Throughout last week residents and visitors of Aruba had been on alert for the approach of hurricane Matthew. Forecasts showed the heaviest impacts would be felt between Thursday 29th and Friday 30th September, with heavy rainfall expected to continue throughout the weekend. Thanks to Aruba's southern location and the numerous precautionary measures and island-wide preparations, the hurricane passed by leaving only relatively minor damage.
Due to the slow moving nature of the storm, there was uncertainty as to what would happen and for how long, so the island was on full alert. People flocked to supermarkets and stocked up with food and emergency supplies. Government agencies and schools were closed on Friday, while many businesses boarded up doors and windows and were on alert for their employees to stay home.
The government also took precautionary measures by conducting a thorough inspection of the waterways designed to relieve flooding. Several shelters were also prepared and emergency personnel were mobilized in case any dangerous situations transpired. Aruba’s hotel sector responded to meet the needs of its guests by checking inventory, and preparing its staff for any emergencies.
With the exception of Thursday morning’s thunderstorm, Aruba received little more than rain and occasional strong gusts of wind for the remainder of the weekend. Heaviest rainfall was on Friday night. A few areas including Pos Chiquito, Santa Cruz, and Divi Links suffered from minor floods where the water was later pumped out. Power was maintained in most areas throughout.
Matthew’s greatest effects were visible on Aruba’s beaches and coastline. The strong waves caused erosion and brought a lot of seaweed onto the shore. Fortunately the public works department (DOW) reacted promptly to clean up the affected beaches and coastline. Now that the weather is clearing up, the affected areas are being refilled with sand.
Another unfortunate effect was on the pelican artwork that was very recently added to the partially-submerged shipwreck at Malmok for the Aruba Art Fair. This was a creation by the same artist who made the impressive iguana in San Nicolas. The pelican artwork disintegrated and the shipwreck itself suffered additional damages as well.
Over the weekend many Arubans and tourists alike were driving around the island observing the effects of Matthew, particularly on the coastline areas. Several surfers and windsurfers were also making the most of the remaining waves. Sunday was primarily dull with some drizzle but no heavy rain. On Monday October 3rd the sun finally made an appearance and the sky showed more signs of clearing up although still remaining partly overcast.
Aruba has been blessed by not receiving a direct hit from this very large and dangerous hurricane, the strongest one in the region in almost a decade. We are all extremely thankful that there was no major damage, and particularly no injuries or loss of life. Aruba is generally south of the path of these storms that usually bypass the island with no ill- effects, but the weather in general has become more unpredictable and Mother Nature has her own plans sometimes! This was definitely a lesson and exercise in preparation for Aruba.
Matthew continues to gain strength throughout the week, and is expected to hit other islands including Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas, and eventually possibly the United States. Our thoughts and prayers are with these countries as they prepare for the hurricane’s impact.