Thursday, May 30, 2019
The 2017 Season was predicted to be average for the Atlantic Ocean and thus we in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico thought that was OK. That year gave Houston a visit by Harvey, brought Irma to Florida and announced Maria to Dominica. So when 2019 is predicted to be an average year no one should let their guard down. In Belize, there has been a million dollar costing Depression 16 in 2008 which in that year was followed by another heavy tropical rainfall even called Invest 91L. Some of us would remember a 20-year lull when we had no hurricane coming to Belize—from 1998 to 1998. As God and nature had it that year, 1998, Belizeans held their breaths as Mitch pummeled Northern Honduras and killed thousands. This hurricane will be kept in lure as the one that just teased us into forming the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO).
Our National Hero was summoned to head this fledgling attempt at getting us prepared for what would have been the first hurricane for even a 19year old. Even some 25year old Belizeans would have been truly inexperienced as this country was for Cat-5 Mitch. As meteorological history has it recorded only our piers met with the onslaught of waves from Hurricane Mitch. Phew!
The same can be said for Hurricane Dean in 2007 whose path threatened to make landfall into Belize City with all its Category 5 forces. The city was emptied as much as possible as the ‘real McKoy’ barreled forward. But no, in a sudden move North it did make a historic Category 5 landfall on mainland—extremely rare—but in the sparely populated tourist resort area of Mahahual, Mexico. Corozal Town did experience a Cat-3 impact but Belize City was spared twice of a Cat-5 in nine years.
In this Millennium we have had our share of hurricane landfalls and near-misses so our Belizean Millennials only know Belize as a Hurricane zone. The trauma is enough to keep everyone honest and at an even keel in terms of being hurricane savvy and ready. Of course, there is always a level of complacency. Below is some information that will give you a head start for this year.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (USA’s NOAA) is predicting that a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year. This outlook forecasts a 40% chance of a near-normal season, a 30% chance of an above-normal season and a 30% chance of a below-normal season. The hurricane season officially extends from June 1 to November 30.
For 2019, NOAA predicts a likely range of 9 to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes. (NOAA.org)
This outlook reflects competing climate factors. The ongoing El Nino is expected to persist and suppress the intensity of the hurricane season. Countering El Nino is the expected combination of warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and an enhanced West African monsoon, both of which favor increased hurricane activity.
In the chart above, Andrea has already formed and turned into a sub-tropical system. Also, of note, since the Hurricane list is rotated every six years you might remember some of these names of storms as being near Belize in the past. When the Hurricane is of note or historic then its name is retired. Only once has the entire list been used, that was 2005, then, the use of the Greek alphabet was put into effect.
The Belize City Emergency Management Organization (CEMO) officially opened their Hurricane Season preparedness drive in the presence of councilors, children, the Red Cross and the press. The message was that EVERYONE really is a part of CEMO; the mayor asked for this united front. He informed the media that a huge part of the preparedness involved the dredging of Creeks and ‘kinels’ around the city and that more is to be done. This work will go a long way to helping water runoff from Belize City.
The country is all under notice that the season is here. So if someone comes to your town escaping from the low-lying areas they should be welcome. Even this is a part of being prepared.
The following message is not from Belize’s NEMO but it fits as an opening message for the opening of the season:
“Preparing ahead of a disaster is the responsibility of all levels of government, the private sector, and the public,” said Daniel Kaniewski, Ph.D., FEMA deputy administrator for resilience. “It only takes one event to devastate a community so now is the time to prepare. Do you have cash on hand? Do you have adequate insurance, including flood insurance? Does your family have communication and evacuation plans? Stay tuned to your local news and make sure you heed any warnings issued by local officials.”