Dean’s Death Toll And Damages Starting To Pick Up

Good morning. Well, we finally have Dean out of our hair as it was downgraded to a tropical depression late Wednesday night, but the amount of death and devastation from the storm is just beginning to be realized. As of Thursday morning, the number of dead from Hurricane Dean had risen to twenty throughout the Caribbean including nine in Haiti, six in the Dominican Republic, two in Dominica, two in Jamaica, and one in St. Lucia. Reports from Mexico on the number dead, missing, or injured there is yet to come. There was still not enough information, however, on how the storm hit the indigenous populations of the Yucatan, which raised fears that many could be dead.

Let’s not forget the fact that just because Dean has been downgraded, and the last advisory was issued, it doesn’t mean that more casualties and damage could come. The remnants of Dean can still pack a powerful punch. The tropical moisture from the former Category Five Hurricane is presently interacting with the very high and rugged terrain of the Sierra Madre, which is resulting in torrential downpours, flooding, and mudslides. In addition, the interior regions of Mexico including the capital, Mexico City, is more densely populated. So, more problems could occur. In the meantime though, initial damage estimates made on Wednesday had the third most powerful Atlantic Hurricane to ever make landfall causing some $1.5 billion in damage. Since then, later assessments computed an estimate of nearly $2 billion.

Among some of the damage from the areas affected by Dean were: Mexico’s oil fields maintained by that nation’s oil company, PEMEX, which are located in the Bay of Campeche region of the Gulf of Mexico, and an aluminum plant in Jamaica that is run by Pittsburgh based Alcoa, one of the largest aluminum making companies in the world. In a flat world now driven by a global economy, these developments aren’t good news for markets that have been reeling as of late. Nevertheless, the damage could have been much worse, but Dean veered south of the major tourist areas of Cancun and Cozumel in the Yucatan Peninsula. Those areas have been hit hard in the past by very powerful hurricanes including Hurricane Gilbert in September 1988 and Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Wilma, the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, ended up causing some $3 billion to the hotel and tourism industry in Cancun and Cozumel.

Fortunately for the United States, this storm stayed well to the south of any coastal areas along the Gulf Coast, which are still trying to pick up the pieces after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and Hurricane Rita in September 2005. Consequently, there were no damages or deaths in the U.S. attributed to Dean. However, the peak of the 2007 Atlantic Hurricane Season is upon us, and while there are no other immediate threats in the basin, things can expect to pick up again, especially with forecasts calling for an above average season.