01 February 2023

Replacing a roof because of a hurricane? Sort of but mostly because of a tree

Hurricane Ian hit Nicaragua last fall.  More than a decade ago when I was hunting for a piece of property on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast I fielded a lot of questions about hurricanes.  Most people think Nicaragua is constantly bombarded by hurricanes during the season.  For a brief while I assumed that was true. 

Turns out we do have our share of bad weather but it's mostly inconvenient rain - rarely hurricanes.  When a hurricane forms off the coast of Africa and heads west, most often it hits the islands on the eastern edge of the Caribbean.  Usually from those pieces of land that edge the Caribbean a hurricane seems to bounce off and up.   At the end of each hurricane season NOAA publishes a one page summary of what kind of storms went where.  

That summary page (sample below) looks like someone dropped a handful of colorful cooked spaghetti on a map. The different colors represent the types of storms.  I took advantage of more than 100 years of this data to look at Nicaragua's hurricane history.  If I was going to invest anything there - time, money, hard work, etc - I wanted to know what I was getting into.  Turned out that as far as hurricanes were concerned I wasn't getting into much.  In fact I was getting into less in Nicaragua than I get into living in Virginia.

If and when a hurricane does hit Nicaragua, the hit is most often north of False Bluff and near where Nicaragua and Honduras meet.  I have no idea why.  Maybe because that northern part of Nicaragua sticks out into the Caribbean the farthest.  

False Bluff, on the other hand, is south, tucked away from the pathway of most hurricanes.  We're way south on that coast...only about 40 miles from Costa Rica.  Hurricane paths are a mystery to me- but a mystery I don't have to solve.

Of course 'rarely' doesn't mean 'never' and we took a hit this year.  Much of the 'thatch' on the main building 'left the building.'  And nearby trees from which this leaf is harvested also 'left the building.'   The trees themselves were either blown down or the trees stood and the fronds were blown off.  Our roofer had to travel pretty far to harvest the more than 3000 fronds we needed.  The extra distance cost both time and money.  

And it turned out that damage to the roof wasn't directly caused by wind but to an avocado tree BEHIND the house.  The wind knocked the tree smack across the middle of the house, the spine of the roof as it were.  So there was also damage to the rafters.  

The original rafters had been round poles and we couldn't easily find replacements for those, near or far.  Granted, had time not been an issue we might have located them.  But people live in this building.  

One thing we had in our favor - a silver lining as it were - was all the downed trees.  We just sliced up enough downed trees to replace the rafters.  Using nominal and often green lumber is nothing new in this area.  So the rafters were extricated from trees on the ground and the framing went up while we waited for delivery of the leaf fronds.

All done.  By now the entire house has two coats of primer, known in Bluefields as 'sealer.'  Painting to follow.