Officials at the Barbados Meteorological Services (BMS) are stressing the need for preparedness, as some residents count their losses following the early Thursday morning “freak event”.
Acting Director of the BMS, Sabu Best, explained that an “excess rainfall” notification was issued by that department via its website and mobile app, forecasting about an inch of rain.
But, he said meteorologists observed a “mesoscale convective system” or a very small vortex, which had developed to the east northeast of Barbados between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday night.
“The thing about these systems, most of the time they are very short lived, and its distance at the time was 150 to 200 kilometres away to our east, northeast or so. And so, we were watching it closely throughout the night, and contemplating the most appropriate time to issue a warning, knowing the fact that it will be in the middle of night.
“That is why we actually issued the be aware notification earlier on. Now, as it got within 100 kilometres and 75 kilometres of our shorelines on the east, we actually began to start our operation for warnings,” Mr. Best explained.
That warning was issued when the “feature” was about 25 kilometres off Barbados’ east coast for excessive rainfall, severe lightning and thunderstorm activity.
Admitting that the warning message for the “feature” went out when it was on the island’s shores, the acting Director stressed that citizens did not understand how quickly the situation could change.
“These features because they are very small in nature can spin up really quickly, and they can disappear just as quick,” he said, noting it was the skills of the meteorologists to track what was happening and issue the warnings before it came to shore.
He stressed that it was therefore essential for residents to be ready for these really sudden onset events that could produce heavy downpours and strong winds, for a very short period of time.
Thursday’s early morning event significantly impacted St. Peter, St. Andrew, St. Thomas, St. Michael, St. James, St. Thomas, St. Joseph, St. John and several areas in St. George with rainfall accumulations of four to five inches, and in some cases close to six inches being recorded within the space of two hours.
“That is intense rainfall. Our station at Cambridge, St. Andrew recorded rainfall rates of 168 millimetres per hour. And that is very intense. So, I can understand the frustration sometimes that comes with these systems, but where we live in the tropics these really small convective systems can develop really quickly,” Mr. Best outlined.
Meanwhile, those living in the southern parts of Christ Church, such as Oistins and Hastings, received very little rainfall, totalling less than 10 millimetres.