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Property Owners > Archived Newsletters > September 2007 - Hurricane Dean report

Costa 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

***********************Newsletter: Sept 12, 2007 - Hurricane Dean**************************


  • Eye of the Hurricane'
  • General Status of Costa Maya 3 weeks after
  • Camping out at the beach
  • Donations
  • 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

Hi Neighbors,

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.


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.


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 were.
  • 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.


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 broke).

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 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 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 . 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.


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 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, 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 that’s shocking. . ."
You can donate to the Playa Pals at


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.

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 them out.
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.


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 Duany said.
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 Cozumel).

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. .


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 achieve now.
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 for more information on the permitting process. He has been spending time in Chetumal figuring this out.


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?


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.


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 and hear.

Until Next month...

Regards from your Costa Maya Neighbor
Mayan Beach Garden, Boutique hotel on the Costa Maya



Updated: 03-Feb-2010

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