Roughly 70 percent of New Providence could flood in a direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane, and The Bahamas should ensure it is well prepared in advance for such a scenario, a disaster management specialist at Pacific Disaster Centre (PDC) advised yesterday.
Scott Kuykendall, disaster management specialist at PDC, said the agency’s modelling shows the areas most likely to flood are those on the southern side of the island.
Kuykendall revealed the data during a Bahamas Strong webinar.
He said the modeling by PDC — an applied research center managed by the University of Hawaii, which uses technologies and best practices to help global partners effectively mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters — takes into account that the most probable direction for a storm to approach New Providence is from the south, which would expose the island to the northeast quadrant of a hurricane – typically the most dangerous.
In such an event, PDC’s modeling estimates that up to 116,700 people could be exposed to storm surge.
Additionally, as much as $15.7 billion worth of infrastructure could be exposed to the surge, with residential infrastructure accounting for over 60 percent of the figure.
Extreme winds would also put up to $36.4 billion of infrastructure at risk for damage, with catastrophic wind damage forecasted across the island.
With 268,700 people potentially impacted by the wind, PDC’s modeling noted that there could be a need for up to 900,000 square meters of shelter space for New Providence residents.
There could also be a need for up to 800,000 liters of water per day and 564.2 million kilocalories of food per day for those possibly impacted in such a storm.
Kuykendall said such figures present a number of considerations, especially given the archipelagic nature of The Bahamas.
He said there must be early warning and action in preparation for the storm with early evacuations. However, he noted that the evacuations would be logistically complicated in The Bahamas because it would require being able to evacuate large groups of people to a separate island that is unlikely to be affected by the same hurricane.
Kuykendall said there must also be a way to ensure the continuity of government plans, and Family Islands and their residents must be able to be self-sufficient for more than 72 hours.
“The magic number is 72 hours, but I think that’s a better number if you live in…the United States, because in 72 hours someone can get to you,” he said.
“I would say it’s probably a bigger number in The Bahamas because it’s going to take longer, especially if you’re on an outlying cay or anything like that. You need to really be thinking about being prepared.”
He also recommended that resources be spread out ahead of time so that distribution in the aftermath of the storm can happen from outside of New Providence.
Kuykendall said there should also be training to ensure that there are many people who can perform the necessary jobs or duties during the response to a hurricane.
“We can’t just say, ‘Well this person is qualified and they’ve got it [under control],’ because we don’t know what’s going to happen to that person in the storm, especially in New Providence,” he said.
Kuykendall also emphasized the need for the efficient utilization of the private sector to have a faster recovery.
“What I think we need to look at is some type of matrix that says these are the capabilities of the private sector and this is who you need to call,” he said.
“…The point is that the capabilities of the private sector are met, whether that be airplanes, boats, your local hardware store, grocery store. They all have a reason that they want to get New Providence up and running again. They all want to help. But the time to exchange business cards is not the scene of the disaster.
“We need to know this stuff well ahead of time and have a plan with the private sector.”