Keith's Panamanian Travel Ramble

The wanderings of Andrea and Keith around Panama

A Hurricane in Panama?

Here in Los Altos de Cerro Azul, our weather is spectacular and largely unpredictable. You never know what it will be or for how long. Sunny, cloudy, windy, rainy and everything in between (except snow) is routinely experienced. We are at 750 meters elevation in the Chagress National Park which forms a large part of the Panama Canal watershed.

Without a heavy rainy season, the Canal is in jeopardy. As late as last season weight restrictions were imposed on ships as a result of low water levels in the Canal towards the end of the dry season.

Normal weather here during the rainy season involves short intense rainfall followed by sun but recently we had about 6 days of solid high volume rain along with some medium intensity winds. Trees were down in several places which often cause power outages. We were without power for 54 hours with the only concern being for food in the refrigerator and freezer. With the help of some bags of ice and a couple of camping coolers, we were able to weather the storm. We live in a house with a steel roof. During the heavy rains, the noise was so great that you could not talk or even yell… sometimes a benefit!

2016-JKH-Panama Trip


2016-JKH-Panama Trip2016-JKH-Panama Trip

Once we got our power back, a little investigation showed that very unusual weather had occurred. Hurricane Otto, did not actually touch Panama but headed across the Caribbean for Costa Rica where it killed at least nine people and to Nicaragua that reported no deaths. Panama, although not directly hit by Otto, was subject to intense rainfall, which caused three deaths due to mudslides and trees falling in the Colon area. The dams on Lake Gatun released water to protect the Canal from flooding. This is positive because it means that the lake was full and would sustain a full season of Canal operations. Here is a video of the water release from one of the dams. The amount of water is amazing but then the scale of this operation needs to be considered. 52 million gallons (26 million at each end) of fresh water is released from Lake Gatun into the oceans for each transit.  Let’s see.  The average number of ships transiting the Canal per day is 40 and the dry season lasts from December through April.  You figure it out. I’m retired!

A Google visit tells me that the only known Hurricane to actually hit Panama was Hurricane Martha in 1969. Panama is south of the normal hurricane/tropical storm trail.

Here are a few photos of the weather. It was good to see the sun again.

2016-JKH-Panama Trip

2016-JKH-Panama Trip

2016-JKH-Panama Trip

2016-JKH-Panama Trip

2016-JKH-Panama Trip





7 Responses to “A Hurricane in Panama?”

  1. ParkSchimp

    Hi Keith,

    Thanks for the great write up on an unusual storm at Los Altos del Cerro Azul. My wife and I visited Panama about 15 years ago. We were both in real estate careers at that time. So when we visit new territory we like to rent a car and see everything! We drove from Panama City up to David, Boquete, Volcan, then across the mountains to Bocas del Toro. We loved all of it, but we often wish we had seen Los Altos del Cerro Azul as we feel that type of terrain is what we like for living accommodations. We have a home on top of a hill at 700 meters in Georgia, about a two hour drive north of Atlanta, Georgia. We are in the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains, and we love it. Rain can always be an unforgiving weather characteristic, but if you live up like we do and you do, too much is better than too little. We had a drought season this Fall for the second time in the last 10 years. Fortunately, we had no fire scares, but we were close enough to fires that we had a lot of very smoky days.

    Your pictures of Los Altos del Cerro Azul are wonderful, thank you. If we ever get down there again, we will be sure to see your area.

    Cheers, Park and Nancy Schimp

  2. ParkSchimp

    Hi Keith,

    I wrote to you recently about your pictures of Los Altos de Cerro Azul, but these pics of the English class kids are really special to my wife and me. I am retired, but my wife is a children’s therapist and works overseas at our military bases. Since we now have an “all volunteer” military, there are lots of American families and lots of American children in Europe and elsewhere. I will be sure to pass your story and pics of Nelva’s school along to my wife, Nancy. We are in southern Spain right now, and her Spanish is getting better! Maybe I can talk her into visiting Panama again. Hast Luego! Park

    • Keith

      Hi Park,
      I’m glad you like the material. Please feel free to pass a link to the blog to anyone you like. The more the merrier! Have a great Christmas.


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