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January 2000 Vol. 26, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Hurricane Lenny's Legacy

from the January, 2000 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Seems like killer storms are brewing up later every year, and 150-mph Lenny, which wreaked havoc across the Caribbean in November, was among the latest. Lenny was odd in other ways, most notably in its freak easterly path, the reverse of the typical Atlantic hurricanes. Sounding like a minor variance, the net effect of the reversal was a storm that pounded islands where they were most vulnerable, producing what some lifelong Dominica residents called “the worst sea damage I’ve ever seen from a hurricane.”

Lenny’s range was wide, encompassing sixteen different Caribbean islands. Areas of Bonaire, Saba, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Grenada, Martinique, and Dominica suffered extensive property damage, and deaths or missing persons were reported on Guadeloupe, Dutch St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, and Dominica. The storm also hit Antigua, Anguilla, St. Croix, the British Virgins, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, although damage there was moderate.

While Bonaire received almost no rain from Lenny, which remained 150 miles offshore, wave action on the normally calm western side was an attention-grabber. Waves in some areas were reportedly in excess of 10 feet in height, spray in excess of 50'. Most dive operations secured their boats in Harbour Village Marina, and only one boat owned by Black Durgon was lost. Dive operations themselves were not as fortunate. A substantial number lost their docks, among them Captain Don’s Habitat, Buddy Dive, and Bel-mar Oceanfront Apartments. Lion’s Dive lost their restaurant, while Eden Beach’s bottom floor was flooded and the storm left a foot of sand as a souvenir. The old seaside bar at Sunset Beach was destroyed, as was the Green Parrot. Bon Bini Divers lost their dock, and the building was severely damaged; Bon Bini is assessing whether it is reparable or must be rebuilt. A great deal of debris from damaged buildings ended up on the shallow reef, and a great deal of the reef ended up as debris on the beach, but underwater cleanups are proceeding. Many resorts also described themselves as undamaged, including Carib Inn, Divi Flamingo, Green Submarine, Dive Inn, Plaza Resort and Toucan Diving, and Caribbean Court and Photo Tours Dives. All resorts are reportedly operating either from undamaged buildings or alternate locations.

On Dominica, huge waves picked up rocks and boulders and pummeled the shoreline homes and hotels for four days, destroying seawalls, swimming pools, and steel reinforced concrete terraces & sun decks. In Roseau, the Anchorage and Evergreen hotels were severely damaged, as was the Castle Comfort Lodge. Evergreen and Castle Comfort are now open with a few rooms and spartan amenities, but Anchorage is struggling to repair and re-wire its rooms to a habitable condition, sending guests to other hotels in the meantime. Dive operations are operating at reduced capacity, but many dive sites were severely damaged. Coral Gardens near Scott’s Head peninsula is not expected to be diveable for months, with sponges and corals broken as deep as 60'. Only a couple sites in the Scott’s Head area survived with mild damage. However, land-based ecotourism sites including waterfalls, volcanic sites, and sulfur springs were unaffected.

Saba was battered for over 30 hours by winds gusting to 170 mph and storm surges of up to 30'. The airport terminal and tower were destroyed, although flights have resumed. The Saba Marine Park hyperbaric facility was severely damaged, but only one hotel, Scout’s Place, suffered significant damage. Dive operations weren’t spared, though loss was moderate with some buildings heavily damaged and some boats lost. Fortunately, Saba Marine Park reports only minimal damage to shallower areas of Tent Reef and Ladder Bay sites, while Saba’s deeper reefs and pinnacle walls were reportedly unscathed.

While most dive operations appear to be operating, divers venturing to Caribbean destinations hit by Lenny should contact operators and resorts to verify the situation prior to departure.

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