Hurricane Wilma
October 20, 21 and 22, 2005

The photos below were taken on the
days immediately following the storm.
Immediately below --
Cozumel in the eye of the storm

Saturday morning Nelda and neighbors Grant, Tulay and Jimmy all very happy to be alive.

Grant doing a little after hurricane dance in my back yard.

The back yard. The palm trees against the white house that are leaning to the left and right were upright before the hurricane. The palm on the right lost its top.

Neighbors house, under construction, Wilma messed it up.

Still Saturday morning. Alfonzo fighting the wind. Still very strong with hurricane force gusts.

Debris pile at the end of my street. That is Cinco Soles at the end of the street. Huge waves were visible, but didn't come out in the photo. I turned back here as I thought it was too dangerous to be outside.

The Masonic lodge next door lost its front gate and back wall.

One of many walls blown down.

View from my front step looking toward the water. Remains of the Hilliard house on the right.

Debris in the street is the remains of the Hilliard house. A neighbor (Bruno) and I moved the pieces back to the house. But "all the kings horses and all the kinds men...couldn't put it back together again".

View to the east of my house. Pretty bleak.

Cork-screwed concrete telephone pole. One of the oddities is that the wooden telephone pole across the street still stands.

My street sign, Calle 8 Nte.

After the storm, walking was difficult. All the streets are one way, but out of necessity, became multi-directional. Looking left, right, up and down was advisable.. This is one of the many transformers that went airborne.

Here are a couple of hardy tourists that weathered the storm and were wandering the streets.. They didn't sign on to experience the worst hurricane in the history of the Atlantic, but their spirits were high and they were ready to go home.

Sunday morning, Liz (Alfonzo's wife) in pink watching the jewelry hunters at work. At least one of the jewelry stores had not put their jewels in the safe and they were washed out to sea and into the street.

Old Carlos & Charlies sign hidden under facade which Wilma removed.

Touch of Gold, "touched" by a tree that acted as a battering ram.

More destruction on the Malacon (Spanish translation is sea wall, but here it is used to describe the road that runs along the sea wall).

Same store as above less than a week later.

Sunday, everyone is out looking at the town. There is much work is to be done.

Guidos -- we share the sentiment. The Kyoto agreement was to try to stop the causes of global warming -- one of the main reasons for increased storm activity and intensity. Wilma was the strongest storm in the history of the Atlantic and produced 63 inches of rain on Cozumel.

More curious walking or biking on the Malacon.

The ferry dock. Some damage, but was quickly back in service. I believe the ferry boats were taken to Progresso or some port that was safe from the storm.

Palmaras Restaurant, a local landmark. Debris is quite a way from the water here

The main square. Once a shady place where people gathered. Barely a leaf for shade visible now.

A jewelry store that was under construction, now under destruction

Man and his parrot explore the debris

Another victim of the storm.

Cars are beginning to try to drive around town. There is still a lot of flooding in the low areas and debris blocking the roads. Here the driver is reconsidering trying this street. This is on the corner of Ave. 10 and Calle 6 Nte looking toward the water.

Two shots of the first supply ship to arrive. It was carrying all kinds of supplies. Everything from food to telephone poles to begin rebuilding.

Nighly ritual was to gather in front of the house and visit with neighbors until the electric came back on. We would entertain ourselves until we were sleepy. From here we saw the lights of Playa del Carmen and were thrilled to know they were back in business. We had no word from the outside world yet and were relying on the conch telegraph for all the news. We were not yet able to reach our loved ones to tell them we were okay. As an aside, my sister was able to phone me in the midst of the hurricane and I kept reassuring her I was safe. Another friend from the states was able to tell us how long before the eye would pass and how many hours after we could expect hurricane force winds to continue. Once the eye passed all communication was gone. There was quite a profound sense of isolation. We did get little bits of news. We knew that the eye had gone over the Cancun airport and it was in bad shape. An amazing amount of information was passed on from person to person.

As more and more help arrived it began to sound and look like a war zone. Helicopters were constantly flying by, taking food and equipment here and there. All the devastation left you feeling pretty sad and the loss of anything green made it look like a northern winter. There were few birds.

The word reached us that all the cruise ship piers were collapsed. The seriousness of the situation began to sink in.

Within 3 days of the wind stopping, food was delivered to our door. Beans, rice and other staples were included. Nelda and I had gotten a lot of food in preparation so we gave our supplies to needier families. Although I will say you can get pretty tired of cold beans and peanut butter and cheese crackers.

Wednesday after the storm, a cruise ship arrived bringing supplies and taking any Americans back to the states that wanted to go (free of charge).

Cozumel was down to only the hardiest Americans. All the tourists left. Many locals fled also.

Some of the Mexican nationals with families went to other cities so their children could start school. It was expected to be months before the schools would open again.

The ferry dock, back in operation. As soon as it was allowed, Cozumele├▒os began to go to Playa del Carmen and get supplies you couldn't get here. There was a ban on alcohol sales here, so resourceful folks went to Playa and got their supplies and brought them back. That is until the Federales started checking parcels on the returning ferries and confiscating any booze found. Speaking of alcohol, bars and cantinas slowly began to reopen. But there was a ban on Mexican nationals being served booze. They actually allowed US citizens to be served for at least a week before any Mexican nationals could be served. I guess the reasoning was that the Americans here were mostly reitred and the Mexicans were all needed to assist in the huge cleanup effort, so they had to be up to full steam without hangovers.

Nelda's special little friend, Angel, and his family at Palmaras the day people were leaving on the cruise ship to return to the States. Everyone that wanted to leave gathered in this area to see if they could get on board.

View north in front of Cinco Soles about a week after the storm, starting to look pretty normal.

Wednesday after the storm. A magical Cozumel sunset to make me feel like we would be normal again soon.

The story of the amazing effort to restore and rebuild by the Cozumele├▒o people is one that still makes me feel a little weepy. Everyone pitched in and had the city operating well enough to welcome cruise ships 3 weeks to the day from when the wind stopped. When I say everyone helped I mean the local people, the local government, the State of Quintano Roo's government and the national government. The contrast with what happened with Katrina is quite remarkable.

The response to Wilma is one of the reasons that I am proud to call this incredible island my home.