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Updates from the Islands
Georges - St.Maarten/St.Martin

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Date: Wed, 23 Sep 1998 03:35:29 -0700 From: Elisa Cohen ( Bikini holds a new record. The first and only restaurant to be open on Orient the day after the past 3 Hurricanes ! Due to the efforts of my courageous crew , I servedá lunch today to the stranded tourists brave enough to vacation in the Caribbean in September. The airport should be open tomorrow. Got Electricity Monday at 6:30pm and water tonight at 2:30am. All is well ! [...] Record number of e-mails from people who have seen my updates. Thanks . á Elisa
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 21:44:14 -0400 From: Fred Capello ( Subject: Latest available news The island of Sint Maarten fared much better than during the passage of Luis. The eye of Georges stayed farther away from this island so the damage wasn't too bad. Still, the roads were covered with lots of debris and a few houses and buildings suffered minor to moderate damage. Most of the hotels also escaped the kind of severe damage that hurricane Luis had caused on September 5, 1995. On Tuesday most of the island was still without electrical power. In areas with subterranean power cables, power was restored on Tuesday. It could however take a month before the whole island is reconnected again. More on Saba and Statia can be found on this page.

[Tue, 22 Sep 1998 12:31EDT] - Hans Miller forwarded me the following info:

     I just got off the phone with Deloris Bender who lives on Beacon Hill on the
     Dutch side of St. Martin.  She was very calm and described the damage as
     "normal, nothing really too bad".  She did say that some of the beaches in
     the Simpson Bay area received some damage," but nothing compared to Louis".
     From reading the reports from the French side on this page last night I was
     a little concerned that that the damage was much worse. Sound like
     everything will be back up and running soon.  Hans Miller  Minot, ND

[Tue, 22 Sep 1998 11:30EDT] - Have spoken to John Dovale and Roy Richardson on St.Maarten (Dutch Side). Let me try to recapitulate what they told me. First of all, they have heard of no fatalities. Some homes sustained roof damage, but not extensive. The major businesses (buildings) are OK and operational. There are some downed powerlines and phonelines. They were probably most weak poles to begin with. The infrastructure is ok, the big communication towers (antennas) are fine. Phones are working in some areas. Electricity will be put back on later tonight (in some areas it is already on). After Luis a lot of the powerlines are buried. Where above ground damage has occurred, GEBE will fix by area, but shouldn't take too long. Water will be reconnected tonight as well.
Winds started picking up at 2:00AM. Luckily the winds of the hurricanes decreased to 115mph (from 150 mph) before it was near the island. The eye went about 40 miles south of them. From 5-6AM winds really picked up (the backend of the storm). At 11:30AM it was finished. People started moving around to assess damage (despite curfew). The clean-up crews were out before the winds even totally died down. There are no reports of looting. In Simpson Bay Lagoon only 5 boats were badly damage (of which 2 sank). Most probably due to not properly securing the boat. There hasn't been much flooding in Philipsburg or Marigot. The Harbor is OK, and ready to receive cruiseships. The airport is open. Yesterday afternoon they 'washed' the runaway and are back in business. Total damage probably less than 10% of Luis. It is mostly some downed trees and branches. John Dovale's webserver is still down. They had some leakage and want to be sure that everything is fine before the switch to backup power. The hotels seem to be fine as well. One or two hotels had some roof damage but easy to fix. All in all, it seems that St.Maarten has really learned a good lesson from Luis (which after a dry spell of about 35 years of no major hurricanes devastated the island). Everybody was well prepared. And the clean-up of the island went underway right away. Roy Richardson said that the island will be in tip-top shape again within a 2 weeks to a month.

[Tue, 22 Sep 1998 9:45EDT] - Just spoke to Gina Brink from Club Orient, Orient Beach, French Side. They are back in the office and functioning more or less normal. Club Orient did not have structural damage to the rooms, thanks to the newly installed hurricane shutters. There is damage to vegetation of course, and are cleaning up the resort and the beach. On the Dutch Side it is worse, but not too bad either. A few roofs from houses which were already in bad shape and they had more rain over there. Right now it's sunny again. Airport is open she thought. All people who have reservations at Club Orient are welcome. This weekend they should be back to normal.
Also spoke to Vernie from St.Maarten Rentals, Beacon Hill, Dutch Side. She told us that it is not too bad on the island. Most damage was indeed on the Dutch (=southern=closest to the eye) Side of the island, esp. Cole Bay and Cay Hill. Some roofs are gone from some poorly built houses. There is still quite a swell. There is vegetational damage, but being it a tropical island, all will grow back quickly. All is left is a good cleanup of the island which, with the help of the Dutch army, will (hopefully) be finished in a couple of days.

