Monday, October 31, 2005

G4T #14: Hurricane Wilma and Tourism in Cozumel, Mexico

This is a Geography for Travelers Podcast related postThis was my first interview podcast! I recorded it using Gizmo Project -- which is like Skype, but includes a built-in record function. I also interviewed my sister, who has a vacation rental in Cozumel, Mexico, and was there when hurricane Wilma made landfall over Cozumel and Cancun on October 21, 2005. Hurricane Wilma was the strongest low pressure air system (lowest atmospheric pressure) ever recorded in the Caribbean, though it had weakened some by the time it reached Cozumel. (Note that stronger low pressure systems exist in the form of Tornados, but their air pressure has never been measured because they tend to tear the instruments apart.)

The interview is in two parts, which I put together through editing the original interview. In Part 1 she describes what she personally experienced as the hurricane approached and passed over Cozumel. In Part 2 she discusses the impacts of the hurricane on other tourists and the town of Cozumel, as well as her struggle to get back to the US after the hurricane. She arrived back in the US on Sunday, October 30, and the interview was recorded on Monday, October 31.

Click Here to download Part 1
Click Here to download Part 2

About Hurricane Wilma:
* Wilma dumped up to 5 feet of rain in parts of the Yucatan Peninsula; One station recorded 64 inches of rain in a 24 hour period -- a record amount for Mexico, if confirmed
* With 145 mph winds (category 4 storm) and gusts up to 170 mph, Wilma was the worst storm that anyone in this hurricane region could remember, mostly because it lasted so long (36 hours, at least)
* Playa del Carmen, on the mainland across from Cozumel, suffered the worst destruction, with ate least 1,000 homes seriously destroyed
* In Cancun, 1,800 people hid from Wilma in a 9 screen multiplex theater, but were eventually cramped into 3 of the screens as the other 6 became too dangerous -- none of the bathrooms were in working order
* Many beaches were washed away by the strong waves
* Wilma confounded meteorologists, because the hurricane did not follow the paths and characteristics of standard hurricane forecasting models
* Hot on the heals of Wilma, tropical storm Alpha reached the Dominican Republic on Sunday, October 22nd.
* Caribbean countries fear that the record number of hurricanes in 2005 could reduce the number of visitors to the region in the coming year -- Americans have a tendency to perceive a natural disaster in any one part of the Caribbean as affecting all of the Caribbean
* The Caribbean receive 22 million cruise ships and air visitors in 2004 - just over half of whom come from the US

* Wilma Lashes Mexico Resorts (TravelNewsWire)
* Caribbean Fears Storms Will Hurt Tourism (Yahoo/AP)
* Photo of Tourists Evacuees in Cancun (BBC)
* Wilma bamboozles hurricane experts (BBC)