THE HURRICANE SEASON: A CALL TO ACTION FOR ALL! (A BGIS MEDIA FEATURE)

Brace yourselves! True to pattern, the months of June and July have been relatively quiet. But the formation of such storms as Don and Emily within recent weeks have served to remind us that that the threat posed by hurricanes is ever present. The season is a call to action for every resident, especially those living along the coast and in flood-prone areas.

"Hopefully, residents have learnt from the lessons of Tomas and most persons have already started an action plan so that in case of storm, they will be ready even at a few hours notice."

Predictions by meteorological officials have suggested that 2011 will probably be an “above average season”. Last year, of the 19 named storms, 12 became hurricanes, with five of them major systems. This year, Professor William Gray of the National Hurricane Centre in Florida indicated that 16 systems may develop, with nine becoming hurricanes. Of this amount, five may reach category three, four or five status. The experts have also said that approximately eight hurricanes are expected to form every year until 2015.

What is even more troubling is the fact that we only need one system to reach these shores to cause devastation. Reflecting on the surprising development of Tropical Storm Tomas last year, meteorologist at the Grantley Adams international Airport, Clairmont Williams, said “most of the storms that formed in the eastern Atlantic either tracked to the west and curved before reaching Barbados, or went in a northerly direction…(whereas) Tomas formed close to the island chain late in the season.

{FILE IMAGE - EVEN OPEN-AIR CHURCHES NOT SAFE FROM AN 'Act Of God'} Professor William Gray of the National Hurricane Centre in Florida indicated that 16 systems may develop, with nine becoming hurricanes.

We were monitoring Tomas way in advance as it became a strong tropical wave… It was not until the Friday between 52 degrees and 55 degrees west that is where most development occurred and it was rapid.” He stressed: “It is not always possible to provide 36 or 48 hours notice if there are systems that formed the way Tomas did.” Instead, he urged Barbadians to be prepared for a situation where “we only get 12 hours notice”.

Hopefully, residents have learnt from the lessons of Tomas and most persons have already started an action plan so that in case of storm, they will be ready even at a few hours notice.

In recent years the region has withstood some brushes with major hurricanes. For instance, some may recall the force exacted by hurricane Ivan as it roared ashore in 2004. The Category Five system also wrecked havoc in Grenada, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, St. Vincent, and Tobago.

Some of the worst hurricanes on record include Allen in 1980, Gilbert in 1988 and Mitch in 1998. In September 2004, a 160 mph Category Five Ivan carved a path of sheer fury, leaving 39 persons dead and destruction to the tune of $2.2 billion in the Cayman Islands and Grenada. It also affected Barbados, damaging 531 houses and killing one person.

Next month is often referred to as “September Remember” – moreover, it is also the anniversary of the passage of Hurricane Janet in 1955-a Category one storm that killed 38 people in Barbados and made more than 29,000 persons homeless.

{FILE IMAGE - TIM'S NO MORE AFTER "TOMAS"} Meteorologist at the Grantley Adams international Airport, Clairmont Williams, said “most of the storms that formed in the eastern Atlantic either tracked to the west and curved before reaching Barbados, or went in a northerly direction…(whereas) Tomas formed close to the island chain late in the season”.

Consequently, Barbadians need to ensure that they take the hurricane preparedness warnings seriously and have stocked up on non-perishable supplies, as well as have adequate amounts of water, a battery-operated radio, flashlight, medication, and building materials on hand just in case a storm threatens. Persons should also know where the nearest emergency shelter is located and be of assistance to their community if a disaster should occur. {CAUTION FROM: CL/BGIS}.

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