[Mon, 21 Sep 1998 21:00EDT] - Just spoke to some people on St.Maarten (Dutch Side). Indeed, 4AM power went off, but they expect to have power back by tomorrow already. The phones are (obviously) working. The curfew was extended till 8PM (I think). Forty soldiers of the Dutch Military are on the island to help out. The eye came by as close as 40 miles, but wind wasn't too bad. A lot of rain though. The radio stations did a great job in informing the public on St.Maarten. So all in all, people compare it to Bertha, last year. Some damage, but not too bad. I don't really what 'bad news' Elisa is referring to, but I am trying to find out. Remember that there was a curfew, so people couldn't just drive around to take a look. -Gert

[Mon, 21 Sep 1998 20:07EDT] - Elisa Cohen, Bikini Beach Restaurant, reporting from St.Martin :

     Guess what? Power returned at 6:30pm. Restaurant messy but very much in
     tact. Minor problem with wetness on electrical box at resto, but got the
     walk-in and the freezer functional. Will be serving Breakfast tomorrow for
     the unfortunates stuck at the hotels . Not a nice way to finish yiour
     vacation. Count us very lucky on the French Side. Hear lots of bad news from
     the dutch side. Still feeling off and on rain showers. The water is still
     not on.

[Mon, 21 Sep 1998 19:28EDT] - Paul B. Streng reporting (from Michigan) on the situation on St.Maarten/St.Martin:

     Just got off the phone with Tony in Grand Case.  He said that the power
     company said they should have power restored tomorrow.  There are several
     poles down between Grand Case and Marigot but they will be working hard to
     get things back to normal ASAP.  Water is still turned off, which is normal
     (so that the filters don't get completely plugged by all the "stuff"
     stirred up in the ocean, by the storm).   Water too should be back on in a
     day or two.  Minimal damage in Grand Case but it was his impression that
     there may have been more damage on the Dutch side.  I have not made contact
     with anyone over there yet so I can't give any credible report.  If I get
     through to someone over's so far you know............ I
     will let you know.

[Sun, 20 Sep 1998 14:07EDT] - Fred Capello reporting from Curaçao on the situation on the other Dutch islands; St.Maarten, Saba and Statia:

     The center of hurricane George seems to have crossed directly over the
     Netherlands Antilles' islands of Sint Eustatius and Saba. At least,
     according to eye-witness reports from those two islands. Both islands
     seem to have sustained major damage to houses and buildings.
     On the island of Saba, the (small) hospital had to be evacuated
     because the building lost its roof. Another building housing senior
     citizens also seems to have suffered the same kind of damage. As far
     as I know, no casualties were suffered on either island.
     In Sint Eustatius, the departure and arrivals hall of the local
     airport suffered major structural damage. Communications with this
     island could so far only be established via radio. The telephone
     switching station apparently went out of service.
     Sint Maarten was farther from the hurricane's center and has escaped
     the kind of damage it sustained with hurricane Luis on September 5,
     1995. Still, some significant structural damage was caused by George's
     strong winds. Until noon local time, the Juliana Airport in Sint
     Maarten was still reporting tropical storm force winds with higher
     gusts. And the rain was still coming down in "healthy" amounts.
     In Curaçao, obviously far from Georges, skies continued to be partly
     cloudy with only patchy cumulus and cirrus clouds. The temperature was
     at about 34░C (95░F). Our only hope for short term rain is to our
     south over Venezuela. In case the Intertropical Convergence Zone moves
     northward due to the indirect influence of Georges, we might get some
     rain or thundershowers.
     We need the rain badly. Only 0.2 mm of rain has fallen here since
     September 1 (yesterday).

[Mon, 21 Sep 1998 13:29EDT] - Paul B. Streng, standing by on HAM radio in Michigan, reporting on the situation on St.Maarten/St.Martin:

     Just spoke with Tony again.  Grand Case came through quite well, no major
     roofs off and no major structural damage.  He said he saw one tree limb
     down and a couple of power poles that had broken other than that there had
     been a lot of water and a lot of sea water but all looked pretty good.
     He's going to finally get a little sleep now and then go back to his store
     about 4PM.  I will phone him at the shop later after he has had a chance to
     do some clean-up and talked to others around town, I will report in after I
     talk with him.  I'm sorry I don't have any information from the Dutch side
     for those that have requested it, it's still too early to go driving around
     with trees down etc.

[Mon, 21 Sep 1998 10:42EDT] - Elisa Cohen, Bikini Beach Restaurant, reporting from St.Martin (I don't know how she does it...but she is still able to send me e-mail! -Gert):

     Much less destructive to inland property and vegetation compared to
     Luis. I haven't yet checked the beach to see what we got there. More
     rain though, more like Bertha in that aspect. More to follow.

