September 2007 - Hurricane Dean report
Maya Newsletters: of primary interest to property owners on the Costa
Maya, - Mahahual / Mahajual - Rio Indio - Placer - Uvero - Punta Herrera
- Xcalak and other points along the coast
Sept 12, 2007 - Hurricane Dean**************************
- Eye of the Hurricane'
- General Status of Costa Maya 3 weeks after
- Camping out at the beach
- Red Cross responses
- Generosity knows no bounds when it comes to Emergency response
- Hurricane Dean and its effects on the Puerto Costa Maya
- Permits for clearing and reconstruction
- The silver lining after Hurricane Dean
- Rentals available
Its been three weeks since Hurricane Dean hit the Costa Maya. This
entire newsletter is about Hurricane Dean and its aftermath. Many
people have emailed us asking about their property, their neighbors
and the area in general. There is good and bad news all the way around.
Overall the response of the Costa Maya Neighborhood in general has
been astounding. I've listed many of the efforts below. If I have
inadvertently left anyone out, I will update in the next newsletter.
The response of the Mexican government has been poor. The Costa Maya
area was declared an emergency zone leaving way for Federal aid and
not just state aid, but so far, we can't seem to get any one official
to come and take a look at Placer, so we don't know the ramifications
of this declaration. Mahahual stands to gain, but no one knows for
sure what that means. I'm not sure how this will impact the small
business man who takes his $30,000 pesos loan (the amount given to
all of the small business people) and quickly spends it. Then he will
have to sell his property a year later when he has to start making
payments. Hopefully this isn't the scenario, but look for the vultures
to come in. Meanwhile, the rumor is that Kim and Marcia are buying
up all the distressed property. Please know that if we had the money
we would still not do this, but if any of you are selling, we know
some dear people who want to buy because they love the Costa Maya,
not because they are looking to take advantage of anyone (it isn't
Kim and Marcia!).
Good news for us "camping" out at the beach. As of Sept.
10th, everyone that is currently living and working on their homes
have a flushable toilet, at least one cleaned out cistern and have
had water delivered. We are all in different stages of having running
water, but access to any water that doesn't have salt in it is a bonus.
I have so much to say that I will send this out and then follow up
with another one next week with more info.
EYE OF THE HURRICANE
A couple of days after hurricane Dean hit, a couple of hurricane
hunters from Universities in the states came by searching for the
eye of the hurricane. they said that at the time, the NOAA site was
about 20 km off. As we gave them wire to fix their carburetor, they
explained how they figure this out. They look at the direction that
the trees blow down and the height of the water. According to them,
the actual center of the eye was somewhere between Rio Indio and Mahahaul
and probably eclipsed both. Eye-witness accounts in the Casitas said
that they went outside during the calm of the eye. Placer, Uvero and
points north of Rio Indio were hit the hardest, as witnessed by the
water level and direction of the trees. In the area of the center
of the storm the trees look like an egg beater whipped them in ever
direction. North of the storm they are leaning in a westerly direction,
South of the storm they are leaning in an easterly direction. Many
of you living in the Gulf states probably know all of this, but it
was an education for me.
North of the hurricane is usually the most dangerous and we estimate
the water level to have been about 15 feet above sea level here in
Placer. This is based on the level of water in our kitchen. The kitchen
is about 8 -10 feet above sea level and the water line left on the
wall was about 7 feet high. Hotels south of Mahahual reported about
6 inches of water, but still lots of wind damage.
GENERAL STATUS OF COSTA MAYA THREE WEEKS AFTER DEAN
I apologize for this being North of Mahahual info - the roads have
been difficult to maneuver
Our observations of the Costa Maya and how it pertains to property
owners is as follows:
- Most people gained a little beach depth but lost height.
- there was some erosion of front to back, but most stayed like they
- If you had a "turtle" grass beach, you probably have
more sand than you had before. This is true of Rio Indio and some
other areas north of Mahahual.
- Those at Sapphire Beach had their lots "cleared" of quite
a few Chit palms. About half died. Many are starting to green up but
are laying sideways. Sapphire seemed to experience a little erosion
of depth on some lots. Luckily, all of those lots are very deep.
- If you are north of Mahahual, it is standard to have a meter of
sand piled in the road or pushed to the back of lots.
- The force of the wave of water was such that it destroyed most trees
on the beach and pushed them back into the Mangroves. 50 year old
sea grape and large beautiful palms were uprooted and demolished.
- The lagoons are very salty. Many wells turned salty, but not all.
