Matthew was so large that it covered Haiti completely
By Gregor Hodgson, PhD Executive Director, Reef Check
By September 30th, NOAA models indicated that Hurricane Matthew would likely bash the western end of Haiti where six Reef Check staff are based in the city of Les Cayes. With measured wind speeds of 164 mph (264 kph), Matthew briefly reached Category 5 status, and was the most powerful hurricane in the Caribbean since Hurricane Felix in 2007. On October 2, I requested all our staff to evacuate to the capital Port Au Prince. Despite the efforts of Haiti Civil Defense to warn people, it has been 50 years since a storm this intense has hit western Haiti so there was no memory of how bad this could be. Many people also fear losing their possessions if they leave their homes, so few evacuated. But with predictions of up to 40 inches (101 cm) of rain, 40 foot (12 m) swells, and an 11 ft (3.3 m) storm surge, this was a big mistake for coastal dwellers.
The hurricane was so large and slow moving that it rained heavily for 24 hours before the eye hit Les Anglais (west of Les Cayes) at 6 am local time on October 4. This caused rivers to flood, bridges to be destroyed, and by then all communications were already down for the entire western end of Haiti.
Matthew moved slowly, and almost directly north across the southern peninsula with the eye passing out to sea near BonBon, a fishing village where Reef Check works, and located west of the city of Jeremie. Heavy rain and hurricane force winds (145 mph) continued for more than 36 hours. The Laguerre family is one we work with near Jeremie. Because their house was only 50 m from the sea we urged them by text to evacuate. Unfortunately, they waited until their roof started to lift off at about 6 pm, so that they were forced to run in the dark, repeatedly being knocked down and rolled by 90 mph winds until they reached a relative's house on higher ground. Luckily, they were not injured by flying debris such as steel roofing sheets and coconut trees.
|Our student Diana and family now live at a school next to their former home|
|The tops were ripped off most trees…||Floods…|
|Homes, schools, hotels destroyed||All that is left of Reposoir hotel, P. Salut||Flying sheet metal ripped off roofs…|
|See through restaurant, Pt Sable||Boats were destroyed||RC SUV hit by flying tree inside carport|
|Lots of debris… Photo: P. Laguerre||After Matthew, rivers deliver a lot of mud to the sea and reefs||Camping out… Photo: P. Laguerre|