2005 – MID-SEASON ASSESSMENT
I started this new Hurricane thread to focus on the Hurricane Season for 2005.
The Story So Far …
This season has been exceptional with 14 Tropical Depressions forming so far.
Of these, 13 have developed into Tropical Storms and, of these, 4 have become Hurricanes … 3 of these were major Hurricanes.
As I write, a 5th Hurricane (Maria) is predicted to form to the east of the Leewards Islands.
Hurricanes in red, Tropical Storms in Blue and the remaining eight names (to come?) are bold.
Arlene … Bret …Cindy …Dennis …Emily … Franklin … Gert … Harvey … Irene … Jose … Katrina … Lee … Maria … Nate … Ophelia … Phillipe … Rita … Stan … Tammy … Vince … Wilma.
8 names left … will we be going back to the beginning of the alphabet?
The National Hurricane Centre is now predicting up to 21 Tropical Storms of which up to 11 could become Hurricanes with up to 7 of these becoming major Hurricanes.
This was before Katrina, so the Caribbean could expect another 6 Hurricanes, 4 of which could be major, before the end of the season.
It is difficult to disagree with these predictions if we bear in mind that the 2nd half of each season is normally more active as the sea temperatures warm up.
I did speculate that an El Nino could suppress Storm activity in the latter half of this season but this has not materialised.
However, as I indicated in my last assessment … El Nino’s have generally had a wider impact on the world’s weather so it is difficult to say if this is a good or bad thing either way.
Tobago is closely linked to 2 of the major Hurricanes this season.
Firstly, around the 4th July Dennis formed after passing Tobago as a Tropical Depression and then went on to become a major Category 4 Hurricane.
2 weeks later, Emily gave Tobago an even bigger scare and became a Hurricane as she passed Tobago and briefly hit Category 5 before striking Cuba.
During very active periods such as the current period from 1995, Tobago is going to have to start accepting that her location is no longer ‘too far south’ to be affected by Hurricanes.
3 close calls (including Ivan) in one year is a convincing argument … the ‘big one’ could come one day and Tobago should assess the impact Ivan had on Grenada and ensure that she is prepared.
Perhaps the Katrina event gives more food for thought …
One of the most notable aspects of this season has been the consistent inability of Storms to develop fully in the Atlantic Ocean.
The conditions have not been right due to strong upper easterly airflows across the mid-Atlantic.
At the time of writing, the first Storm (Maria) has developed in the Atlantic but at a northerly latitude, away from the strong easterlies.
Otherwise, the typical Storm system has travelled across the Atlantic and exploded into life as soon as it reaches the warm Caribbean Sea.
This has made predictions very difficult because the Official Forecasters use mathematical data for their weather models which only become reasonably accurate after a Storm has matured and left a track record.
These weather models are practically useless for assessing new and developing Storms such as Emily when she came to life over Tobago and the warnings were actually downgraded … that could have been disastrous.
Yet I find it possible to broadly assess these Storms by looking at the Satellite pictures.
I have noted that the NOAA have announced a new Storm Prediction model that may be able to predict as far as 2 weeks ahead … we shall see …
The NOAA monitor developments across the Atlantic very well but they do appear to have consistent problems in predicting the track of developing Storms.
Once a Storm has been moving for a few days then the predictions by the NOAA improve dramatically as they did with Katrina.
The Katrina Event
As I predicted, Katrina became the most devastating Hurricane to hit the US … what can we learn?
Two key factors became apparent from Katrina … firstly she was powerful, that is clear when we see pictures of whole towns and coastal resorts totally flattened by her winds.
The second and most important factor about Katrina was her central pressure … it dropped to around 902mb. This was noted by the Official Forecasters about 12 hours before Katrina passed just to the east of New Orleans … too late !!
The lower the pressure then the higher the sea level will rise and, consequently, the higher and more devastating will be the sea surge as the Hurricane makes landfall.
However, the most devastating impact was the flooding of New Orleans after the Hurricane passed to the east and breached the flood barriers. Consequently the city was gradually filled with water.
Katrina was indeed a powerful Hurricane, however other geographical, commercial and social factors have combined to give Katrina the notoriety that she probably does not deserve:-
• Firstly, the area where Katrina struck … I do not mean to be cruel when I say this but, arguably, New Orleans should probably not have been there in the first place … as the “I told you so’s” are now shouting, the city is below sea level and surrounded by water with restricted access in and out … a disaster in waiting.
• Commercial interests have prevented the strengthening of the New Orleans barriers in order to allow large sailing vessels access to deliver and export commodities.
Much of the devastation is not purely the responsibility of the Hurricane and it is probably unfair to blame the US President, like him or loathe him … it would have been the same for any President … no doubt the US emergency services around the Gulf Coast areas will respond to this experience positively for the future.
So instead of listening to the media ridiculing of the US, other potentially Hurricane prone Countries (including Trinidad & Tobago) can take on board the lessons and plan and prepare for such events … such planning should be in permanent place because it is impossible to prepare for a Hurricane strike like this over a few days.
It is time to identify areas that could suffer like New Orleans … or to assess other low lying areas around the Caribbean … if this is not done then future strikes of this nature will always be more costly and difficult to manage in the long run.
I will continue to post Hurricane activity here for the record.
I hope the whole of the Caribbean considers the preparations needed for major Hurricane strikes.
Watch this space.
Public Relations Consultant for Mother Nature