“A sailor chooses the wind that takes the ship from a safe port. Ah, yes, but once you’re abroad, as you have seen, winds have a mind of their own. Be careful, Charlotte, careful of the wind you choose.”
― Avi, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
The Papagayo winds shriek across Nicaragua blanketing everything in dust in the dry season, especially in January and February. Often, the hurricane force winds topple trees, rattle tin roofs, capsize pangas and halt ferries and small boats coming from and going to Ometepe Island due to the high waves in Lake Nicaragua.
The often hurricane-strength winds happen when cold air from the North American winter moves south over the Gulf of Mexico. The air, drawn toward the warmer, moist atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean, is channeled through a gap in the Central American Cordillera Mountains and through Nicaragua’s Lake district. (NASA, Earth Observatory)
This year, the Papagayo winds have collided with the weather condition known as Madden and Julian Oscillation (MJO). The MJO is simply a strong coupling with the surface (usually the Pacific Ocean) and the upper atmosphere in tropical regions.
José Milán from the Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER) reports that the strong winds that accompany the MJO will last 60 days and will cover the whole width of the country. Other than being annoying, the phenomenon can cause serious damage to soils by removing valuable moisture acquired during the rainy season. The MJO affects Nicaragua on a regular basis and the last time was in December 2012 and January 2013.(INETER)
This January, the strong winds have affected us in many ways. Transportation to and from Ometepe was stopped for several days throughout January. That means no supplies come to Ometepe, people are stranded either on the island or on the mainland, and the fishermen cannot fish because the waves resemble ocean waves.
In February 2013 after the Fuego y Agua Ultramarathon races, the dock turned into a refugee camp with racers, tourists, and locals camped out on the dock until the ferries received the OK to go ahead. Moyogalpa ran out of food, water, and motel rooms. The racers slept in their rental cars, frantically changed their airline reservations, and partied for 24 hours on the dock.
A small panga boat overturned near San Jorge on Wednesday night. A group of four workers from the Ministry of Health were transporting medicine, hospital equipment, and laboratory equipment to Ometepe Island. They lost $19,000 worth of drugs and equipment in the lake. They were all rescued close to the shore in San Jorge.
Something sounds really fishy about this story. First, why risk taking a panga ( very small boat) across the lake on a very windy night? Second, it wasn’t an emergency, so why didn’t they wait until the next morning when the ferries were operating?
As for us, the wind destroyed our Pera Tree When Great Trees Fall. What was left of our tree, sadly fell last week in a gust of hurricane force winds. Ron trimmed the branches close to the trunk, and it will now be 2-3 years before we have Pera fruits again.
I’m swabbing the inside of my nose with coconut oil, as well as sneezing constantly. I have diagnosed myself with ventosoungunya. It is called the windy disease. Symptoms are heavily packed boogers that clog your respiratory passage, constant sneezing, and obsessive cleaning.
Ron helped me screen the back door, where most of the wind blows into the house from the south. My hot glue gun came in really handy. We glued the screen to the metal door. Now all we have to do is keep the dirt watered daily. I often wondered why I would see people watering the dirt around their homes during the dry season. It makes perfect sense to me, now.