Hurricane Matthew Effects on Bonaire

By: Sara Buckley & Martijn Koot

The edge of Hurricane Matthew brushed Bonaire the 29th of September bringing large amounts of rainfall, heavy winds and most of all big waves on our windward and leeward coasts. Hurricanes are often a rarity in the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao) and are usually devastating to these low-lying islands. Thankfully, Matthew only brushed our coast and little to no damage was experienced by most of Bonaire’s residents. Bonaire experienced a wind reversal, which brought the heavy winds to the leeward side of island. The normally messy and choppy eastern coast was eerily clean with waves ranging from 10 to 15 feet. Some local surfers including our very own Laboratory Intern, Martijn Koot, took advantage of the swell and were out surfing these massive waves.

Photo credit: Sara Buckley

The effects of Matthew were seen well into the next week on Bonaire. The wind may have switched back to its normal windward direction but swells coming from the storm were pounding the leeward side of the island. The Southern and Northern coast that was not blocked by Klein Bonaire (Little Bonaire), were being hit with unusually large waves. Dive shops, residents and other local businesses along the waterfront were being inundated with these waves. In some areas the ocean was rushing through the people’s yards onto the streets.

Photo credit: Communicate Openbaar Lichaam Bonaire

Photo credit: Communicate Openbaar Lichaam Bonaire

The damage of the storm on the coral reefs was assessed by STINAPA, the local marine park, on eighteen different sites around the island (STINAPA). The effects were mostly seen above 10 meters on the reefs (STINAPA). Fire coral, sponges, Elkhorn and Staghorn corals were the most severely effected by Matthew (STINAPA). Some reefs were hit harder than others and are still suffering from the impact of the storm but the damage is considerably less than the last two hurricanes, Lenny (1999) and Omar (2008), that hit Bonaire (STINAPA). The reefs will hopefully make a full recovery but we will most likely be seeing Matthew’s effects on Bonaire’s reefs for a while.

Photo credit: STINAPA

Photo credit: STINAPA

Works Cited:

“Inventory Damage of the Reefs of Bonaire after Matthew.” Facebook. STINAPA, 12 Oct. 2016. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.  

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