29 July 2011

Hurricanes and monkeys

     Second only to the questions about armed men on street corners was the question about hurricanes so I went looking for information.    I've had first-hand experience with hurricane damage in Virginia and work-related experience with damage in several other southeastern states.   National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration publishes the “Annual Summary of North Atlantic Storms 1872-2004” which to date actually goes through 2008. 
     Sometime during the 1900's each annual summary began including a map of all major storms for that year, hurricanes included.   After reviewing more than sixty of these map-summaries I concluded that I'm probably safer at False Bluff during hurricane season than I am in most southeastern states:   hurricanes hit Nicaragua on average once every twenty years and many of the hurricanes that do hit, do so north near the Nicaragua/Honduras border.
      But when a hurricane does hit Nicaragua it's a doozy and does the sort of damage typical of direct hurricane hits anywhere.    In 1988 Joan slammed through Nicaragua.   Reports state that 150-mph winds leveled Big Corn Island: all the residents there lost their homes and the schools, churches, and clinic were destroyed.   Nearly ninety percent of the homes in Bluefields were destroyed leaving 43,000 residents homeless.    False Bluff is almost directly between Big Corn and Bluefields.   Hurricane Joan was unusual in that it didn't curve north as most hurricanes do, especially those as late in the season as October;  and that it survived even after crossing Central America into the Pacific where it was renamed 'Tropical Storm Miriam'
      An estimated 100,000 acres of Nicaragua's forest was razed including that along the Caribbean coast in Hurricane Joan's pathway.   

     When I first began to visit False Bluff I asked if there might be monkeys and was told that when the forests died because of Joan so did the monkeys.   Those that weren't killed outright during the storm died later of starvation.   I have since learned that there must have been a few left because I don't think that the three I've seen along the creek are just aged survivors.