Now for it: Busy hurricane season officially starts tomorrow

Thursday, May 31, 2018

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasters predict a 35 per cent chance of an above-normal hurricane season, which starts tomorrow and runs until November 30.

But as we can see, the season has already jumped off, even before the conventional June 1 start, with sub-tropical storm Alberto killing four people in Cuba, dumping devastating flood rains and triggering deadly mudslides as far south as the United States Gulf Coast, where it came ashore on Monday, stretching to the Great Lakes region.

Forecasters warned that the leftovers of the Atlantic hurricane season's first named storm were still capable of causing treacherous flooding as heavy precipitation spreads deeper into the US midsection.

Up to Jamaica Observer press time, flash flood watches and warnings were in effect for parts of several states from Alabama through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, the Carolinas and Virginia, and West Virginia.

Jamaica was spared direct hits from last season's storms which battered some of our sister Caribbean Community nations. But we would be foolhardy to sit back, cross our fingers, and hope that we will be lucky again this year. Preparedness remains the watchword.

NOAA predicts only a 40 per cent chance of a near-normal season, and a mere 25 per cent chance of a below-normal season. There is a 70 per cent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher), of which five to nine could become hurricanes, with winds of 74 mph or higher.

We have noted that the governors of Florida and North Carolina, trying to be preemptive, declared states of emergency in their states ahead of the arrival of Alberto, learning the harsh lessons from last year's tough season.

We must also heed the serious words of Grenada's Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who told the Caribbean Development Bank at yesterday's 48th annual meeting that natural disasters and hazards associated or linked to climate change are creating a new normal in the region that will require comprehensive and coordinated efforts to mainstream climate change considerations in development planning.

“Operationally, we must institutionalise climate risk screening of all infrastructure projects and programmes of both the public and private sectors. In tandem, we also need to enforce proper building standards that support climate-resilient infrastructure,” he said.

“Adjusting to the new normal and transitioning to a truly resilient Caribbean will also require a new financing architecture. This must not only involve grant funding but also innovation in lending and insurance mechanisms that are uniquely tailored to our Caribbean realities and must explicitly consider our inherent vulnerabilities.”

Meantime, it also behoves us to take note of current research showing that deaths in Puerto Rico from last year's Hurricane Maria are now estimated to be 70 times higher than official estimates, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In other words, it is suggesting that the full extent of loses from storms are not always known. If that is the case in Puerto Rico' which is much more developed, imagine what must be happening in Jamaica.

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