[Mon, 21 Sep 1998 08:50EDT] - Just spoke to several people on St.Maarten. Positive thing is that phones (at least on the Dutch side) were still working, but power has been shut off. Eye of Georges appeared to be about 40-50 miles south of them. It started at about 2:30AM. A lot of wind (maximum about 90 mph so not 'too bad'), and a lot, a lot of rain! Curfew still in effect till 2PM. Army standing by to help. However, everyone was very well prepared (so Luis did something good...), so damage is not expected to be that extensive. Some compared it to Bertha, last year. Right now, still a lot of rain, not as much wind anymore...

[Mon, 21 Sep 1998 08:21EDT] - Paul B. Streng, stading by on HAM radio in Michigan, reporting on the situation on St.Maarten/St.Martin:

     I just spoke (08:05 AST) by phone with Tony Richardson in Grand Case, St.
     Martin.  The winds are still blowing and they have had a lot of rain.  The
     wind is still so strong that he has not gone out to check out damage in
     Grand Case.  He reports that the power is still off so no local radio
     stations or cable TV are available for information. (I told him the current
     location of the storm).  I will speak with Tony later in the day and also
     try to reach my friend at the fire department on the Dutch side.

     Very little traffic on the amateur radio.  Not sure if it's because of
     propagation or the fact that the armatures on the islands are not able to
     get on the air because of antennas down or lack of electricity.  More on
     that front as I know it.

[Mon, 21 Sep 1998 07:28EDT] - Elisa Cohen, Bikini Beach Restaurant, reporting from St.Martin:

     The winds have been pretty strong and we are continueing to get some nasty
     gusts here in french Cul de Sac.
     Hoping for the best at the beach. My roof was groaning for a while, so I'm
     just thankful for having that in tact so far.

[Mon, 21 Sep 1998 6:05EDT] - Jorge L. Belendez reporting from Puerto Rico on the situation on St.Maarten:

     I just got a telephone call from my Friend Eddie Hunt in Saint Martin and
     here is his report:

     He is very happy because the winds have not made too much damage to his
     neighborhood. He indicates that there is some damage, but that is is not
     even close to LUIS. He reports, and remember this is live over the phone,
     just a few minutes ago, that there is very little rain.

     So evidently the storm is more dry than wet. This is very good news for the
     flood prone areas in Puerto Rico.

     Naturally, there is no garantee that this will be the case in Puerto Rico,
     but it gives you an idea that the situation should not change drastically.

     This is good news indeed since one must take into consideration that they
     are in the north-eastearn quadrant which is usually the most intense. The
     French side has suffered very little but reports indicate that the Dutch
     side  has had a little more damage reports.

     The Island is without electricity as of now, but the telephones are working
     perfectly. Something that did not happen during the LUIS disaster.

     The WINDS started in Saint Martin at around midnight, and have continued
     for six hours now.

[Mon, 21 Sep 1998 01:20EDT] - Elisa Cohen, Bikini Beach Restaurant, reporting from St.Martin:

     Well we are Packed up for the visit from hell again. Sorry to
     say I'm a little freaked out about this one. It is 1 am and we are
     starting to get gusts. At 8pm the ocean was already at my Restaurants
     doorsteps on Orient.

[Sun, 20 Sep 1998 22:50EDT] - Fred Capello reporting from Curaçao on the situation on the other Dutch islands; St.Maarten, Saba and Statia:

     The approach of hurricane Georges was being followed with a lot of interest in the
     island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles. Not because of it being threatened
     by this hurricane but because of the fact thatá the sister islands of Sint
     Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten were under the gun.
     Authorities in Curaçao were in contact with their colleagues in these islands and
     preparations are being made here to help these island out in dealing with the
     expected aftermath of Georges.
     Although Georges didn't look very impressing on the latest satellite images on
     Sunday evening, this storm was being taken very seriously.
     The local TV station in Curaçao has sent a team to Sint Maarten to transmit from
     there reports back to the viewers in Cura?ao. It remains to be seen how long they
     can continue to do that as Georges gets closer to the "Friendly Island".
     The viewers in Curaçao could see how the locals were boarding up and local
     authorities had completed most of their preparations to face the onslaught of
     monsieur Georges.

[Sun, 20 Sep 1998 09:09EDT] - John Dovale, (Visit's weather page), reporting from St.Maarten:

     St.Maarten Sept 20 1998 Time 859AM

     After an enjoyable eve at the movies last night (went to see ZORRO) with
     what appeared to be other people who were prepared in advance, the attitudes
     this morning are pretty much the same.

