Monday, Feb 24, 2020
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Another storm season begins

Atlantic hurricane season begins on Friday. Forecasters in the United States expect it to be active.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts there will be between 10 and 16 named storms – five to nine hurricanes. One to four hurricanes could be major – that is, Category 3 strength or higher.

Even before the official start of hurricane season there has been activity. Subtropical Storm Alberto hit the Florida Panhandle yesterday. There were concerns last night of flash flooding. The storm came ashore with maximum sustained winds of 45 miles per hour. The Bahamas felt some of Alberto’s rain the past few days.

The Caribbean has not recovered from the devastation caused by Irma and Maria last year. The super-cyclones hit Category 5 strength. They leveled communities. Dominica, Barbuda, Puerto Rico and parts of the Virgin Islands are still nowhere near back to normal.

Ragged Island is in the same state. Irma hit it last September. The storm, which had peak sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, left no home untouched. The sparsely populated island was devastated. It needs to be rebuilt.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis promised to make Ragged Island a green community. Reconstruction has been slow going however. A team of engineers and technical professionals visited just over a week ago.

Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said the team will present a plan to the Ministry of Public Works on the way forward.

The Bahamas is finally experiencing an economic upswing. The economy grew by 1.4 percent last year; it’s expected to grow by 2.5 percent this year; and by 2.25 percent in 2019. Serious hurricane damage to one of our major population centers would cancel those projections. Hurricane season is a dangerous time.

The NOAA forecast would make for a near-normal or above-normal season.

“There are no strong climate signals saying it’s going to be extremely active, like last year, or extremely weak,” said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Bahamians are hopeful the scientists are right and we are spared an over-abundance of storms. But the strange thing about hurricane season is even though high activity periods are more dangerous, it just takes one direct hit from one strong storm to a major population center to make it a terrible year.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. We must all prepare for what may come. It’s not just about what the government will do to protect us. Stock up on canned items and batteries; prune trees; have an evacuation plan if you live near the sea; know how you’ll secure your windows if a storm comes. Being prepared could be the difference between life and death.

Climate change has made the seas hotter, fueling the strength of tropical cyclones. Researchers wonder if the characteristics of the super-storms of 2017 were an aberration, or if climate change will make these types of cyclones the norm.

These are dangerous times for the Caribbean. Keep alert during hurricane season and pay attention to weather reports. Sometimes there’s not much time to prepare.

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