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Balance is Blind – Hurricanes on the Horizon

An advisory for the surprises of nature

 I have heard the theory that when nature strikes—whether personified by an earthquake, torrential rainfall or a hurricane—it is an uncompromising force with the sole mission of restoring balance. In an attempt to reacquire the environment’s stability, it works without prejudice as an automatic retort to naturally reinstate equilibrium and to combat decades of unnatural burdens it has incurred.

Some disagree with this argument, but what is fact is once again, the Atlantic Caribbean hurricane season is upon the BVI; as many environmental specialists and hurricane survivalists will advise, preparation by home and yacht owners is the word that cannot be stressed enough.

Understanding the Adversary

Department of Disaster Management Director Sharleen Dabreo explained that our hurricane season is produced as a result of low pressure systems affecting Atlantic waters or the Caribbean sea. “This is based on the trends over the years,” she said. “It eventually develops into a storm and when it gets to about 74 mph, then you classify it as a hurricane and it’s at that point where it’s actually named.”

Hurricanes have only become complicated due to man’s development, our impact on the ozone and climate change. “There are a lot of factors that are playing into the whole climate process that’s causing these hurricanes to become more intense,” the director said. “These are natural processes that have to take place…but when [they] are impacted by conditions that are imposed by man, then you have these detrimental effects.”

The DDM director continued, expressing that the best retort to a hurricane or more wisely, reaction to the early forecast is for property and yacht owners to be proactive in protection of their living situation and vessels. “In people’s minds, a hurricane comes and it’s disaster. It only becomes a disaster when you cannot respond.”

2013 Season Forecast

The Atlantic Caribbean Hurricane Season runs from June 1 till November 30 with the peak being August to the early part of October; however, storms are changing from their previous patterns. “We’re seeing different trends. We’re seeing tropical storms that are occurring outside of that season,” said Dabreo. “You’re seeing changes in patterns.”

Scientific models incorporating data on El Niño and La Niña patterns have been run by a multitude of institutions across the world, showing little disparity between their results.

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The DDM director relayed that these organisations include Professors William M. Gray and Philip J. Klotzbach of Colorado State University, who are lead scientists on hurricane predictions in the BVI’s part of the world, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and institutions in Australia and the UK.

“This year they are saying that 2013 will be more active than the median years, so the median years run from 1981 to 2010,” she said. “For this year, they’re estimating 9 hurricanes, 18 storms, 95 storm days where storms can develop. They’re estimating 40 hurricane days, 4 major hurricanes and 9 major hurricane days. What is even more significant, is the probability for a major hurricane—Cat 3 -5 –tracking into the Caribbean is at 61%. The average over 1981 to 2010 was 42%,” the director continued.

Still, it is very hard to predict hurricanes and the erratic ‘wobbling effect’ as described by the director. The change can be so rapid. With Hurricane Earl in August 2010—the last serious year for storms—the system curved it away from the BVI despite predictions that had the island on a state of alert.

Many would have witnessed Earl’s provision of a natural pruning of the island, which was arguably a benefit to some who beheld a new clear view for sunsets at their properties.

Preparation is Everything

It’s the easiest thing in theory: there’s an impending hurricane; therefore, all a home or yacht owner can do is prepare. This can be organised months ahead to make the process as smooth as possible.

“Too many people wait until we issue a warning and then they’re rushing to the supermarket,” the DDM director said. “From June you need to start getting into the practice. When I go to the supermarket, I may buy a few more cans of dry goods that can last me for 6 months so you’re not in the supermarket rushing to get things at that point.”

Virgin Island property and yacht owners are always advised to walk with awareness about the weather reports. Due to the increase in probability of a hurricane in the Caribbean this year, it is highly recommended that people prepare early.

Guidance against the Gale Force from the DDM

• If you’re a homeowner, you want to review all the areas of your property that may be destabilised by heavy rain. Also, the fact that we are going through a drought period may have caused loosening of soil at areas on your property. Look to strengthen those places

• Review water outlets from your home – is it going to create a significant problem for you? Is it going to destabilise a bank or hillside and create issues? Look at where you have large boulders – do you think they need to be moved before they impact your home?

• One of the key things is to trim your trees that are close to the home, because they become ‘missiles’ in a storm; they will break windows and so forth. Trees also increase chances of rodents and other animals getting into your cisterns and property

• Clean and clear your cisterns early, make sure that their openings is clear. You don’t want a cistern overflowing and creating instability in that portion of the land

• Consider harvesting crops? Especially if this is your income (farmers)

• Medication needs to be stocked for those that require consistent medical care

• Business owners need to look at their signs that they may need to secure

• Offices need to make certain they remove all important documentation from the floor; a common practice, especially in the trust companies and legal firms

• For boat owners, the plan of marinas like Soper’s Hole is to give owners advance warning to either haul their vessels out of the yard or any other BVI boat yard. Hurricane holes like Paraquita Bay and Coral Bay are well advised hurricane shelters.

The Voyage Charters fleet based in Soper’s Hole has the privilege of having a customized haul-out facility at Soper’s Hole Boat Yard as do the Moorings and Nanny Cay. At Soper’s Hole, the amenity is capable of hauling the entire Voyage fleet within a 24-hour period. The larger vessels of the fleet have customized hurricane moorings in Soper’s Hole

HURRICANE HOLES

(1) Paraquita Bay, Tortola (2) Sea Cows Bay, Tortola (3) Nanny cay, Tortola (private) (5) Hodges Creek, Tortola (6) Inner Harbour, Tortola (7) Trellis Bay, Beef Island (8) Hans Creek, Beef Island (9) The Bight, Norman Island (10) South Sound, Salt Island (11) Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda (12) Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke

Following the predictions report that was released by Colorado State in April 2013, this month will see the publication of an updated version and then another report will be published in August.

Hurricane Season is the annual event that invokes apprehension, but it need not be if you are prepared. Also, the Virgin Islands are renowned for hurricane parties when groups get together and enjoy each other’s company during the obligatory impacts of nature.

Concluding, if you are prepared, don’t worry, it will blow over.

Stay up-to-date with weather conditions and advisories at www.bviddm.com or http://www.noaa.gov/

Definitions

Hurricane – A storm with a violent wind of 74mph or more, formed when warm, moist air from the ocean surface begins to rise rapidly, where it encounters cooler air that causes the warm water vapour to condense and to create storm clouds and drops of rain.

El Nino – a warm ocean current of variable intensity that develops after late December along the coast of Ecuador and Peru and sometimes causes catastrophic weather conditions.

La Nina – A cooling of the surface water of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean, occurring somewhat less frequently than El Niño events but causing similar, generally opposite disruptions to global weather patterns.

System (in this context) – a group of related natural forces or pattern

Erin Paviour-Smith

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