The major weather headline for 2017 will undoubtedly go to the devastating hurricane season, which featured three major hurricanes making impactful landfall, and another rolling out to sea with a much lesser imprint on the Caribbean.
Maria is the latest in this litany of destruction, impacting Dominica and Puerto Rico the hardest, while also smacking the Turks and Caicos and Bahamas once again. Dominica, like Barbuda before it, as well as St Barts, St. Martin and the Virgin Islands have been laid waste, while Puerto Rico is said to be entirely out of power. Given this destruction, the fact that there have been only about 200 storm deaths to date with the entire season is nothing less than miraculous.
While Maria’s course took it directly over Dominica and Puerto Rico, which will be very costly in the end, those islands are arguably some of the most well prepared to contend for a storm of this magnitude. The joint weather monitoring service for the Lesser Antilles is headquartered in Dominica, while San Juan is home to a NWS office. Another factor that helped save lives is Maria’s striking terrain of Puerto Rico, which will lead to some flash flooding, but also worked to corrode Maria’s strength and make her weaker in the Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic and Bahamas. The zealous preparation saved lives.
Maria looks to be done with major land masses, as she has grazed the Dominican Republic and is sliding through the Bahamas towards the open Atlantic. Fortunately, after Maria has shifted into the Atlantic, there looks to be ample time to recover. For the first time in a while, the Atlantic Basin will be quiet.