SANTO DOMINGO – The Dominican Republic dodged a major bullet when Hurricane Irma made a shift to the northwest this week after battering the northernmost Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico as a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane.
That movement away from the Caribbean nation’s Atlantic coastline meant that the powerful hurricane caused less damage than expected and no casualties.
Authorities were still monitoring some areas closely due to the possibility of flooding, but rain was expected to continue to lessen as Irma’s outermost bands move away from Hispaniola.
Because Irma’s eye was well off the coast, the highest wind speeds in the Dominican Republic – 112 km/h (69.5 mph) in Samana province – were shy of hurricane strength, a spokesman for the National Meteorological Office told EFE on Friday.
The hurricane, which forced 24,116 people to evacuate, caused the collapse of an old bridge that had linked Ouanaminthe, Haiti, with the northwestern Dominican province of Dajabon.
Some areas of the northern provinces of Santiago, Puerto Plata, Maria Trinidad Sanchez and Samana suffered flooding, while hundreds of flimsily built homes were severely damaged.
One power distributor, Edesur Dominicana, said on Thursday that 34,569 customers had been left without electricity, while another, Edenorte Dominicana, said on Friday that power had been restored to most of the 471,982 customers who had lost service.
The national tourism industry, the lifeblood of the country’s economy, did not suffer damage and was operating normally on Friday, Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia said.
Commercial air service also was returning to normal on Friday.
Although schools and universities remained closed on Friday, most employees in both the public and private sectors were back to work.