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Skippers Tips 16

Hurricane Forecasting – It’s that time of year again, and it should be taken seriously.  Those that have gone through hurricanes can tell you it’s never a matter to be taken lightly, whether at sea or on land.  It’s also that time of year when the “hurricane fever” starts.

Hurricane fever starts with a coffee at a marina and looking at the TV weather forecast and the grinning reapers of doom announcing from another table, “Here it comes, it will be here by Wednesday…” Fever starts, panic sets in, and the hurricane’s coming on Wednesday.  In fact, over my first summer here there was to be a hurricane every Wednesday of the summer. It never happened.  But the anticipation did, and I wasn’t the only one freaking out wondering where to get big sheets of plywood.  How many gallons of water would I need?  Tinned food? Oh, you have a generator? Boats will fly, you know.  It’s Wizard of Oz round here, what with flying cows and houses!

Make no mistake, hurricanes are deadly and winds in excess of 65 knots can do untold damage to yachts, land, property and human life. Debris turns into bullets, and seas turn into solid walls of moving water.

The BVI has suffered many hurricanes.  Most charter companies and marinas have strategies to cope with the potential damage and prepare themselves annually.  The Government has guidelines and warnings issued and a disaster team set up.  The island, I am told, pulls together and cleans the place afterwards – it’s a community effort. It’s not pretty but it’s a reality to face and one of the terms that we live by in the Islands.  There are plenty of warnings, it’s not called ‘hurricane season’ for nothing.

So, fact or fiction? Well, rely on the resources at hand. Most of the named storms spiral out of Cape Verde, the North Western Tip of Africa. They will be a circulating mass marked in red on satellite or TV and then several resources will track them and monitor their paths, rotation and trajectories. Several factors will draw a hurricane into the BVI. Water and air temperature (excessive heat drawing cooler air in) are key factors, as are the movements of weather fronts the hurricane may have crossed on its journey. The Internet is the best factual source of what’s happening – sites such as www.intellicast.com and www.noaa.com update almost every minute. Hurricanes have been known to come close and turn away; hit, retreat and come back again; and some cases perform a direct hit on an island and then dissipate.

To survive, one needs to follow Government guidelines, listen to charter management companies and glean advice from anyone who has been through a hurricane or a named tropical storm (www.bviddm.com).  Playing it safe and being prepared is the only way and being caught unaware is pretty impossible.  Despite the mirages caused by hurricane fever, hurricanes will happen.

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