     People are now fully aware of the fact that GEORGES is on its way to us. I
     overheard someone relaying the morning report and apparently the storm is
     forecast to pass directly over St.Kitts and St.Eustatius.
     This means that we here in St.Maarten will be feeling the brut force of the
     northern quadrant of GEORGES.

     NOTE; The northern quadrant of a hurricane is the section which has the most
     destruction potential.

     I took a drive late last night (about 2 AM) and everywhere seems well
     prepared, including the French side. All the shops and businesses were
     secured and boarded up/shuttered. Homes the same!

     Reports this morning are saying that the storm has many characteristics of
     HUGO. They are also saying that it is bordering on becoming a category 5
     hurricane. This means it is packing powe well in excess of what we
     experienced with LUIS.

     This is going to be one heck of a ride, that if for sure. People are now
     hurrying to get things finished where need be. Radio stations are relaying
     reports from people in different neigborhoods who are expressing concern
     about construction debris and un-removed garbage which they feel will pose a
     possible hazard to them. Hopefully the authorities will address this while
     time permits.

     You can visibly note the weather deterioration. It is getting a little more
     windy (not much though and it is mostly gust rather than a sustained breeze)
     and it is still relatively HOT. Every now and then there is a patch of rain
     which is brief. For the most part conditions here are favorable for the
     hurricane (hot, calm, not too much moisture).

[Sat, 19 Sep 1998 21:00EDT] - John Dovale, (Visit's weather page), reporting from St.Maarten:

     St.Maarten Sept 19,1998

     Time 8:21PM

     Preparedness efforts were unhurried as the day commenced, with people going
     about getting all the necessary elements to secure their homes and
     businesses.There was a little traffic congestion but nothing really out of
     the ordinary.

     However, as the day progressed and reports over the media came in that the
     storm had strengthened, slowed and developed a northward component, it
     became clear that our area was now at high risk of a strike. The Island
     Government Emergency Ops Center on the Dutch side of the island was staged
     since early yesterday evening and began transmitting preparedness
     information in multi-lingual format all throughout the day.

     At 5PM they reported that our area was now under a HURRICANE WARNING
     situation and inside reports have it that they expect GEORGES to be as
     fierce or even worse than LUIS (of course this is unconfirmed at this time).
     At present the storm is packing wind speeds up to 150 mph and is moving
     relatively slowly.

     Looking at the images received over the Internet the strike probability for
     our area is now at 33% - and the general concensus among people on the
     street is that we will sustain a near direct hit and that it will be
     stronger than LUIS.

     In terms of preparedness, I can only comment on what I have seen on the
     Dutch side of the island and this is positive. Almost all businesses are
     completely secured and ready. Homeowners in many areas where the storm is
     expected to have a strong effect  have taken preparations seriously and
     battened down the hatches (so to speak).
     Most of the day all you could hear were electric saws, and hammers working
     away to secure those structures which did not already have integrated
     hurricane shuttering systems.

     NOTE: many homes and businesses since LUIS have made the integration of
     these shutter systems a standard.

     Although the immense size and strength of the storm is un-nerving to many,
     in particular to those who have never experienced a hurricane, the
     atmosphere here is still relatively calm. Many food stores, restaurants,
     little bars and even movie theatres are still open as the storm is not
     expected to affect the area until late tomorrow afternoon/early evening.

     The Dutch military have already flown in a contigent on troops to assist the
     Emergency Teams and law enforcement agencies in manning the 10 emergency
     shelters and providing security against the potential for looting in the
     vital business sectors. It is clear from the early deployment of troop
     assistance that the Government does not want a repeat of the situation which
     followed in the aftermath of Hurricane LUIS in 1995.

     I have been told by sources inside the EOC that response contigencies for
     the aftermath are already being put in place. One of these will include a
     curfew on movement both before and after the storm. This is mainly to allow
     for teams from the EOC to adequately assess damage and put in place the
     necessary cleanup and recovery mechansims which will be vital to getting the
     country back on line in as short a time as possible.

     Although I have not seen any of the French preparedness efforts I am fairly
     certain they are also well prepared. This is based on their previous
     preparedness efforts for LUIS in 1995 which allowed them to recover fairly
     quickly. I have heard reports from people who went to the French side of
     St.Maarten earlier today and they indicate that the whole city and most of
     the rural areas are well secured and cleaned up in anticipation of GEORGES

     I will continue to provide updates on the situation here as I gather
     information from different sources. I will do so using the Internet for as
     long as I can manage to keep my ISP services online-

     Wish us all the best and keep us in your prayers

     International Data Limited
     (former UN-DHA disaster consultant)

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