Three months after Hurricane David smashed through the Caribbean, it's business as usual for most of the resort islands in this tropical sea.
Most tourist facilities that suffered wind or water damage have been repaired and refurbished -- or will be by the time the winter season begins. Beaches eroded by the storm have been replenished and most of the fallen trees and other debris cleaned up.
In some cases, the refurbishing necessitated by the hurricane has prompted broader renovations on the part of hotels, and some of them actually are in much better condition now than before the hurricane struck.
After a slow autumn, tourists are once again back on these palm-dotted beaches, sipping rum drinks and relaxing in the low-key lifestyle that is one of the region's attractions. And happy tourism officials, whose spirits were as low as occupancy rates in autumn, now are forecasting a banner winter season for the Caribbean.
Only on one island -- rugged Dominica, which took the full brunt of mighty Hurricane David -- is the coming season considered a washout. Still reeling from the tremendous devastation wrought by the hurricane, Dominica has only two hotels open and less than 100 telephones in operation.
But elsewhere in the Caribbean, the welcome mat is out for winter tourists. "We're ready," declared Victor Cabal, head of the Office of Tourism for the Dominican Republic, whose capital, Santo Domingo, was heavily damaged by the storm.
Here is a rundown on how some of the islands hit by Hurricane David and later by Hurricane Frederic have recovered, based on interviews with tourism representatives and -- in the cases of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico -- on my personal observation. (On many islands, damage to crops and homes has been extensive, but since this does not affect tourists or tourism, it has not been considered in the following roundup.) Dominican Republic
"When I looked around after the hurricane," says Alvaro Rodriguez, general manager of the Santo Domingo Hotel, "I thought we'd never get back."
A lot of others who surveyed the damage wrought by the hurricane here thought so, too, at first. Many of Santo Domingo's huge shade trees were uprooted. Power and telephone lines were strewn everywhere. Hotels had scores of windows broken and water had soaked into carpets, drapes, bedding and walls. Debris from damaged buildings and foliage littered the streets and sidewalks. There was no electrical power, no water, few working telephones.
But Santo Domingo went to work cleaning up, and today tourists will find few reminders of the worst hurricane to hit Santo Domingo since 1930.
Most of the hotels have completed, or are close to completing, repairs and renovations. The Santo Domingo Hotel, for instance, has completely repainted the hotel, has installed new carpeting, drapes and wallpaper in three-quarters of the hotel and is just putting up the last strips of new wallpaper in a couple of hallways. The 112 guest rooms that were wrecked when flying roof tiles smashed windows and allowed the wind and rain to enter them are all back in service, better furnished than ever.
Similarly, the Sheraton's 96 damaged rooms have all been repaired and refurbished. The Embajador had completed work on all of its guest areas and needs only to finish recarpeting some of its damaged offices.
Only at the Plaza Dominicana, the hardest hit hotel in Santo Domingo, is there extensive work left to complete. But even here, general manager John Callahan expects to have renovation of the heavily damaged sixth and seventh floors completed before the year's end, along with most of the tennis courts. The hotel has been repainted, the damaged coffee shop completely refinished, and work is starting on the gutted top-floor night club.
None of the great historical monuments in the city were damaged, but many of the huge shade trees that line Santo Domingo's streets came down, dragging with them utility lines and complicating the recovery work. (Codatel, the local General Telephone subsidiary, flew in 106 linemen recently for a month's stay in order to speed repair work, which it was expecting to complete by Dec. 15).
Some of the stumps of downed trees still remain where they fell, jagged blocks of sidewalk testifying to the force of their upheaval. One short street, Dr. Baez, is notable for the number of the stumps and downed utility lines.
On the waterfront, most of the debris has been cleaned up, but the stylized concrete benches that lined the waterfront boulevard or malecon from the city all the way to the airport have mostly disappeared. Enormous waves battered them apart and hurled them into walls and buildings across the street. The foreign ministry, for instance, is just rebuilding its malecon -- front rock wall; the Jaragua Hotel's iron fence was swept away. Puerto Rico
Though Puerto Rico suffered very little damage from the hurricanes, some cautious visitors cancelled autumn trips there anyway. But they are back again in numbers now; reservations at major Condado hotels in recent weeks were difficult to get.
