Severe Weather Feedback - 12/13 Nov 2004

Weather reports, questions and comment.
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Paul Tallet
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Post by Paul Tallet » Sat Nov 27, 2004 11:23 am

Thank you Sue.

It has not been much fun doing forecasts of the weather during November, particularly with giving warnings of rain and then learning of the damage caused by this weather.

Whilst this is, first and foremost, a forum for visitors and holidaymakers to Tobago, I do feel uneasy when I think of those affected by recent events.

There never seems to be much, if any, kind of advanced warning in Tobago for the residents when severe weather happens. Hurricane Ivan was another typical example and had that hurricane tracked just a few miles further south we would be talking about devastation on the scale of Grenada ... it was close and Tobago was not ready.

If a complete Amateur like me can do it from the UK then surely someone can do it more effectively in Tobago?

There are websites devoted to storm watching in the Caribbean but these mostly rely on feedback from affected areas reporting of the event rather than posting warnings of the risk of a forthcoming event happening ... this does not save lives.

I look forward to giving more positive forecasts and lets hope the forthcoming dryer season makes up for it.


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Post by Paul Tallet » Sun Nov 28, 2004 2:54 pm

Further to the above and to prove a point ...

A weather forecast was issued on the Trinidad News website last Thursday warning of 'Tropical Wave after wave' ... more rain and then yet another Tropical Wave on Saturday (i.e.; yesterday).

Of course, those reading Liquid Sunshine will have read that the rain moved away on Thursday evening and it is now going to be sunny.

Well ... I have seen no rain for the last 3 days ... well nothing substantial anyway according to the sat loops ... maybe a sprinkly shower here and there.

Furthermore ... the forecast does not appear to have been updated so there is nothing about the next few days.

Can anyone say if the hard copy of the local paper has been updated?

It is SUNDAY today !!!

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Post by Paul Tallet » Mon Nov 29, 2004 1:19 am

The nasty trough that produced all that rain has now moved into the Atlantic and is starting a circulation ... a depression. It still has a very thin tail right down to the south of Tobago but this is producing little more than some cloud.

Some weather monitors are predicting this could develop into an extra-tropical storm ... erm ... I stress this will be a long way from Tobago.

Still, at the very least, it does not seem to be heading for the UK as an anticyclone forming over the UK midweek is likely to block it's track and push it north to Greenland ... and good riddance !

It looks like it will develop into a nasty depression though ... quite strange how these nasty weather systems seem to re-invent themselves as they travel the world.

Problem for the UK and Northern Europe is that there seems to be a risk of icy winds from the east towards the end of the week ... brrrr !!

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Neil Roberts
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Post by Neil Roberts » Mon Nov 29, 2004 5:20 am

I'm very interested to see that you are apparently diversifying into U.K. forecasts. I pay my bills by running a small gardening business and thus the various weather forecasts I receive are an important part of the day, any further quality input will be well received!
Best wishes, Neil.

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Post by Paul Tallet » Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:17 am

Hi Neil

I make occasional references to the UK and Northern Europe, normally related to extreme weather that could disrupt flights and spurn those attempting to go for their winter holidays.

Otherwise, for pure topical reasons, I will track a weather system after it has visited Tobago or even the Caribbean because some of them come to the UK afterwards and I get a perverse kick out of knowing that I am breathing air that originated in Tobago. :oops:

Otherwise I try to stick to Tobago for the benefit of this site.

Mind you, the UK is a challenging one. There are so many different weather elements (i.e.; snow or rain; frost or dew) with us being in a more temperate zone that it is hardly surprising that the weather people often get it wrong.

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Neil Roberts
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Post by Neil Roberts » Mon Nov 29, 2004 4:36 pm

Dear Paul, Breathing Tobagan air!!!.....that's a nice thought. It would be even nicer if it stayed at the same temperature! Best wishes, Neil.

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Post by Paul Tallet » Mon Nov 29, 2004 6:46 pm

The next time I get a whiff of any Tobago air I will notify ... we can all rush out and do a synchronised sharp intake of breath ... aaaaaahhhh !! :D
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Andrew Poole

Post by Andrew Poole » Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:12 pm

Hi Paul,

Is the Uk weather as challanging as the French Alps? ( where's that gauntlet being thrown emoticon when you need it?)
I appreciate it may not be your area of expertise but do you happen to know if the will be snow falling in L'Alpe d'Huez for the week 20th to 27th Dec?
Its not for me you understand, the kids want to know and all the forecast sites i find want you to pay for that far in advance info!! :oops:

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Post by Paul Tallet » Mon Nov 29, 2004 10:37 pm

Hi Andrew

If anyone can predict that far ahead then they should be paid ... and then they should compensate you if they get it wrong.

If they get it right ... then that's lucky ... you can only predict trends that far ahead.

Anyway ... what are we talking about?

This is the string for 'Severe Weather Feedback' of Tobago ... not for predicting snowfall in the French Alps :shock:

I think you will have to have a word with the boss, Mr Wooler ... the weather for Tobago is free ... any other unconnected worldly weather business may have to be premium rate here too !!!

Alternatively ... see if a similar independent site can be set up for skiers ... with a free weatherman of course !!

