Hurricane Protected North Coast of the Dominican Republic
From before World War 2 to the mid-1980s, the US Navy maintained a small weather station near Puerto Plata. In more than 50 years of operation, this station never recorded sustained winds in excess of 64 knots (hurricane strength) for more than 1 hour. This remarkable fact is due to both the topography of the island of Hispaniola and the counter-clockwise rotation of tropical storms in the northern hemisphere. The result is that the area from Las Terrenas and Cabrera, west to Cabarete, Sosua, Puerto Plata, and Luperon, are shielded from the most severe effects of tropical cyclones that often damage other areas.
In 2017, both Irma and Maria, major category 5 hurricanes, approached the Dominican Republic from the east after causing severe damage to the northern Windward Islands and Puerto Rico. Both storms passed well north of the north coast of the Dominican Republic, though Irma curved back south after passing Hispaniola and caused much damage in Cuba. Maria passed closest, with the center about 80 miles north of Sosua. Winds reached tropical storm force for several hours, but on the north coast, there was little damage done. Road crews were out the day before both storms, clearing branches from overhead power lines, and when Maria passed, power outages were hours long instead of days, weeks or months as in other severely affected areas such as Puerto Rico.
We on the hurricane protected north coast are very fortunate. Imagine a storm approaching from the east. It is rotating counter-clockwise. If the center passes over the island, there may be damage at the east end of the country, but as it passes inland, the high mountains of the central range immediately weaken the storm, minimizing effects on the north coast. If, on the other hand, the storm center passes north of the island, as often happens, a brief period of north winds is followed by westerlies which may reach tropical storm force, though for a very short time. Those who experienced the passage of Maria from the north coast will tell you that the effects were short-lived and relatively moderate.
It is no mistake that Luperon Harbor is the only port north of Grenada in the “Caribbean Basin” where many marine insurance companies allow insured vessels to remain during the June-November hurricane season. Though the passage of a tropical cyclone is never a reason for complacency, for those living on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, it is rarely caused for concern beyond normal intelligent preparation.
This beautiful stretch of coastline represents what may be the safest place to be when hurricanes prowl the Caribbean and the southwest North Atlantic.