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  Mar 23, 2017.    

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Cozumel 10 Years On: Greater Than Ever

Cozumel greater than ever

Ten years ago today, Wilma, the largest recorded Atlantic hurricane, arrived to Cozumel and stayed for over 60 hours. A decade later, we look at the devastation she caused and the island's miraculous recovery since.

A tropical depression formed in the Caribbean Sea south-west of Jamaica on October 15, 2005. It grew and started heading north-west towards Cozumel, moving very slowly, gathering strength and soon becoming the hurricane known as Wilma.

Wilmas hits Cozumel

On October 20 she reached category 5 with winds of over 155mph (250kmh), before weakening just a little but still hitting the island with her full might on the evening of October 21.

Not only did the strength of the winds damage Cozumel, but also the fact that she sat on top of the island for so long. She was yet another visitor to the island that simply didn't want to leave.

Cars crushed by falling posts and flying objects

Islanders are well-prepared for hurricanes and took cover as authorities warned of her approach. The vast majority of tourists were evacuated and those that chose to stay were shown to safe shelters.

Cozumel Wilma damage

The island itself was devastated. Trees, power lines and cell phone towers were blown over, cars over-turned, piers washed away, windows on oceanfront properties smashed, and barely a leaf was left on a tree. In some places the coast line literally changed shape overnight, roads collapsed, new rivers appeared and the map of Cozumel had to be redrawn.

Cozumel hurricane clean-up

To really understand what happened, take a look at this brilliant 22 minute video by island photographer and videographer Edgar Mendoza, which he has kindly decided to share on YouTube to mark today's anniversary.

Cozumel ferries

Islanders Stand Strong

Surely Wilma would have a catastrophic long-term effect on tourism and the island's economy?

Not so. The island and its people were still standing strong and more determined than ever to fight back.

Cozumel hurricane recovery

Within minutes of the storm leaving the island, locals were out checking on neighbors, clearing streets of fallen trees with bare hands, brooms and machetes, sweeping seaweed from the roads up to 5 or 6 blocks back from the oceanfront, helping each other with clean water from wells, drying out sodden shops and merchandise, and preparing for the return of tourists.

Free ferries ran between the island and the mainland. Mexican military helicopters and soldiers came to help. Authorities quickly distributed packs of clothes and food to those in need. Islanders that were left homeless were housed and wonderful people from outside of the island sent donations of needed supplies.

Cozumel tourism returns

Many shops, bars and restaurants re-opened within days and, although some piers took months or years to fully repair, cruise ships returned to Cozumel just 3 weeks later, using ferries to tender passengers ashore. The island was ready and waiting and gave them the warmest and most emotional welcome imaginable.

¡Viva Cozumel!

Jump forward now to 2015 and few reminders remain of Hurricane Wilma. Passenger numbers at Cozumel airport are higher than ever, new hotels have opened, the downtown plaza has been completely remodeled, the island's largest cruise terminal has expanded and record numbers of cruise tourists have visited the island this year.

Tourism in Cozumel is thriving and more visitors enjoy the island now than ever before.

Cozumel tourism thriving

Although Wilma was a devastating event that will stay in the island's collective memory forever, it gave an amazing opportunity for Cozumel to rebuild even better than before. The incredible speed of recovery on the island and the long-term improvements are testimony to the will and spirit of the local people. ¡Que viva Cozumel!

On a more personal note, if it wasn't for Wilma this website would not exist. Originally called wilmacozumel.com, this site was set up just days after Wilma to provide reliable, balanced, independent information about Cozumel's recovery after the storm had departed.

Today, we're delighted to still offer free news and information about Cozumel and to have expanded into a successful tour and activity business. Since Wilma, we've arranged activities for tens of thousands of visitors to island and we have ambitious plans to continue to grow.

We hope to welcome you to our precious island soon and stay tuned for a year of exciting developments at This is Cozumel, as we celebrate our 10th birthday!

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