Sorry mate, I'd love to help ... but not in this forum I'm afraid. :wink:

Enjoy the piste 8)
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Post by Paul Tallet » Tue Nov 30, 2004 12:28 am

I note that many tributes have been posted by those that knew Tyrone Keston McMillan who worked at the Blue Waters Inn and tragically died in the 12/13 rainfall event.

I thought it would be appropriate to post the following article that was printed in the Tobago News over the weekend.

'Keston touched lives of many'
Friday, November 26th 2004


Keston McMillan, 30, one of the two casualties in the rainstorm that hit Tobago two Fridays ago was buried in his village Delaford last week Thursday.
A large turnout of family, friends, former co-workers and villagers turned out for the funeral service officiated by Deacon David Harrison at the St Paul's Anglican Church, Delaford.
McMillan was buried in the churchyard cemetery.
Chief Secretary Orville London told the congregation that overflowed into the churchyard that the extent of the grief and the widespread amount of the people who were grieving for McMillan was an indication that he had touched the lives of many.
"I urge you to remember Keston, remember what he stood for, remember those qualities that made him stand out as a shining example for the youths of Delaford and Tobago," London said in eulogising McMillan.
Dwyne Kenny, Manager of Blue Waters Inn at Speyside where McMillan was the Chef said the young man would be sorely missed not only by him and his staff members but also by the hotel's regular customers. Kenny said he had received messages of condolences from all over the world by those who had met McMillan at the hotel and had been touched by his natural friendliness.
McMillan died when he tried to save his pick up van from a sudden surge of mud and slush that quickly overcome him as he tried to remove it to safe ground.
The other victim, also from Delaford was 16-year-old Sixth Form student of Bishop's High School, Kathy Ann Fergusson who was inside the family home. Five other members in the family, including her mother were hospitalised following the incident.
Fergusson was also buried in Delaford following a funeral service in Roxborough on Tuesday.
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Post by Paul Tallet » Tue Dec 21, 2004 12:47 am

Very thought provoking ecological article in the Trinidad Tobago Express here (dated 19th December 2004) regarding the mud and silt damage being caused to corals and land vegetation along the L'Ansi Formi to Charlottesville coastline by the construction of the new road and of how the recent heavy rains have made matters worse.


http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl ... d=51177374


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Post by Paul Tallet » Sun Apr 17, 2005 8:37 pm

Observations of the 12/13th November 2004 Rain Event – A Review

During my recent stay in Tobago I was quite taken aback by the size of the huge landslides and tell tale signs where huge volumes of water cascaded down the slopes of Tobago last November.

The visible evidence of this is not that apparent and you have to trek around some very rural areas to see the real signs of the power of this major weather event … or you can peep over the sides of the bridges and boundaries in the area of Speyside and Delaford to see how much rainforest vegetation actually dislodged and rushed down into the valleys.

If you are going on holiday, don’t worry … you will hardly notice anything … but if you do happen to see the signs, please spare a thought for the 4 people that died during this event.

As was reported at the time, the areas of Delaford, Speyside and Charlottesville took some of the heaviest damage and I have to say that it seems quite miraculous that only 4 deaths occurred when you realise how heavily populated these areas are.

Many of the dwellings in these areas found themselves in the direct path of the cascades of water rushing down the hillsides.

Even larger landslides were evident along the north coast through the Castara and Englishman’s areas and right up to Bloody Bay and L’Ansi Fourmi, however these are more remote areas where fewer people dwell in houses on the steep slopes.

The raw power of this weather event was pure rainfall and 18 inches or more of it literally tipped out of the skies continuously for about 16 hours … rainfall of this volume has never fallen over Tobago in recorded history in such a short space of time.

The sheer volume of water was sufficient to undermine, uproot and carry some of the largest trees high up in the rainforest miles down the rivers and hillsides, crashing through Bamboo Trees and other smaller Rainforest vegetation and many such trees can be seen intact in places, lying across rivers or wedged under a bridge.

Some bridges have cracks in their structure, not to mention the concrete structures that border the roads in some places where tonnes of forest debris simply plunged down the steep hillsides as the land underneath it simply gave way.

Only in the remotest areas, such as the rainforest surrounding Hermitage Bay (near Charlottesville) could the evidence really give me some impression of the power of this weather event and a sense of the fear that must have been going through the minds of those that experienced it.


So what happened?

I had only started the weather forecasts on Liquid Sunshine 3 weeks earlier and my weekly weather update for the 6th November showed my concern about the disturbed weather patterns developing around the southern Caribbean.

But huge storm cells such as the one that affected Tobago on this occasion are very difficult to predict … you know they will form in an area but you don’t know exactly where the rain will fall and then you do not know where they will go and as quickly as they form they can dissipate and disappear very quickly … as the following excerpts from my weather updates and weekly report show …


Excerpt from Weekly Weather 06.11.2004
How does this Rain Form?

The exact location of the rainfall is difficult to predict.

Tobago, being around 10 degrees north of the equator, is always very close to or within what is known as the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone which marks the area where the trade winds from the south and the north converge.

