Life in a Hurricane Zone

Hurricanes don’t come to Panama, thank goodness! At worst one may come close and cause a lot of rain, like Otto that got stuck above us and gave us a good soaking. But a direct hit from a hurricane doesn’t happen here. But, as we know, it was a bad year for many others. I got this from a couple of my blog followers who live in St Croix, in the Virgin Islands. It really hits home to read this in the words of someone who experienced it all first hand.



Late March we flew to Phoenix, Arizona to see our dear friend (name of friend) and her family.We had not seen them for 14 years!
An exceptional time spent in company of our dearest friend. to further enjoy our main meals, we had carefully selected a bottle of Champagne to accompany our meals, a real treat.
Mid June, we found out we needed to replace our rooftop. A major expense in The tropics. We deposited 50 % of the cost to insure a prompt construction.
We finally got our new rooftop installed after 20 weeks!
20 weeks of daily worrying about roof failure smack in the middle of a very active hurricane season.  
Late August (the 25 th.), we could not attend to the THA meeting in Annecy, France 
This was the 45th year reunion since graduating from the Nice Hotel School. We could not be there because we were in the high of Hurricane season. This decision proved to be a great one.
TS HARVEY visited St. Croix on August 25 with torrential and epic rains.
A little more than a week later IRMA came by on September 6. (Just in time for Carole’s Birthday).
IRMA CAT 5 Hurricane with winds over 186 miles per hour was to be a direct hit on St. Croix.
At the very last moment the storm took a North-North West trajectory, missing this island by a mere 40 miles. St. Thomas took a bull’s eye after Saint Martin being 90% destroyed.
In our neighborhood the winds were only 100 mi/hr, but 3 feet of rain fell within 48 hours. A new record.
Our house held. We sustained a few leaks in one of the bedrooms and, in the kitchen.
We only lost power for 44 hours while most of the Island went without for 12 days!
TS JOSE visited our place on September 10 with heavy rains and flooding, winds at 70 mi/hr, abundant precipitations.
MARIA CAT 5 Hurricane, sustained winds of 176 mi/hr stayed over for a long, scary visit. It’s winds howled over our garage/house from 9 pm until 5 am! A very long night of fear and worry (not sure if we would have a roof when we looked out).
The winds were measured at 175 mi/hr in our neighborhood while south of us (Fredericksted) they were registered at 186 mi/hr. Maria was an outstanding 300 miles wide Hurricane!.
St. Croix took a direct hit, the destruction is intense, south of us, most houses were blown up, or, their roofs flew away!
Once again our house and garage held up. Our garage is made of re-bar cement, it is supposed to be hurricane proof; in this case, it proved to be so. 
The walls of our house are also reinforced with re-bar cement, 7 to 13 inches thick, the ceiling beams are anchored in the walls, The rooftop is Galvalume.
We lost most of our fruit and palm trees, bushes and many plants.
Most of our buddies lost their roofs, some lost it all.
Our only Hospital is partially destroyed. All patients were flown out to Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, the Carolinas and New York by military cargo planes.
Our Governor stated that Hurricane MARIA was the most powerful storm to hit St. Croix in written history of the Virgin Islands. Never before these Islands were ever hit by two CAT 5 Hurricanes in 12 days.
15,000. electric/phone poles were brought to St. Croix to replace the ones that were destroyed by these massive storms.
In late October more than 765 Linemen arrived in St. Croix (from Canada and 37 States) to help us reconstruct our electrical infrastructure that was destroyed.
The preliminary cost of MARIA’s destruction is evaluated at 6 Billion Dollars.
St. Croix is only 22 miles long by 8 miles at it’s widest. 
Since September 19, at home, we do not have Power, Land or Cell phones, TV, Internet.
The only radio station issue local news and directives.
Every 3 days we brave the roads, full of fallen trees, branches, poles, severed electrical lines and many other debris, to fill 2 Jerry cans of gasoline for our generator.
We run it 12 hours a day to cover our immediate electrical needs, this “machine” eats $350.00 a month to cover our most basic needs..
November 18, the power is back on!!! 59 days without it was not fun.
Like our fence, our washing machine did not make it, these are the only damages from the storms; they both are being replaced.
Since the Hospital is inoperable, a new Hospital will be constructed within 4 years, meanwhile 22 specialized Military Tents are to be erected to serve as our Hospital! (M.A.S.H. type tents.)
December 10, 120 additional Linemen arrived from Missouri, at this time, a little more than a quarter of the island is energized.
With Carole’s truck, it took 27 trips to the dump to clear our yard of debris, then we hired a 4 men crew for 2 days to finish the job.
Follow us on Facebook for our latest news.
We plan to resume our daily snorkel by Christmas. The sand is slowly returning to our favorite snorkeling beach ( all sand was gone, only rocks left on beach). A bunch of new treasures are waiting for us!



About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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6 Responses to Life in a Hurricane Zone

  1. Donald Mack says:

    I live in Indiana and we just received 5 inches of snow, I don’t leave here for about 68 days tell I get to come to Panama in March and was wanting some advise on how to find a rental home in David or some other place close by what is the best way to find a rental home there since I don’t speak Spanish but while i am there for two weeks I want to find a year round rental and want to keep from spending a lot of money because i am going to be on SSN income to live on I am a retired man so any advise would gladly be accepted, I follow your blog everyday and I check it for new news everyday as to keep informed of all you say and at mire you and your life in Panama please continue with your column I really enjoy reading all you have to say


  2. Wow. Pretty sure I’d be looking for a new paradise…….


  3. I think I told you last year when we met, hurricanes are the main reason I found Panama back in 2004. On September 11 and 12, 2004, CAT 5 Hurricane Ivan destroyed Grand Cayman. We were in the shelter for 36 hours. It stopped and reformed an eyewall right over us. I lost everything and most everyone I knew lost everything. That was when I realized i would not be retiring on my beloved Cayman Island, even though I have citizenship! I just don’t like the yearly stress of hurricane season, and also Cayman is ridiculously expensive. So, Panama is PERFECT and I can’t wait to move down there permanently. 🙂


  4. I hated hurricane season in Florida, and we didn’t have anywhere near the trouble that you all in the islands get. I wouldn’t retire there either. As we get older it would only be more and more stressful. Here in Panama it rains, or the sun is hot. That is pretty much the extent of any conversation about the weather, thank goodness.


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