In the San Juan area, water damage again was the chief problem. The Caribe Hilton had some water damage caused by broken windows in its tower building, long since repaired, and the Condado Holiday Inn lost the metal undersheathing of its plastic-covered aerial passageway over Ashford Avenue. Some trees went down, and one beach had slight erosion, also since restored. That's about the extent of the hurricane's effects in San Juan.
In the interior of the island and on the west and south coasts, more damage occurred. Heavy rains from Hurricane Frederic, for instance, caused landslides in popular El Yunque tropical rain forest in the mountains. Many stands of bamboo were cracked by David's winds and a number of trees uprooted.
At Rincon, on the west coast, the storm stole away the beach at the Villa Cofresi Hotel, smashed its fencing, destroyed some plantings and clogged its pool with sand. But when I visited the hotel the beach was restored, new fencing was just being completed, the pool was filled with water and the hotel was operating normally.
Other damage on the west and south coasts included the temporary muddying of famed Phosphorescent Bay, damage to the mangrove and offshore coral reefs at Parguera and beach erosion at Bahia Salinas. At popular Luquillo Beach east of San Juan, the only damage was the downing of a few coconut trees at the point. Sint Maarten
It was Hurricane Frederic's heavy rainfall that caused the most damage to this half-Dutch, half-French island.
Mullet Bay Hotel, whose 580 rooms make it the biggest on the island, had to close for more than a month while it repaired extensive water damage to guest rooms and loss of its main power line. Mullet Bay reopened Nov. 1 and recently reported more than 90 percent occupancy. Only one apartment building with 10 units had not yet reopened, and the new pool deck was being completed, according to general manager Gunter Muller.
Little Bay Beach Hotel had some room damage and lost its beach to the hurricanes, but new sand was trucked in and the beach reopened Oct. 1. It is now 80 percent back to normal, according to general manager Bob Dubourcq, and the rooms have been renovated. Great Bay Hotel's water-damaged rooms and the Caravanserai Hotel's destroyed snack bar also have since been rebuilt.
Philipsburg, the capital city, was partially flooded when the salt pond overflowed onto Back Street, but special pumps flown in from Holland conquered that problem.
Oddly, two Sint Maarten beaches actually grew in size because of the hurricanes. La Samanna's beach, on the French (St. Martin) half of the island, gained some new sand; the Concorde Hotel's strand tripled. French West Indies
Beaches in Guadeloupe and Martinique suffered some erosion, but new sand was brought in by the French army. In Guadeloupe, the Gosier beaches were affected; in Martinique, Pointe du Bout. Both are now back to normal, according to Myron Clement, a spokesman for the French West Indies. The Plantation de Leyritz in northern Martinique suffered some damage and still is undergoing repair. U.S. Virgin Islands
Little lasting damage was sustained in any of the islands. In St. Thomas, the damaged Villa Olga Diving Club is being repaired and expanded. tFrenchman's Reef lost some of its beach and tennis courts, which have since been restored. Opening day for the new Mahogany Run golf course, the first 18-hole spread on St. Thomas, has been delayed to perhaps the end of January. Originally programmed to open in December, the course had just been seeded when the hurricanes struck. New grass had to be planted. St. Croix was hit harder by the hurricanes, according to Virgin Islands spokesman Alan Bell, and two hotels were forced to close for a while. Both the St. Croix-by-the-Sea Hotel and Gentle Winds Hotel have been reopened. Beach erosion occured in a few spots, but not at Buck Island, which has St. Croix's best beach, Bell said. In Frederiksted, the damaged cruise ship pier was repaired within a week. Dominica
With fewer than 150 hotel rooms on the island, Dominica never was a heavily visited island. But at last reports, only two of its 10 hotels were open and fewer than 100 of its telephones operative.
Audrey Palmer-Hawkes, executive director of the Caribbean Tourist Association, said Dominica's winter season will be written off.