Hurricane Maria watch: real-time weather


pinterest real time weatherThe news that Maria has strengthened from category 1 to category 5 hit like a gut punch. Learning this update at dinner last night stopped all conversation, then brought on questions: how does this happen in only half a day? Has it ever? Dreaded already for the track this storm is forecast to trace near Irma’s fresh path, prospects for Maria’s impact now feel unbearably worse.

While we waited for news of Irma from a safe perch in St Lucia I summarized the tools for hurricane season weather forecasts that we use most on Totem. Not two weeks later it’s happening again, unbelievable as it feels to watch another major hurricane cut a path through Caribbean islands.

These are the resources we look to for real-time data observations of conditions. It is difficult not to obsessively watch for updates, hoping for news that the friends and islands we care about can catch a break, that a wobble can mean a lower impact on lives and homes and infrastructure.

What’s the wind doing?

WindAlert has real time wind observations from land and marine stations. Jamie was up into the night watching these until Irma took them out. This little station in Martinique shows wind as Maria passed by overnight—that wobble to the north sparing Martinique.

WindAlert wind Maria caribbean

Airport weather stations are another good source, like the one on Guadeloupe via WindFinder.

Windfinder airport weather station

What’s the system doing?

Radar gives us a good look at the size and scale of the active system. Accuweather is usually one of the tabs open to feed us updates. This was the view that greeted me this morning, no good news for Dominica.

Accuweather radar Maria caribbean

What are the boats doing?

A good way to tell what’s happening on the water is to check sites that show live AIS reports, like MarineTraffic. Commercial vessels transponding by satellite will show traffic patterns beyond the land-based stations that the Class B vessels like us (only picked up on coastal repeaters) reflect. And at times like this, it’s a big ol hole where the system is – and boats running away from the path.

MarineTraffic AIS Maria caribbean

In a way, live updates are like watching a slow-motion train wreck that is another hurricane tracing across the Caribbean. Emotions on edge, updates like the cat 5 upgrade and eye tracking over Dominica push me to tears.

The wobble north last night spared the many, many boats that cluster in Martinique but it nailed Dominica, just to the north. Our favorite island stop in the Caribbean thus far, it is also one of the poorest in the Caribbean. Yet after hurricane Irma, Dominica donated US$200,000 in aid to the USVI, and sent additional containers of supplies for relief: this island that has so little to give, giving anyway, to those in their island community who needed them. Hopefully this generosity will be reflected back to them, as they will surely need it.

Looking across Prince Rupert Bay at Portsmouth, Dominica
Looking across Prince Rupert Bay at Portsmouth, Dominica

I think about our brief visit in Dominica last month, and know that the forest where we walked with ghosts in the ruins of a fort is no longer the leafy path.


I look at a card given tor us by a man in Portsmouth; he had paddled out to Totem and traded fruit for clothes and food. I look at the seed bracelets I wear and think about Joanai, another Portsmouth resident who made these, and hope he has not suffered.


On Totem, last night was a slumber party as our kids soak up all the time they can with their good friends. In the tangle of bodies on the main cabin sole I know there’s comfort in that proximity, as we all watch and wait.

A hike with friends: guided by Fatty Goodlander from Mt Hartman Bay to Clarke's Court
A hike with friends: guided by Fatty Goodlander from Mt Hartman Bay to Clarke’s Court
Old friends, new friends: a dinghy full of cruising teens
Old friends, new friends: a dinghy full of cruising teens

9 Responses

  1. Thanks again for the insight into your life afloat. Our hearts go out to all those that have suffered and are suffering still.

    We are still trying to recover from the devastating floods left in the wake of Harvey. My brother lost his house. The last several weeks have been spent rehabbing an old two room house on Galveston Bay. Last night I slept on the floor again and was grateful for a place to rest. Now it is time to get back to work. When I finish here, then I get to repair my boat.

  2. Unfortunately, our catamaran, S/V Big Papa Lulu, took a direct impact by Irma’s eye when she passed over Virgin Gorda. She was tied on the hard at VGYH but managed to fly about 50 yards and was totaled, the cabin and cockpit crushed underneath her overturned hull. The BVI has more important things to worry about than our boat right now and we grieve heavily for our boat and those impacted without home or possessions. Hard to see another Cat 5 hitting again in this area. Hope for those in this storm’s path.

    1. I’m so sorry, Allen. The enormity of what happened a testament to the ferocity of Irma. I hope your recovery is not difficult – we too have heavy hearts for folks who have been hard hit by these storms.

  3. Always such an interesting perspective, but especially for something like this Hurricane season. Hoping for your continued safety and for the safety of your friends.

  4. I was thinking this late fall to go sailing on BVI, but after all this I just hope people there get back on their feet as soon as possible. I’m just reading stories on sailing blogs and it’s really hard to imagine the power of those hurricanes.

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