- Rio Indio seemed to get more sand on their beaches, but the depth
of lots seems to be about the same.
- Placer lost a lot of elevation, but depth, if anything may have
increased. Some of the lots were extremely eroded, however and will
require some heavy machinery to replace the sand on the beach.
- Many trees are dead. The place looks like it was hit by a hard freeze.
Things are starting to green up, especially along the jungle road.
In some areas you wouldn't even think anything happened.
- We have righted some of the palms and hope they will recover soon.
There doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to why some trees died
completely and others are leafing out. We have 5 large almond trees
along the road that supplied shade. Thinking they were as dead as
they could be, we cut one of them down, only to have 3 of them start
to leaf out last week. We've lost one to man and one to the storm.
They are such fast growing trees, we expect them to be all leafed
out in a few weeks.
- If you had a "shack" or small concrete construction on
your beach, it is probably gone.
- Your property markers are gone or buried in a meter of sand.
CAMPING OUT AT THE BEACH
So what does Camping out at the beach entail? Well it is not for
the faint at heart and it is not very romantic. For some it means
sleeping under mosquito netting on an air mattress because all the
doors and windows were blown off by a 15 foot wall of water. For others
it means climbing a 12 foot ladder to get to the only place that has
mosquito netting - Dean had wiped out the landing on the second floor!
For others it means sleeping on wet beds because Dean blew the doors
off and for some it meant minor inconveniences of candle light and
no power. For all, it meant no bathrooms. The only good part is that
we were all in this together. We worked hard all day and then ate
good food at night - lathered ourselves with Repel and gathered around
the Mayan Beach Garden kitchen which was up and running on day 2.
At one point, we cooked for 20 people including workers and volunteers
- it was the best part of the day and we had plenty of wine we could
share that had floated out to the mangroves (funny how none of that
On day 7 after Dean, the mosquitoes came out. They were horrendous.
You had to lather yourself in 100% Deet (which luckily I had enough
to share!). Then, because our septic systems were full of sand we
had no working toilets (hence the excitement over that piece of news).
We were showering in Salt water for the first week until we got some
rain. We were able to collect water from the roof into tanks. Most
of our tanks blew into the Mangroves, so just collecting the tanks
was an ordeal. Now that I am writing about it, it sounds rather funny,
but at the time, I assure you it was not!
When I refer to those of us who are camping out in our homes, I am
referring to the following: John McChristy (6 month residents) , Robin
Forbes and friend Barb (last name?), Beau and Kitty Speed (6 month
residents), Wayne and Karla Nelson (year-round residents), Kim and
Marcia ( year-round residents) and Tom and Deb Worthington in Rio
Indio (year round residences). Many homes are so damaged it is impossible
to camp out. We have wept all over again as owners have come to see
their damaged properties. We've had some pretty stiff winds and one
day, one of the damaged walls at El Placer caved in and we had been
climbing around there earlier the same day so it is good they are
not attempting to stay in their homes.
Meanwhile, Beau and Kitty Speed and Karla and Wayne Nelson are living
in homes whose structures are VERY damaged. their upstairs is able
to be sealed off from the weather and mosquitoes, but if these were
homes in the US, they would be declared unsafe and they would be ordered
to leave. Concrete crews are working to shore up the foundations and
walls now, but it is still a scary every time the wind blows hard.
Luckily, the restaurant and house at Mayan Beach Garden looks like
nothing happened to it -- OOPS -- that is if you don't notice the
missing windows and doors and damaged Palapas. Still we count ourselves
very fortunate to have slept in a safe, yet bathroomless house. You
can see pictures of damaged homes at http://www.costamayalive.com/DEAN.htm
and also donate if you would like. We count ourselves fortunate to
only have lost three cabanas. Our home is structurally perfect without
a crack. Hard to believe when you look at the damage around us.
Many of you have asked how you can donate. There are several ways.
One is to go to www.HelpAfterDean.com where you can donate to several
different causes. This is very grass roots and all the money goes
directly to help victims. You may also donate directly to rebuilding
Placer at http://www.costamayalive.com/DEAN.htm
. Mayan Beach Garden is crediting 25% of any donation to the Community
of Placer to a future booking at Mayan Beach Garden. We believe in
the area and want it returned to its future glory. While one or two
have some insurance, most do not. Because Mayan Beach Garden did not
have insurance either, if you want to donate to the rebuilding of
Mayan Beach Garden, we will credit 100% donated to a future visit.
