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Caribbean: Hurricane Gonzalo Hammers St. Martin and St. Barts

By Latitude 38 — last modified Oct 17, 2014 08:42 AM
For five hours on Monday evening St. Barth and St. Martin were sucker punched by hurricane Gonzalo, which had surprised forecasters with a quick change in path and a rapid building in strength to hurricane force. Marine interests on the two islands were hit particularly hard, as were small aircraft. This report by Latitude '38.

Published: 2014-10-16 23:00:00
Topics: Weather
Countries: Bermuda , St Barts , St Martin

Caribbean: Hurricane Gonzalo Hammers St. Martin and St. Barts

© NOAA

Read the full report at http://www.latitude38.com/

The body of one 87-year-old sailor, who had lost his boat to the ferocious hurricane Luis 19 years before, was found in his current boat at Boca Marina inside St. Martin's Lagoon. While one source says nobody has been reported missing, others are saying a number are still missing, including three in a dinghy off St. Martin, three on a boat off St. Barth, and perhaps more.

Thirty-seven boats were said to have been destroyed, most of them sunk, on St. Martin. Most were in Simpson Bay Lagoon or at Sandy Ground, Marigot Bay and Grand Case on the northwest coast, where authorities said the waves got as high as 18 feet. In addition, five boats were reportedly washed up in relatively protected Oyster Pond, and the resort bars at Orient Beach were said to be devastated.

There was an unknown amount of damage to boats in the boatyards. For example, St. Martin Shipyard, next to the airport on the Dutch side, reported significant damage to boats in their dock area. The pier at the Coast Guard office on the Dutch side was damaged when a boat slammed into it, and one Coast Guard vessel on a lift was also damaged.

Although not on the island, St. Barth fountain-of-knowledge Melanie Smith reports that her sources on the island say "at least 50 boats sank or were driven ashore . . . all over the place. This storm grew so quickly while on the doorstep of the island that most were caught totally unprepared, which is pretty rare for St. Barth." According to Smith's sources, as of Tuesday night three people on one boat were missing and several others still unaccounted for.

When hurricanes approach, most St. Barth boats run for the lagoon in St. Martin. But that's 20+ miles away, the bridge only opens a couple of times a day, and the trip would have been to windward. So to our knowledge few if any skippers attempted it.

According to authorities at the Prefecture at St. Martin's Grand Case, Gonzalo's winds peaked at a relatively light 86 knots, about a third of the force of mega hurricane Luis, which so devastated these islands 19 years ago when more than 700 boats were destroyed in the lagoon alone. Surprise was Gonzalo's big weapon. Most Caribbean hurricanes start far to the east and give a long warning of their approach. Gonzalo started as a system 700 miles east of Antigua, and on Friday afternoon forecasters said it had only a 10% chance of becoming a tropical storm in 48 hours, and only 30 percent in five days. That lulled a lot of people, most who have been through storms, into complacency.

By Sunday afternoon Gonzalo had jumped to a depression and then a tropical storm, so at 1:30 p.m. authorities issued their first tropical storm watch. But at that point Gonzalo was supposed to pass to the south of the island. When a huge rainstorm came through on Monday, many residents assumed that it was Gonzalo coming and going. It wasn't. In fact, the real thing had turned and was headed straight for the two islands.

Continue reading this story at http://www.latitude38.com/

This powerful hurricane is now bearing down on Bermuda.

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