Tag Archives: Cancun

NINE YEARS AGO – HURRICANE WILMA!

Nine years ago, on this 21 October 2014, a tropical cyclone for the record books, a strong category 4 hurricane WILMA came over the island of Cozumel in its final approach toward the region of Cancun and the northeastern portion of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.

Color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) of 22 October 2005 showing category 4 Hurricane Wilma over the Cancun region in Mexico, before it tracked across the Gulf to hit Florida on 24 October 2005
Color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) of 22 October 2005 showing category 4 Hurricane Wilma over the Cancun region in Mexico, before it tracked across the Gulf to hit Florida on 24 October 2005

I assessed and documented damage caused by the passage of Wilma over the region, first in a study commissioned by the Quintana Roo State Government completed in early 2006 and then in my book “Paraiso Protegido: Hacia una cultura de mitigacion” (ISBN 978-607-401-556-0) published in February 2012. Additional discussion of the consequences of this hazard event and what we can do to mitigate future hurricane impacts will be the focus of my upcoming book “Hurricane Mitigation for the built environment”, which is scheduled to the see the public light in 2015.

Nine years! This is how long it has been since we have had a land falling hurricane anywhere in Florida. It is a long time and I already detect the influence of ‘hurricane amnesia’ on many fronts, from casual conversations to the actions of public officials regarding given projects that are given green light to proceed without considering potential consequences from future impacts, from recurring hurricanes, or the benefits of incorporating hurricane mitigation measures in the design criteria for such  proposed new projects.

Color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) of 21 October 2014 showing a storm system over the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, which is moving in the general direction of Florida, and is expected to disturb our weather over the next few days
Color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) of 21 October 2014 showing a storm system over the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, which is moving in the general direction of Florida, and is expected to disturb our weather over the next few days

Today 21 October 2014 the Gulf of Mexico present rather warm waters and a large system of disturbed weather over the Yucatan peninsula exhibiting some cyclonic tendencies, which appears to be moving in the direction of Florida following a path not unlike the one followed by hurricane Wilma in 2005 as it stroke Florida from the west before traversing our peninsula on 24 October 2005. The official cost of damage figure from the impact of Wilma in Florida is $21.0 billion [in 2005 U.S. Dollars], but there are unofficial estimates reaching as high as $29.0 billion. And Wilma was a tropical cyclone that had been almost dismissively categorized as it approached Florida as “just a category 1 storm” by a weather forecaster on a local TV station.

Whether the amount of physical damage caused by Wilma was $29.0 or only $21.0 billion, it would appear to me as an exorbitant amount caused by a minor hurricane. Especially when considering Florida had endured four land-falling storms in 2004, and we had seen the disaster wrought by hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi after brushing over South Florida in August 2005. Not to mention the fact that  the media had provided excellent coverage of the monster storm that Wilma became in record time as it barreled from the central Caribbean toward the Yucatan peninsula in late October 2005. We had all seen or read about the damage Wilma caused in Cancun, Cozumel, the Maya Riviera and on the resort island of ‘Isla Mujeres’,  just before it proceeded to  turn in the direction of Florida. It is indeed puzzling to see how quickly we all forgot the hits received in 2004 and the graphic displays of damage and human suffering from Katrina, and from Wilma before it headed our way. Even more puzzling is to hear how many of us were surprised by the amount of damage hurricane Wilma left in South Florida.

Satellite image (NOAA) taken with the RGB filter in the afternoon of  20 October 2005 showing the cell of disturbed weather over the Bay of Campeche, extreme southwestern Gulf of Mexico, as it beginds to track generally east to east-northeast over the Yucatan peninsula and toward Florida
Satellite image (NOAA) taken with the RGB filter in the afternoon of 20 October 2005 showing the cell of disturbed weather over the Bay of Campeche, extreme southwestern Gulf of Mexico, as it begins to track generally east to east-northeast over the Yucatan peninsula and toward Florida

We ignore the signals of Nature at our own risk. Today’s storm system moving over the Yucatan in our general direction may be considered weak or disorganized, but it is large and it will generate storms, and rain, and wind, and surge, and potentially tornadoes as well, and lightning, and flying debris as it comes over our communities. So the potential for damage and for disruption of our daily lives is there. A signal from Nature, a reminder nine years later that we are vulnerable. If there are doubts about this, consider Bermuda and just a couple of days ago they got hit by tropical cyclones FAY and GONZALO in the span of just five days, such a small target in the middle of the Atlantic!

This satellite image (courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory) captures the eye of hurricane GONZALO still partially over the northeastern portion of the Main island, in a tremendous feat of marksmanship by Mother Nature!
This satellite image (courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory) captures the eye of hurricane GONZALO still partially over the northeastern portion of the Main island, in a tremendous feat of marksmanship by Mother Nature!

Nine years. A long time. But we must remain vigilant at all times. We must be prepared and constantly engage in the practice of mitigation to protect our lives, and property, and our communities and way of life for the next time that will surely come one day.

Nine years, a long time, in which our coastal communities have become even more vulnerable because the increase in population and growth of our urban built environment have placed more people and more property at risk. We are also more vulnerable because the inexorable march of sea level rise has relentlessly increased the potential for damage from the impact of storm surge and breaking waves when that next time comes knocking.

Nine years are a blink of the eye in Mother Nature’s terms. Will it be nine days, nine weeks, next year, or another nine years before our turn comes again to interact with a hurricane? Will we be again surprised by the amount of damage and the power of Nature? Will we be prepared and ready? And, until then will we practice mitigation to ensure that we indeed are prepared and ready? No one can predict when the next one will hit us, but it is up to each and all of us to determine what kind of outcome we will have when that next one  takes place!

