cease flying people into Cancun International Airport and to provide empty airplanes for emergency evacuation of tourists. We also received information that Mexico was sending 300 federal troops to the area tomorrow to help with problems that might be encountered with Hurricane Dean. Mexico certainly is on top of this situation.
As part of the yellow alert, the Dirección de Turismo Municipal in coordination with the Asociación de Hoteles de la Riviera Maya have put together a website for hotels to track information about the guests they have, so they can locate these guests after the hurricane if there’s a question regarding their whereabouts. We did our part by providing the information necessary. Mexico sure does put FEMA to shame.
City Hall also held a meeting for people in the tourism business to keep them updated on Hurricane Dean. We sent one of our receptionists, Genaro, who came back with a report. Much of it simply confirmed the bulletins we had been receiving throughout the day. They did note that the city was beginning to take down road signs and traffic lights for safety reasons. Anything hanging in the wind in a hurricane has the potential of becoming a dangerous missile. Besides, Mexican drivers tend to treat traffic lights and signs as mere suggestions, anyway. 🙂
They also announced at the meeting that the islands of Holbox and Contoy, both of which are small islands north of Cancun, were being evacuated. The large island of Cozumel just offshore from us is not being evacuated because of its size and because it has its own self-supporting civil defense program. The medium sized island of Isla Mujeres off the coast of Cancun is still debating whether or not it should have forced evacuation. Personally, having visited Isla, we vote for getting off the island before the storm hits. They are also going to evacuate the area of Punta Allen, which is about 100 miles south of here. It is a rural fishing village on the edge of the international Sian Kaan Biosphere. Punta Allen is a rural beauty of a peninsula, but even in a small rainstorm it can be cut off from the mainland. So we think evacuating it makes a lot of good sense.
Finally, people at the meeting were told that unnamed experts were saying that if Hurricane Dean struck the island of Jamaica, as it is expected to, the hurricane would change direction and miss Playa. However, the same experts said that if the hurricane missed Jamaica, it would strike Playa head on. We are pretty up on all of the latest internet technology for hurricane prediction, and we haven’t heard this anyplace else. We think it’s just a little bit of wishful thinking, but who knows. Somebody’s great aunt Consuela might have consulted some chicken gizzards and came up with this theory. It’s probably as scientific as a lot of the weather predicting technologies.
Most of our guests already had an understanding of the seriousness of the weather situation. However, a couple people were a little too casual and insisted they would get a rental car to leave the area Tuesday morning, or Monday night as the hurricane came ashore. We had to sit them down and explain that one does not drive through a hurricane and that they needed to leave the hotel within the next 24 hours. We spent the day calling airline offices and bus stations. However, we are pretty sure that now everybody understands how serious this situation is. It’s not always fun being the parent.
The mood in Playa is still pretty calm. We had lunch with our friends Karent and Alex who own La Quinta Pasión restaurant just down the street from the hotel. Like us, they are a little frightened but continue on with their daily routine. They plan on keeping their restaurant open tomorrow (Sunday) and then closing on Monday and riding out the hurricane in their nearby home with their two dogs and a friend. Most of the ex-pats we’ve spoken to are taking a similar attitude, boarding up their houses, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. However, there is no sense of despair or panic anywhere in Playa that we have seen. We think people and the government learned a lot from Emily and Wilma two years ago.
Today we also covered the plywood with aceite de linasa (an herbal oil) which will prevent it from rotting when we use it again next year. Or, more hopefully the year after that. Tomorrow while the maids bag up all of the sheets and bedding to store away, Jaime, Genaro, and a crew of workers we’ve hired will join us to finish installing the plywood in the hotel, our home and the homes of our employees. Our plan is to have everything secured by the end of the day on Sunday (tomorrow). The storm is scheduled to hit us at about 2:00 am Tuesday morning. However, we know from experience that before the hurricane gets here, tropical storm force winds and rain will come ashore. We’re expecting that to start about midday on Monday. We therefore plan on closing the hotel at noon and sending all of our employees home to their families.
Tonight we’re taking it a little easy. We had hoped to get out and attend the 40th birthday party of a sweet girl and dear friend (Happy 40th, A’ndrea!) but the day got a little too long, and we’ll probably end up just calling it a night soon. Next time you’re in town, A’ndrea, we’ll have our own little party.
For our friends who have been inquiring about Tony’s health, he is much better, thank you. He went early this morning for a new set of blood tests, which showed that all the right blood parts are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. We are very lucky to have Eduardo Rovirosa as our doctor. He’s competent; trained in the US, Cuba and here; speaks perfect English; and happens to be one of those very special nice people. We know he’s going to be busy over the next couple of days and wish him well.
Finally, a personal note to all of you writing and asking why we don’t leave town. The answer is simple: this is our home. We need to be here to protect our property and our many pets and offer help to our friends and neighbors if they should need it. We are not being foolish. We do not live in an area which will be subject to flooding, and our hotel and home are made of solid concrete block and will easily withstand the winds of Hurricane Dean. So relax, Mom. And Julie. And Jan & Eric. And all the rest of you. We will not be foolish. We will keep our heads down, and all of us here in Playa will survive this storm.
That’s it for tonight. We’ll blog more tomorrow. Thanks to everyone for the telephone calls, email and blog comments with your prayers and best wishes. We can’t tell you how much they lift our spirits and make us feel good.
P.S. To put it all in perspective, here is a picture of a beautiful flower from our garden. Dean will take it away without question. But a new one just as beautiful will grow in its place in a week or so.