While the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico experience some of the effects of the Atlantic hurricane season (June to November), the effects vary. Thankfully, over the past several decades, loss of life and infrastructure damage that posed any critical problems to commerce (i.e. shipping to Puerto Rico and Dominican shipping) has been rare. That being said, Tropical Storms in these two areas are a constant potential threat.
Tropical storms are defined as being well-organized storms with an eye that has maximum sustained wind speeds ranging between 39-73 mph. While the primary effects of Tropical storms have included some flooding, mudslides, coastal erosion, saltwater infiltration into freshwater, and wind damage, the damage is often in less populated areas. In the Dominican Republic, most tropical storms have impacted less populated areas on the western and southwestern coasts of the country. In fact, the capital city, Santo Domingo, has been directly hit by just three storms since 1930.
Two of those storms hit the Dominican Republic at the end of 2007 and left thousands of families homeless. The storms also damaged crops and destroyed roads, bridges, and important electricity infrastructure and irrigation systems. The World Bank stepped in with an $80 billion loan for repairs and future mitigation efforts.
Additionally, there have been several hurricanes that did considerable damage to Puerto Rico. Hurricane George and Hurricane Jeanne (1998 and 2014 respectively) hit Puerto Rico with 70 mph winds and rainfall in some areas of nearly 24 inches. Widespread flooding, landslides, and crop damage were coupled with severe power outages and no water with total damage totaling $169.5 million and eight deaths.
Despite these serious challenges from more severe hurricanes, tropical storms have had limited impact on major tourists areas, cities and commerce centers. In terms of infrastructure, primary roads have seen only limited and temporary closures that had little effect on overall travel and commerce in highly populated regions. Shipping to Puerto Rico and Dominican shipping have not been disrupted to any serious degree other than potential sea course changes.
As highly tourist-oriented locales, both areas have strong protocols for dealing with tropical storms. For example, hotels and businesses are well-versed in hurricane preparedness. The worst problems in densely populated areas have come from downed telephone lines and short-term communication loss.
This is not to say that tropical storms have not impacted people in these two areas of the greater Caribbean region. Some, like Tropical Storm Cristobal, which became a hurricane-level event, dumped torrential rain on the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands and Dominican Republic triggering flooding and killing four people.
In 2008, Gustav hit Hispaniola (the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti) with 60 mph winds resulting in 81 deaths, which were mostly due to mudslides, flash floods, and falling trees and debris. In addition, Punta Cana has been known to face severe tropical storms, seeing an average of about 40 inches of rainfall each year.
The 2014 Atlantic Storm Season has been comparatively mild. Tropical storm Gabrielle was the seventh Atlantic tropical cyclone this season. Tropical Storm Bertha in August led to some temporary family evacuations due to overflowing rivers as it produced over 10 inches of rain in some areas of Puerto Rico.
Almost all of the locales in the region rely nearly 100-percent on goods and materials delivered from the U.S. Consequently, container shipping companies that ship to Puerto Rico as well as those that specialize in shipping to the Dominican Republic are vital to the economy.
On the open water in the Atlantic region, tropical storm tracks and progress are clobsely watched and monitored. While tropical storm course changes and intensity level can occasionally be quick, the proven method of tracking them ensures that commerce via shipping is never severely impacted. In fact, they only occasionally result in need for changes that impact routes and prescribed arrival/departure times.