PRESENTAMOS: PARAISO PROTEGIDO: Hacia una cultura de mitigación

  A las 18:00 horas de un cálido y soleado  Lunes 21 de Mayo del 2012 allá en Cancún en un concurrido y dinámico evento, en el auditorio de la Universidad del Caribe, por cordial invitación del Arq. Carlos Constandse M. representando al Grupo Quintana Roo, se llevó a cabo la presentación del libro PARAISO PROTEGIDO: Hacia una cultura de mitigación obra del Arq. Ricardo A. Alvarez Salaverry.

El Arq. Carlos Constandse M., Presidente del Grupo Quintana Roo, da la bienvenida al evento en el auditorio de la Universidad del Caribe

El orden del día del evento incluyó palabras de bienvenida del Arq. Carlos Constandse a una concurrencia de cerca de sesenta invitados y representantes de medios noticiosos, seguido de consecutivas alocuciones por parte del Ing. Rafael Lara Lara, un reconocido pionero en el ramo del diseño y construcción en la zona de Cancún y antiguo alcalde, y del Arq. Eduardo Ortiz Jasso, Director General del Instituto de Planeación del Desarrollo Urbano del Municipio de Benito Juárez, quienes hicieron sendas y positivas reseñas de aspectos importantes y conocimientos adquiridos en la lectura de esta obra, desde el punto de vista de sus respectivas profesiones y experiencias como residentes de esta región de Quintana Roo.

El Ing. Rafael Lara Lara comenta sobre el libro Paraiso Protegido durante el evnto de presentacion de dicha obra
El Arq. Eduardo Ortiz Jasso expresa su opinion sobre el libro

A continuación el Arq. Carlos Constandse M. presentó el libro PARAISO PROTEGIDO: Hacia una cultura de mitigación destacando que habían disponibles suficientes copias a la salida del local del evento, para todos aquellos que gustasen adquirir su copia a un precio especial, cuyo monto sería donado a la Cruz Roja local, y expresando además que el autor gustosamente fimaría una dedicatoria a todos aquellos que así lo solicitaran a la conclusion del evento.

El Arq. Ricardo Alvarez Salaverry, autor de Paraiso Protegido, dicta su conferencia durante el evento en la Universidad del Caribe

Seguidamente el Arq. Constandse presentó al autor Arq. Ricardo A. Alvarez Salaverry haciendo una breve reseña de las circumstancias que los llevaron a conocerse, a raiz del impacto del huracán Wilma en el 2005, y a conversar sobre el tema de los huracanes y la vulnerabilidad de las regions costeras de Quintana Roo, y eventualmente a discutir sobre la idea del Arq. Alvarez de escribir un libro sobre dichos temas.  El Arq. Constandse luego presentó el curriculum del Arq. Alvarez destacando sus muchos años de experiencia como investigador, profesor universitario, y como director de numerosos proyectos relacionados con el impacto de los huracanes y la mitigación de los posibles daños causados por los mismos, mediante la adopción de criterios de diseño y métodos de construcción para lograr edificios resistentes a los huracanes.

Continuando con el programa el Arq. Alvarez Salaverry dictó una conferencia sobre los temas centrales del libro, y sobre la combinación de experiencias y factores que con el tiempo lo llevaron a considerar la necesidad de escribir un libro como el recién presentado durante el evento. Durante su exposición el autor enfatizó la capacidad que tenemos de construir edificios, vivienda e infraestructura resistente a los huracanes, así como la necesidad  de acometer ese objetivo como proyecto a nivel estatal, e inclusive regional, con el propósito de proteger lo nuevo por construir y lo ya existente contra el impacto de los futuros huracanes que indudablemente seguiran llegando a las costas de Quintana Roo y otros sitios vulnerables. [Para ver las transparencias con que el Arq. Alvarez ilustro su conferencia favor visitar: LANZAMIENTO ]

La conferencia del Arq. Alvarez Salaverry concluyó con un período de preguntas y respuestas con participación de la concurrencia, seguido de entrevistas con los medios y la firma de dedicatorias en los libros de numerosos miembros de la audiencia, así como la toma de fotografías, y finalmente un brindis y boquadillos cortesía del Grupo Quintana Roo.

El autor mostrando una copia de su libro “Paraiso Protegido: Hacia una cultura de mitigacion”
El autor firman una copia del libro para uno de los inmvitados

Es importante destacar que tanto durante el evento aquí mencionado, como a raiz del mismo, se dieron y siguen dando numerosas muestras de interés de varias instituciones y grupos que ven en Paraíso Protegido tanto un libro de texto o de estudio para diferentes carreras universitarias, como obra de referencia o lectura obligatoria para otros programas de estudio y capacitación, así como otros que han expresado interés en utilizar el libro como punto de partida para conferencias, o reuniones de trabajo para explorar los temas cubiertos por el libro y la posibilidad de colaborar en proyectos de investigación sobre los mismos. Queda claro que esta obra ha venido a llenar un vacío existente al mismo tiempo que genera interés en continuar ahondando sobre el tema de los huracanes.

Respecto a lo antedicho se hace adecuado cerrar con las palabras del Arq. Carlos Constandse M. sobre Paraíso Protegido:

“ El conocimiento de nuestro entorno es una necesidad urgente para quienes decidimos radicar en las costas del estado de Quintana Roo, y Paraíso Protegido es un excelente libro de consulta, estudio, referencia y una guía especializada para las personas o inversionistas que proyectan construir en la costa turquesa.”