None of us wants a handout, we all want to work for what we get. Karla
Nelson and Wayne Kelly (many of whom you know and love) will credit
free dive trips toward any funds donated directly to the rebuilding
of their house and dive business. They are one of the few full time
residences in the area. Pictures are available at the link above.
RED CROSS RESPONSE
This is from an email from Peggy Sue Davis who is working tirelessly
in Playa Del Carmen with Playa Pals to get aid to Mahahual.
". . .Here's a link http://www.ifrc.org/docs/appeals/Active/MDR49001.pdf
to the International Federation of Red Cross, Red Crescent site that
shows what has been budgeted for post-Dean assistance: $2,399,670.
It appears that $567,532 has now been funded (thanks to Canada and
Sweden, apparently). Yet, as of Sept. 12, three weeks after Dean hit
Mahahual dead-on with category 5 force, the Cruz Roja has not once
been seen on the Costa Maya in an official relief capacity, according
to on-the-ground reports.
According to USAID http://www.usaid.gov/press/releases/2007/pr070906_1.html,
it has donated $250,000 through the American Red Cross to the Cruz
Roja for post-Dean aid ... where is that money being spent?
Repairing the infrastructure in the Costa Maya seems to have been
addressed at least partially by the Mexican government, utilities
and military. Aviomar et al are very keen on repairing the cruise
ship pier and plaza, and FONATUR proposes "enhancing" the
town to make it more (ahem) aesthetically appealing for future visitors.
Where the hell is the timely, direct assistance for the people who
live there and have been suffering for three weeks? Help that we in
the US assume our donations to the Red Cross will provide? It sounds
as though help is coming through the message boards and via local
grassroots efforts, and apparently from nobody else, and we think
thats shocking. . ."
You can donate to the Playa Pals at www.HelpAfterDean.com.
GENEROSITY KNOWS NO BOUNDS WHEN IT COMES TO EMERGENCY RESPONSE
I want to publicly thank all of you neighbors (and a few strangers)
who have extended a helping hand. It has been incredible. I have never
lived through this kind of disaster and the outpouring of support
in our direction is something new to me. Only one or two people had
insurance here because after Hurricane Wilma, Insurance companies
were not willing to insure the Costa Maya if you lived within 100
meters of the beach. Those who had insurance purchased before Hurricane
Wilma and others purchased internationally (more about insurance at
a later email since we've found more resources since DEAN that may
help all of us at a later date! If only I had know this before!).
Anyway, the outpouring of support has been astounding. Below is a
list of people who have gone above and beyond what anyone could ever
be expected to do. These are in no particular order and please excuse
me if I have inadvertently forgotten someone.
Gil Johnson and Cindy Orr. These are two people who had never met
each other before Hurricane Dean but felt they had to do something.
They ended up at the Costa Maya and for two weeks shoveled, camped
out at the beach with us and were true heroes in our eyes. They were
here when the mosquitoes came out and we were all bathing in salt
water and they were still here when we were shoveling out the septic
systems. They came when they didn't know where they were going to
sleep. Thank you Gil and Cindy. May God bless your lives. As an FYI,
Gil has property south of Mahahual - and Cindy visited the Costa Maya
on a cruise ship. She is looking to purchase property even after seeing
us at our worst!
Kevin Graham: He has worked tirelessly as a volunteer to try and
get aid to the Costa Maya. When this first happened, there was no
official aid coming to the area. He worked to get donations, to try
and contact the Red Cross and to connect volunteers in the Playa del
Carmen area with people here. He was exhausted by the lack of emergency
preparedness planning in the area and trying to set one up. Mahahual
was not adequately prepared. Thanks to his efforts, aid agencies have
come to the rescue. More is still needed. I know he has had many disappointing
days trying to help everyone. He has done his best to gain support
for Placer, although this has been difficult. Gratefully, he has had
some successes as well. I know that Kevin has been working so hard
that he hasn't had time to take care of his business and can use everyone's
emotional support and understanding. We want to thank him in behalf
of the greater Costa Maya Community. When you work to the exhaustion
level it deserves more than the normal thanks and there aren't words
to express our gratitude to him.
Ted and Zaida Ventor: Ted and Zaida were scheduled to close on their
property the day Dean hit. Instead, they purchased some shovels and
gloves and came and shoveled (Mayan Beach Garden had 2-3 feet of sand
in our dining room and kitchen). They finally closed on their property
last week. They will be living in Rio Indio.
