As Hurricane Dorian heads up the coast of the Eastern United States after decimating the Bahamas, Mike and I are in St. Maarten, remembering Hurricane Irma’s wrath here two years ago today. While Hurricane Dorian wiped out much of the Bahamas, its impact on the Eastern United States is still in process. Dorian’s wrath on the Bahamas has left many without homes and businesses, and at least twenty-five deaths are being attributed to this hurricane. The devastation of Hurricane Dorian is legendary. Our thoughts and prayers are with the many people who suffered Hurricane Dorian’s wrath.
Mike and I are in St. Maarten remembering our personal experience with Hurricane Irma. St. Maarten was spared from any damage from Dorian yet received significant damage from Irma. As Mike and I watch Dorian’s path continue to unfold, we are reminded of living through Irma’s devastation on St. Maarten on September 6, 2017, and the few days after as we tried to leave the island. We were finally evacuated by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines on Sunday, September 10, 2017.
As we have driven around the island these two weeks that we have been here, we are vividly reminded of the significant damage Irma did to this island we have loved for twenty years. While there has been some recovery in these two years, there is still much to be done.
Hurricane Irma’s impact on St. Maarten two years ago and the status of the island today gives us a first-hand view of progress and the lack of it. We can see how some improvements have been made as a result of the hurricane, including the improvements to our timeshare at The Royal Islander Club, La Plage. We also see how time stood still on September 6, 2017 for many parts of the island, such as much on the French side, including Marigot and Grand Case.
We see boats still resting in the Island’s waters, rusting away. We see entire businesses wiped out, including Cherie’s Café at Maho. In the same areas where some of these businesses are just a shell, hotels, including the Sonesta, have been totally rebuilt. We are told that insurance money and lack of bureaucracy account for the latter, and the lack of or problems with insurance money and the prevalence of bureaucracy has hindered the recovery of the former.
Many people state that the island will recover, that it will just take time. The question is, how much time? Rebuilding is definitely going on, with new condo buildings under construction. Cruise ships bring in visitors several times a week, providing shoppers for Philipsburg, and temporary visitors to other parts of the island.
The thirty-six beaches of this beautiful island are still its main attraction, and Hurricane Irma left those intact. The overall beauty of the island has not changed. What has changed is the destruction of many buildings and the needed repair of many that remain. Some of this can be improved cosmetically, if and when such becomes a priority. While waiting for this, those of us who return to the island yearly or even more frequently must wait for Sint Maarten and Saint Martin to return to its former glory. Or to become something new and different.
Mike and I, and some years our family and friends, have visited this island for two weeks each year since 2000. This island and its people are in our blood. Buildings can change and businesses can come and go. What remains, the natural beauty of the island and the heart of its people are enough to keep us coming back. Hurricane Irma did not change that.
Well, that is not totally true. Hurricane Irma did change that, it strengthened our ties to this island. We are forever bonded to this place and its people.