The months of September and October usually signal that we are now in the midst of the most active phase of the hurricane season, largely as a result of the warm seas associated with this time of the year. The season is a call-to-action for every resident, especially those living along the coast and in flood-prone areas.
Lest Barbadians are tempted to become complacent, there is always the reminder of Tropical Storm Tomas in 2010 which formed late in the season close to the island chain and went on to cause much damage to houses and led to flooding in Barbados.
However, the recent passage of Tropical Storm and later hurricane Isaac, is testimony to the fact that any system with wind speeds of over 60 kilometres and extended rain bands may cause significant damage and even death. That system tracked its way across the Caribbean and barrelled through parts of the southern United States as a Category One hurricane. And, the fact that Isaac could cause so much destruction (estimated at over four billion Barbados dollars) as a result of consistent heavy rainfall which led to flooding, is a constant reminder that Barbados, as a small island, with relatively flat terrain, is particularly vulnerable.
US forecasters have predicted that this year’s Atlantic hurricane season will produce approximately nine to 15 tropical storms and the National Oceanic High and Atmospheric Administration has said that as many as four to eight of these systems could go on to become hurricanes. This may depend, to some extent, on the weather phenomenon known as El Nino, which may help to suppress storm development.
One of the last major systems to affect the United States was Hurricane Katrina. It was the deadliest and most destructive Category Five hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, as it lead a path of destruction and death in its wake, with wind speeds topping 280 kilometres.
Consequently, it is hoped that residents will heed the advice of officials and take all the necessary precautions to ensure they are safe and their premises secured should any storm or hurricane be imminent.
September is also significant since it marks the anniversary of the passage of Hurricane Janet in 1955. As a Category One storm, it killed 38 people in Barbados and made more than 29,000 persons homeless.
Barbadians need to ensure that they take the hurricane preparedness warnings seriously and stock up on non-perishable supplies, as well as have adequate amounts of water, a battery-operated radio, flashlight, tools, medication, and building materials on hand just in case a storm threatens. Persons should also keep monitoring the latest weather bulletins and know where the nearest emergency shelter is located in case evacuation is necessary.