By Arturo Wallace
Every year hurricanes and tropical storms threaten the Caribbean coast of Central America, but the Nicaraguan port city of Bilwi had always managed to escape unscathed.
Many of the city's residents took shelter before the storm
Until now. On Tuesday, shortly before sunrise, Hurricane Felix made landfall in Nicaragua as a category five storm - the highest possible level - and the small city of mud streets and wooden houses was no match for its winds, which were up to 260km/h (162mph).
According to initial reports, hundreds of Bilwi's houses were left destroyed or badly damaged.
"The morning found us in bad shape. This hurricane really hurt us and we don't know how long it will take us to recover," said Reynaldo Francis, governor of Nicaragua's Autonomous Northern Atlantic Region, speaking to a local radio station.
The city's main Catholic church crumbled down, and not even the main government buildings made it in one piece.
Fallen trees and lampposts are blocking the streets and electrical and telephone lines are lying on the floor.
The rain has not stopped, and there are fears of flooding or landslides. The wind, although less intense, is still roaring.
The danger, however, did not stop people from leaving their shelters as soon as the hurricane passed, in order to check on their homes and assess the damage.
There are fears over a group of missing sailors
And although this time Bilwi (formerly known as Puerto Cabezas) was unlucky, the feeling is that the damage could have been a lot worse.
Felix is following a very similar path to 1998's Hurricane Mitch, which killed almost 3,000 people in Nicaragua - nearly 11,000 people in the whole of Central America - to become the most deadly Atlantic storm in more than two centuries.
The destruction provoked by Mitch, which stalled over Central America for almost a week, is said to have sent Nicaragua back by as much as 50 years in terms of development.
Felix has moved faster, affecting mostly a scarcely populated area covered by forests and lowlands.
Two fishing ships carrying 35 crew members, who waited until the last minute to attempt a return to Bilwi, have gone missing.
"We fear we have lost them," said Governor Francis.
President Daniel Ortega declared red alert before Felix arrived
And the fate of the inhabitants of the many small indigenous communities scattered throughout the northern Atlantic region, which is Nicaragua's poorest, is still uncertain.
More than 12,000 people were evacuated just ahead of Felix's landfall, but some refused to leave their houses despite being in the hurricane's expected path.
As rain keeps pouring, there are fears that flooding will destroy the humble plantations of beans, rice, cassava and plantain that account for all that they have.
Thick forests cover the largest part of the region and there are no major roads, making assistance difficult to provide. And the hurricane season is far from over.