The convergence of these very warm and moist winds create ‘cells’ or ‘hot towers’ of cloud that bubble up very quickly and produce the downpours that Tobago has been receiving.

The Tropical Cells are known as ‘Hadley Cells’ and are the most vigorous types of thunderstorm formation on earth … they can form very quickly into clusters of storms and, occasionally, a cluster may get itself really organised under the right conditions and start to circulate … this is how Tropical Storms and Hurricanes can form.


Next Week

We need to look to the east where clusters of storm activity are developing as they cross the Atlantic Ocean from Africa though not all of these will reach Tobago as some dissipate or are sheared back by the dominant high pressure in the northern Caribbean.

We also need to look to the south and the mainland of South America for the most likely source of rain. This is where most of the rain has come from over the last 2 weeks and I expect this trend to continue.

Mid-week, it looks like low pressure will form across most of the Caribbean as the high slips away to the east. I am watching this development as this could mean widespread rainfall across the Caribbean.

As I had predicted, the weather really got it’s act together midweek.

The following series of weather updates and warnings that I posted will give us an impression of how the disturbed weather conditions developed …


WEATHER WARNING 10th November 2004. 1430 GMT - UPDATE

RISK OF VERY HEAVY RAIN

Grenada and the chain of islands to the north as far as Dominica are now being affected by this pulse of intense rainfall.

There are some indications that the intensity of this main area of rainfall is weakening slightly in places and it’s progress has slowed down slightly, however further areas of intense rainfall are brewing up very quickly and a very intense cell is developing just behind this area to the north-west and is following the same track.

The risk is increasing for Tobago as this area of rainfall moves east south-east,

Then, 7 hours later …


WEATHER WARNING 10th November 2004. 2100 GMT - UPDATE

RISK OF VERY HEAVY RAIN FOR THE NEXT 24 – 48 HOURS


Tobago has been extremely lucky so far as the first pulse of rain dissipated over Tobago giving some sharp showers and Trinidad got the main deluge.

In fact, the south western part of Trinidad is being affected by another developing cell and this is giving very intense rainfall.

Further bands of thunderstorms and pulses of heavy rainfall are lining up to the north-west.

These storm cells can weaken as quickly as they can develop and it is very difficult to predict exactly when Tobago could be affected.

The south eastern Caribbean is currently peppered with this stormy activity.

There is more to come over the next 24 to 48 hours before this low pressure system to the north moves away into the Atlantic.

Lets hope Tobago stays lucky …

24 hours later …

WEATHER WARNING 11th November 2004. 2145 GMT - UPDATE

STILL THE RISK OF VERY HEAVY RAIN


The weather is currently very disturbed and yet Tobago has come so close and escaped … i.e.; the storm activity has been very localised.

At the time of writing, the rainfall is coming from the west and a small cell has already just veered to the south of Tobago.

Again, there is plenty developing from behind and there is still the risk that Tobago could catch one of these cells …

And then it came …

WEATHER UPDATE 12th November 2004. 1930 GMT - UPDATE

REDUCING RISK OF VERY HEAVY RAIN


Tobago has been affected by intense and continuous rainfall for over 14 hours.

This main area of rain is expected to cease in the next 1 – 2 hours but there are smaller cells of rainfall following behind that may affect Tobago and produce shorter periods of heavy rain.

Summing Up

Earlier, in September, Hurricane Ivan gave Tobago a licking although this was, in hindsight, a lucky escape. The hurricane was very powerful and would have devastated Tobago has it tracked 20 miles or more further to the south.

The devastation in Grenada is an indication of the damage that could have been.

The only visible signs of the Hurricane in Tobago are evident from a few missing palm tree heads, some fallen trees and the jetty in Batteaux Bay that was damaged and is due to be repaired.

The November rainfall event was the weather event of the year by some distance … probably one of the most significant events of the last century although some may argue that the damage from Hurricane Flora in 1963 was worse with the loss of countless trees.

Apart from the visible damage that I outlined earlier in this post, the amount of ecological damage is difficult to measure.

Hurricane damage is generally restricted to the land although some coral damage can occur where the reefs are not sheltered from the battering waves.

In this case it was rain and this can seep into every single pore. It was so heavy that it would have diluted the salt in the sea for days.

Even 6 months later, the sea (at high tide) is washing away the remnants of landslides that have reached the coasts and creating brown slicks of mud that are being washed out to sea and over the coral reefs around the coasts.

Much of the coral is struggling under the sediment that is falling on it and I have seen evidence of this in Heavenly Bay, Castara and in Charlottesville along the main beach.

I have also heard that the fish stocks have reduced as the local food the fish rely on has reduced.

There is still some slippage on the hillsides in northern and eastern areas of Tobago and I would be surprised if any further heavy rain in the forthcoming wet season does not cause further slides.

The recovery from Hurricane Ivan was swift but the effects of the November 2004 rain event are still there. It may be some time before we know the full extent of the ecological damage.

This was all down to Mother Nature … lets hope that Mother Nature will be kinder to Tobago in the next wet season and allow the corals to breath and the vegetation to knit the loose soil back together … it looks a little delicate in some places.


Regards
Paul Tallet
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