Whitney: Whitney owns property south of Mahahual and has a radio
program in the US. She set up a website to collect money for the Costa
Maya. You can visit her website and see pictures of the damage. Her
house was thankfully spared, but she is working tireless to help her
Costa Maya neighbors. www.HelpAfterDean.com
TransCaribbean Trust: Because Placer has been so forgotten by the
authorities, we were so grateful when a company with the resources
to bring in Heavy machinery offered to help. Tom Wriley from TransCaribbean
was one of the first people to come to the Costa Maya and take a look.
He didn't stop in Mahahual but took the time to come to Placer. He
then offered up some much needed up. Weekly, we've received support
from them. Last Saturday, Tom and Sue Wriley spent half a day here
in Placer support us as grading equipment removed a meter of sand
that was piled up on the road. This had been a problem because daily
people were getting stuck and having flat tires. Kim and I had no
less than 4 flat tires and everyone here has had at least one. They
have not only cleared the road here, but wherever possible, cleared
sufficiently so that most TransCaribbean owners should be able to
drive to their properties to view them. There are a few where that
is not possible due to complete road washout North of Rio Indio. They
spent 3 days in Town trying to accomplish this. We haven't viewed
all of the clearing, but want to publicly thank TCT for personally
taking care of this. Other TCT workers have also come to Placer and
Uvero on their own. Mayan Beach Garden is a central donation spot
and the people up and down the beach have become accustomed to coming
here and getting supplies when they can't get out. Thanks to Guy and
Yury, other TCT agents, we had supplies to give them. Many of these
were purchased because of donations from neighbors who were thoughtful
enough to send money to TransCaribbean. They also brought down a circular
saw (not to be found in Chetumal right after the Hurricane) and some
other much needed items.
Don Newman and Steve Nicholson: I have to separately thank these
two TransCaribbean agents. We purchased from TransCaribbean and have
never regretted a minute. Normally the agents continue to provide
support, but Don and Steve are two agents that really have no connection
to Kim and I but felt that they wanted to do something, in fact I
don't believe I have ever met Steve before. They lived through Wilma
and Rita and on day 8 they showed up with the most amazing supplies.
They thought of everything. They brought an insect fogger (the state
is spraying 4 times a day in Mahahual, but we have never received
a single visit from the state), extra clothing (surprisingly needed
when there was only one functioning washing machine in all of Mahahual),
dry bedding (also needed), citronella candles, Gatorade, Ziploc bags
and more! Every time we needed something during the following days,
Don and Steve seemed to have thought of it - things we never would
have thought we needed. We now are spraying for our own mosquitoes
and have them pretty well under control!
John Fisher: We had never met John Fisher before, but he owns property
somewhere in the area north of Rio Indio where the road is difficult
to traverse. He showed up with a car load of items to give away. This
included eggs, rice, beans, and other needed supplies. The supplies
came in handy when a family came looking for their care taker grandfather.
They didn't know the conditions here and didn't come with water, food
or any thing. Thanks to John and others like him we were able to help
Kerry Vaughn - cleaned my kitchen out from under mounds of Sand and
provided air bed when we floated in during the night of the hurricane
in Bacalar. It was overwhelming and I couldn't organize my self to
do it, nor could I afford to pay someone any more. Thanks Kerry! She
even slept in our workers quarters in a room that was 60 meters from
the only bathroom we had. What a trouper!
Costa Maya neighbors and friends: Thank you for the kind words, the
money and items donated and the well wishes and prayers directed our
way. People stop by daily with something we need. I can't begin to
name everyone, and I'm so afraid that I will forget someone that I
almost didn't name anyone. But I know that all of the well wishes
and donations have come from those who love the Costa Maya or have
experienced similar tragedies.
HURRICANE DEAN AND ITS AFFECTS ON THE PUERT0 Costa Maya
Representatives from the Costa Maya Pier announced it would be a
year before they could open. Carnival Corp. is modifying itineraries
away from the port at Majahual through spring 2009.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., said it is adjusting its itineraries
to avoid Costa Maya through April. Royal Caribbean is rerouting six
ships that normally would stop at Costa Maya, company spokesman Raul
It's important to note that recovery of Puerto Costa Maya itself --
the pier and tourist village (not Mahahual town) -- will be funded
by its owners and investors. Cesar Lizarraga, marketing director for
Puerto Costa Maya, tells us that a major component of the recovery
and rehabilitation in Majahual is an allotment of 18 million Mexican
pesos ($1.6 million) from the Federal Government (through SECTUR,
Mexico's ministry of tourism) and the State Government (Majahual is
part of the state of Quintana Roo, which also contains Cancun and
Majahual was already allotted 10 million pesos for a previously proposed
improvement program (Malecon); however, in light of the storm, the
agencies have added 8 million pesos to the funding, all of which will
be made available by the end of September.
