The hurricane season in the Dominican Republic officially begins on June 1st and runs through then end of November, peaking in the month of September.
A hurricane begins as a tropical depression, which can build up and become a tropical storm before turning into a hurricane of category 1 to 5 strength with sustained wind speed of 119 kph to 250 kph. The storm receives its name from a pre-selected list when the tropical depression turns into a tropical storm. There are 6 lists of names, created by the National Hurricane Center in the early 1950s, which are used on rotation. If a name has been used for a particularly sever and devastating hurricane, that name is taken off the list, which happened with eg George and Katrina.
THE NAMES FOR 2013 INCLUDE:
Andrea – Barry – Chantal – Dorian – Erin – Fernand – Gabrielle – Humberto – Ingrid – Jerry – Karen – Lorenzo – Melissa – Nestor – Olga – Pablo – Rebekah – Sebastien – Tanya – Van – Wendy.
The last storm, which passed Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, was Gabrielle. This was a tropical depression that gave a large amount of rain and thunder but no major winds.
Right now Humberto is active over the Atlantic Ocean while Manuel (a name that is oddly enough not on the list) is roaming the Pacific coast of Mexico.
The last hurricane that hit Punta Cana was hurricane Jeanne in 2004. This was a category 1 hurricane, which caused a lot of damages in the area and bought an obscen amount of rain. The bridge by the nearby city of La Romana was wiped out, separating the each coast area from the rest of the country for weeks and delaying fresh supplied of food, etc.
The chances of getting eaten by a hurricane, if you are in the Dominican Republic are actually quite small. Over the past 83 years, only 11 hurricanes have hit the Dominican Republic, 9 of them in the month of September:
• 2004: Jeanne (Cat. 1) hit the east coast on September 17 September
• 1998: Georges (Cat. 3) hit the south east coast on September 22
• 1996: Hortense (Cat. 3) hit the each coast on September 10 September with winds of 130 kph
• 1988: Gilbert (Cat. 3) hit the south west coast on September 11 with winds of 200 kph
• 1987: Emely (Cat 4) hit the south west coast on September 22 with winds of 220 kph.
• 1979: David (Cat. 4-5) hit Santo Domingo on August 31 August
• 1967: Beulah (Cat. 4) hit the south west coast on September 10-11 with winds of 225 kph
• 1966: Ines (Cat. 4) hit the south west coast on September 29 with winds of 240 kph
• 1963: Edith (Cat. 2) hit the south east coast on September 26-27 with winds of 160 kph
• 1955: Katie (Cat. 1) hit the south west coast on October 16 with winds of 125 kph
• 1930: San Zenon (Cat. 4-5) hit Sant Domingo on September 3
WHEN A HURRICANE HITS :
If you are a tourist and you get accustomed to a hurricane, you will be in good hands at your resort or hotel. Most of the resorts have been built to sustain hurricanes and the management regularly go through "hurricane drills" in order to keep the staff updated on safety procedures, evacuation plans, etc.
As a hotel guest, if is important that you keep in touch with the staff and follow whatever guidelines and regulations they set forth before, during and after the hurricane. There is no reason to play with the forces of Mother Nature, so do avoid all unnecessary walking outdoors and if you do move about, avoid elevators as power failures may occur.
Stay inside your room and keep away from windows and doors. If the hurricane is severe, you should take cover inside a smaller room within the hotel room, eg the bathroom or in a closet, until the storm has passed.
Keep in mind, though, that a break in the storm may not signify that it has passed and that it is safe to go outside again. It might just be the eye of the hurricane that is passing. Remember that inside the eye of the hurricane, the weather may be completely calm with no wind, no rain and clear skies.
Apart from taking cover, it is important to follow the weather news on the radio, television or Internet – if possible. You should also get in touch with your family at home so they know that you are all right and what is going on. Remember, they might be watching the hurricane on the news as well.
Flights and other means of transportation will, of course, be canceled if a hurricane is nearby. If this is the case and you can not fly home, then it is the airline's responsibility to re-book you on another flight in order for you to travel as soon as the weather allows it and without any additional charges.
All resorts and hotels in the Dominican Republic include a "force majeure" clause in their contracts with travel agents, etc., which exempts them from any responsibility (and extra charges) in case of a natural disaster such as a hurricane. This means that if you need to extend your vacation, you will most certainly be paying for the extra nights out of your own pocket.
Check if you are covered by your travel insurance. However, most insurance companies only cover additional expenses in case the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues a mandatory evacuation for its citizens that are on vacation where the hurricane hits.