Kurt Ruan puts Hurricane Irma in perspective for St Maarten, describing the destruction it left behind

Paul Marten calls for continued collaboration from PEARL as St Maarten rebuilds #resilience #climatechangeadaptation

Hurricane Irma (September 2017) wreaked havoc in the Caribbean region as it moved through the SE Bahamas before approaching south Florida  as a dangerous category 4 hurricane. Irma left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean. The president of the French territorial council for Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, Daniel Gibbs, said on Radio Caraibes International that the French part of Saint Martin is “95 percent destroyed”. The Netherlands have described large-scale destruction in St. Maarten.

PEARL has been tracking wind and water surface elevation of the extreme event using a model developed as part of the project. View the preliminary simulation below.

General information

Constituent country Sint Maarten, Kingdom of the Netherlands
Capital city Philipsburg
Largest city Lower Prince’s Quarter (population: 8.123)
Demographics Demonym St. Martiner (French); St. Maartener (Dutch)
Population 77.741 (as of Jan 1, 2009)
Density 892 /km2 (2,310 /sq mi)
Total Area 87 km2 (Dutch side 32 km2)


Flooding has become a growing and serious problem for St Maarten causing an ongoing threat to its residents, homes, businesses and public infrastructure. With the frequent presence of hurricanes, tropical storms, increase in frequency of high-intensity storms due to climate change, inability of the existing stormwater system to cope with larger rainfall events and dynamics of the new development activities the situation is likely to become even more disastrous if the appropriate actions are not taken immediately. The study area comprises the Dutch side of the island Territory. The Dutch side of the island encompasses an area of approximately 3380 ha bounded by the French side of the Island on the north and the Caribbean Sea on the south. Elevation ranges from near sea level at the southern end to 380 m above mean sea level at the northern hilly part along the borderline.

Problem Description

Flooding is considered to be the most frequent natural disaster that affects St. Maarten. It is most prevalent during tropical storms and hurricanes. Tropical storms are often bringing along heavy rains, strong winds and storm surges which have destructive effects in both coastal and inland areas. Understanding of processes that create risk necessitates holistic analysis of interactions between sociotechnical processes and the nature. The work will need to address different kinds of floods and develop strategies that can be applied at both, strategic planning and operational levels.

Research focus

The work will include a comprehensive analyses of different events and processes that can lead to formation of risk. The usefulness of RAFT (i.e., Risk Assessment Framework and onTology) methodology, which will be developed in WP3, will be demonstrated and evaluated. The work will explore the use of agent-based models, Cellular Automata and Evolutionary Algorithms within the RAFT methodology. The hydrodynamic modelling work will consider current as well as future land development scenarios and climate conditions and it will address the following processes: (i) Ground water, (ii) sewers, (iii) urban (pluvial), (iv) sea (surges). The objective of the coastal system modelling work will be to investigate surge impacts of the most destructive Hurricanes that made impact on St Maarten.