At this point, further details about the project -- such as a timeline
for completion -- are yet to be determined. However, 100 workers have
already begun a beach and street cleanup project organized and paid
for by FONATUR, Mexico's national trust fund for tourism development.
PERMITS FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND CLEARING
There is some good news for many of you in this front. Hurricane
Dean impacted the area so completely, especially land north of Mahahaul
that you can clear land without an environmental impact study. A word
of caution comes with this. You must get a permit. You can't just
start reconstructing your house or fence without the permit. If you
have already received an environmental impact study, the permit to
reconstruct or remodel your house is free, although you most likely
will have to pay a biologist to resurvey and file for you. If you
do not have an environmental impact study, there is a fee for the
permit. I am not certain about the exact price because we are in the
process of filling right now and until it is complete, we don't know
the true cost.. This opens the way for moving the road if it cuts
through your property and getting rid of dead mangroves (untouchable
before). This requires a separate permit, but it is a lot easier to
NOTE: there is a time limit on which to get this permit. Its only
a few months, at which time things will return to the way they were.
Once you get the permit, it is good for a few years. We aren't certain
of the time frame until we get it back. I'll report more on that later.
Contact Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
on the permitting process. He has been spending time in Chetumal figuring
THE SILVER LINING
Many of you are depressed and are thinking "what next?"
for the Costa Maya. But there have been some positive results of the
storm, let me list them below as we thank our blessings that no one
died here on the Costa Maya.
- No Tabanos. Yes, this is true. With all my complaining about mosquitoes,
we noticed no Tabanos. And August is the height of Tabano season.
We have seen one or two Tabanos the entire three weeks and they were
quickly swatted away. I pray this is a trend. . ..;-)
- Squatters huts were washed away with legitimate homes
- Wonderful people show their true spirit. You find out how good people
really are and who the real heroes are.
- You can legitimately clear your land (see info on permits above)
- The Chechen is dead. Yes, this is true. We haven't seen a single
live Chechen North of Rio Indio along the properties on the beach
where the water was high. They are all brown with no sprouting of
little green leaves as we see on other trees.
- Did I mention all the wonderful people?
COSTA MAYA DECLARED STATE OF EMERGENCY
The government of Mexico has declared a state of emergency for Costa
Maya and other areas of Costa Maya. The other areas such as Cozumel
and Cancun may have been added to the list in order to obtain more
funds. This has been confirmed now. What does that mean? We aren't
sure. IN the short term it means more food and emergency supplies.
It may also mean more government funded projects. Most of the previous
donations were from private individuals and organizations, NOT from
the government. If you had a house and it was destroyed, there may
be funds if your house is owned by a corporation. The bad news is
that money is very slow in coming and you usually have to pay someone
under the table to get it. While we have been advised to find other
ways to raise money, we are still looking into every avenue and will
let you know.
RENTAL HOMES AVAILABLE
Many of you are wondering what is available for rent. While Mayan
Beach Garden hotel is not taking reservations right now, there are
still some homes available for rent. Here is the status of available
homes on the Mayan Beach Garden website:
Casita Dragonfly available now!
Casa Porto Vino - available
beginning of November
Sadly, several were completely destroyed. These were Lazy Waves and
Villa Garcia. If you know Ted Garcia or Bruce and Louise, please extend
to them your prayers. While this was not their primary residence,
they loved the area and were great neighbors. La Brisa, the home of
Beau and Kitty Speed was also heavily damaged. It is not certain how
long it will take to rebuild. Beau is optimistic. That is what we
love about him.
I have so many things to say I could write all day. Instead, I will
send this now and bring you more news in a week that branches out
to include more than Dean info.
The editor of this newsletter (me) makes no claims that the information
here is completely true. I am not a news reporter, Spanish is not
my native language, the newspapers are notorious for not verifying
information and this is not my primary business, but rather a service
to the neighborhood. If you find something untrue PLEASE let me know
and I will print a disclaimer. I try to verify the information but
even the newspaper prints up rumors, so I can only report what I read
Until Next month...
Regards from your Costa Maya Neighbor
Mayan Beach Garden, Boutique hotel on the Costa Maya