As we all saw 2020 was a record hurricane season having to delve into the Greek alphabet in search of more names. The season started off fast with hurricanes pelting the Gulf Coast of North America with a record 3 named storms and 4 hurricanes. We knew we were in trouble when we had almost ten weeks left of the season and it was time to pull out the Greek alphabet starting with ALPHA (Sept 18th).
The 2019 hurricane season had many hurricanes develop and fortunately they tended to stay north and east of the Caribbean leaving many of the islands untouched after an intense 2018 Hurricane Season. Unfortunately Puerto Rico and The Bahamas didn’t escape without damage during 2019. I mention these two previous years because Cozumel has been relatively untouched since 2005 and the passing of Super Hurricane Wilma. Complacency had begun to creep in as Cozumel had been left largely unscathed for the last 15 years. 2020 was a wake-up call for all of us, reminding us that global warming is a reality and none of us are exempt from the effects of Climate Change.
Many of our structures and platforms are located in shallow water and therefore subject to storm surge and wave action. With that in mind and having been here for “Wilma” we designed all of our programs to withstand the effects of coastal storms. On Sept 16th when tropical storm Beta began forming in the gulf we were feeling the effects entering from the north and west pummeling the island with swells on the west side of the island. As many of you know this side of the island is normally like a glassy pond, nothing but the sound of water rippling on the shore.
This was just a precursor to “Delta” & Gamma” which formed to the south and east in the Caribbean. Our lucky streak was over and it was time to step up and get ready. After 14 hours of preparation and the light of day disappearing we had accomplished what we could and it was time to head home and get ready for a long night. As “Delta” approached it took a slight jog to the north saving Cozumel from the strongest of the hurricane winds. “Gamma” which came on the tail of “Delta” , little more than a week later, left no doubt that complacency was no longer a luxury we have.
Our Reef Restoration projects for the most part were able to hold tight for the onslaught of storms that slammed Cozumel from Mid-September into early October. Our Minecraft program was most affected, we have lost 3 of the structures. Our camera and the wire mesh that surrounded the structures have been relocated and consolidated into one area that has allowed us to create a much more stable platform for our Coral transplanting. All of our platforms and reef balls remained in place and were unaffected by the surge and wave action. Thanks to great work by our team of volunteers and biologists we weathered the storm this time.