In October 2005 Hurricane Wilma, a major category 5 hurricane, decimated Cancun Mexico. Thousands of tourists were stranded in emergency shelter. Water and electricity supplies were out for days and once the TV crews had their dramatic film they were gone. There was little way of telling the outside World how things really were. Even after the hotels recovered, some months later, the World still thought Cancun was like a war zone. Thousands of local people reliant on tourists for their living suffered as a result of cancelled vacations and incorrect perceptions, with many moving back to other parts of Mexico further depleting the local economy.
It was shortly after Hurricane Wilma that I registered the domain name hurricanecancun.com, and consigned it to my ever growing list of unused domains to be used to try and give the true story of what it would actually be like in Cancun before, during and after a major hurricane if necessary in future.
That day happened on 21st August 2007.
Tropical Storm Dean formed way to the south, all predictions suggested Cancun would once again be struck by a major hurricane and Dean may even be more devastating than Wilma.
was brought out of dormancy and I installed a wordpress blog. I began by publicising the new blog across many of my other Cancun themed sites and posted to it several times a day. I added the posts to social bookmarking sites such as Digg etc
The storm was intensifying and still heading straight for us. Updates were becoming more frequent and I was struggling to keep up with blog posting (as well as make personal preparations for my house and family) so I recruited two expats who also are lucky enough to call Cancun their home, one a Canadian, the other from the US. Between us we updated the blog maybe 10-15 times a day with the latest weather predictions, how Cancun was preparing and light hearted on topic stories.
Due to the previous days work the site now held #1 in Google for "Hurricane Cancun" and also several other top tens indirectly through the social bookmarking urls and people were beginnign to search those very terms. On the first day of stats tracking we received 3,000 uniques.
August 18th and 19th
The hurricane was now building rapidly in strength and due to obliterate the place in 48 hrs. We continued to blog about how preparations were going,
discussed the latest forecasts and listed emergency shelters that tourists would be evacuated to as worried family members searched for information. Word of mouth was now very much in action and our link was appearing all over the 'net. Our second full day we received 7,000 uniques, and our third full day 14,000. It was at this stage we had to make an emergency server move, the cheap virtual account I was using could no longer take the strain and was crashing regularly.
Miraculously, just as it seemed like we were about to get pummelled the hurricane changed course and it now looked like we would get away much more lightly. We continued to blog and debated the latest predictions and 31,000 people visited the blog.
The day of the hurricane and the press queries start to come in! The hurricane was due to peak at midnight so there was a full day of waiting and wondering. I conducted a telephone interview with Fox TV in Texas that was later networked throughout the US, and also two radio interviews with the BBC in London. One colleague also performed a third interview with the BBC and the other yet another interview for Canadian TV. The blog attracted over 58,000 uniques and over 150,000 page views.
Throughout the day the forecasts became clearer and clearer that the hurricane would smash into the coastline some 400 miles south, and Cancun would be spared. When the time actually came it was (fortunately) an anticlimax. Some moderate gusts of wind and some light rain - that was it! 400 miles further south there was heavy damage though.
We took a drive around Cancun and made a couple of videos which we later posted to youtube and linked to from the blog. These proved that Cancun had been barely affected and things were already back to normal.
We know from comments received and posted to the blog that scores if not hundreds of vacations were saved from being cancelled, helping to kickstart the returning tourist economy. Also that those who had loved ones in Cancun they couldn't contact had their concerns eased. We were also responsible for financial donations being made to the people in areas that did suffer.
Later that day we set the blog into dormant mode, until the next time, and continued with our regular lives.
The objective of this particular blogging adventure was not financial. We did run adsense, mainly as a means of covering server costs, although obviously the content meant that the ads delivered were low paying ones. We did end up with a little more than the server costs which once split three ways amounted to little more than a decent meal out for each of the families involved.
However, perhaps it's best not to always measure success in dollars alone. I was very pleased with the amount of traffic and publicity we received and learnt a few things that will help with my regular income generating projects.
My interview with Fox TV
My fellow bloggers interview with Canadian TV