Gonzalo proved St. Martin storm proofing efforts are on trackPOSTED: 10/22/14 9:36 PM
GRAND CASE—Hurricane Gonzalo is being viewed as a test that proved that St. Martin’s efforts at storm proofing are on track, according to president of the St. Martin Tourism Office Jeanne Vanterpool, who said that St. Martin is open for business post Gonzalo.
She and other tourism officials visited cruise ships coming into port on Saturday to assure officials that the island was indeed open for business. “We have put everything into getting the island back up and running as quickly as possible because we are conscious of just how important it is not to disappoint our guests who have looked forward to their vacations. We are working diligently to make sure that we will not disappoint. Although the island might look a little bare because most of the trees have lost their leaves, the beaches are clean, the attractions are up and running and our hotels are open. We are not at 100 percent but we will be in the next week and by then even the trees will be recovering their leaves. We are definitely open for business. Gonzalo was a perfect test to prove that our efforts to storm proof our infrastructure is on track. All of the stake holders in the sector should be congratulated for the work that they’ve done,” she said.
Damage to utilities such as water and electricity on that side of the island has been minimal since much of that infrastructure is under ground and there were few reports of loss of either service. Telephone landlines did suffer, however, since much of France Telecom’s infrastructure is still above ground. Crews have been out repairing damage to the lines and poles since Tuesday. Cell phone operators have said that there was no interruption of service and all cable networks remained on even during the height of the storm.
None of the hotels on the French side reported any structural damage. Complaints centered on minor water damage which was quickly taken care of. All hotels that are not under renovation are said to be operational and insurance inspectors are assessing all of the structures. Hotels that closed for the summer for renovations have said that work is continuing and that everything is on schedule for reopening in November for the High Season.
The Tourism Office in conjunction with the restaurant association is currently doing an assessment of all the restaurants on the island. Most of these structures are expected to be back in operation within the next week except for restaurants along the beaches such as Orient Bay where most of the temporary structures were destroyed. Clean-up and rebuilding in the areas most affected has already begun, in some cases, with an eye to getting everything operational by November for the tourist season.
Most of the island’s tourist attractions are back up and running. Marinas are in the process of evaluating their capacity to host yachts and other pleasure crafts in preparation for fishing and other marine sports enthusiasts. Vanterpool has assured the cruise sector that the island is ready to host visitors.
Early Tuesday, government officials were already on the ground assessing the damage and work to be done to get the island up and running. Both Juliana International Airport and Esperance Regional Airport were opened for both inbound and outbound flights on Tuesday October 14th. The hurricane left very little structural damage to buildings with some roof damage and windows blown out in a few instances at private homes. Most of the damage reported were incidents of flooding in low lying areas and water seepage under doors and windows due to high winds forcing water through shutters. Much of this was reported to be well on its way to being cleaned up by Thursday. The island’s vegetation suffered the brunt of the hurricanes effects with downed trees, broken limbs and loss of leaves throughout. Work to remove debris from along the major roadsides continued into Thursday and is expected to continue along secondary roads and lanes over the next week.
The Saint-Martin Tourist Office is congratulating the public services on their quick response in getting the island and its services back up and running in the aftermath of hurricane Gonzalo which struck the island on Monday, October 13.