Right Steps & Poui Trees


Sargassum on the Beach!

The guard in charge of directing parking and taking entrance fees informed us that the water was dirty. When we asked what he meant, he said that there was a lot of seaweed in the water. Having driven out to Boardwalk beach, however, we weren’t about to turn around and leave without even taking a look. So in we went…P1380922 Boardwalk beach sargassum

Yes, there was a lot of seaweed on the beach…and in the water…IMG_20190508_090658_resized_20190508_090722933 beach seaweed

Sargassum……a type of seaweed found only in the Atlantic Ocean…IMG_20190428_125357_resized_20190508_092007576 beach seaweed

…is a kind of open ocean brown algae.IMG_20190428_125411_resized_20190508_091849377 beach seaweed shell

 

“The influx of the seaweed is believed to be related to increased accumulation in the Atlantic Ocean where nutrients are available and temperatures are high. The seaweed consolidates into large mats and is transported by ocean currents towards the Caribbean, washing up on beaches throughout the region.” (National Environment & Planning Agency website)IMG_20190428_123943_resized_20190508_091444580 beach seaweed

A few people went in to swim, despite the seaweed in the water. But not many. Most people were on the beach…P1380936 trees on beach

…in the shade…like me…P1380960 beach

or in the sun…like this vendor, who didn’t have much luck making sales, since few people were going into the water…vendor on the beach 2019

…because of the sargassum there….IMG_20190428_125503_resized_20190508_091734713 beach seaweed water

Note

“The excess of Sargassum washing up on beaches in the Caribbean originates from the Sargasso Sea, located in the open North Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda. This sea stretches 1000 km wide and 3200 km long and is estimated to hold up to 10 million metric tons of Sargassum (see image below). It is known as “the golden floating rainforest”. It is also found in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Scientists suggest that the influx of Sargassum in the Caribbean is due to a rise in water temperatures and low winds, which both affect ocean currents. In essence pieces of the Sargassum are becoming entrained in currents which head towards the Eastern Caribbean Islands. These factors and the spreading of Sargassum has been linked to increased nitrogen loading due to pollution of the oceans through human activity of increased sewerage, oils, fertilizers and global climate change.” (Sargassum: A Resource Guide for the Caribbean, p. 4)

 


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Hurricane Flora, 1963: Another Devastating October Hurricane

I have two memories of Hurricane Flora, which brought torrential rains to Jamaica between October 5-7 in 1963; neither memory has to do with the actual rain, but instead are of the aftermath. Perhaps staying home because of rain wasn’t particularly memorable to a 6-year-old, and memory is a strange thing anyway.

Hurricane Flora developed to the east of Trinidad on September 30, 1963 and it is interesting to note the difference in the technical data available for forecasting and tracking a hurricane at that time. This can be seen, for example, in a Preliminary Report on Hurricane “Flora”, September 30 – October 12, 1963 done by the US Weather Bureau:

Hurricane “Flora” was one of the most destructive in recent history in Haiti and Cuba. It was unusually violent when it crossed Haiti during the night of October 3-4. Then it remained nearly stationary for more than four days (October 4-8) over eastern Cuba and produced unprecedented amounts of rainfall, which in turn resulted in devastating floods. Although final figures are not yet available, it appears likely that the death toll will number in the thousands and property losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hurricane “Flora” appears to have formed and intensified rapidly about 150 miles east of Trinidad on September 30, 1963. It seems possible that the original disturbance that eventually developed into “Flora” moved off the African coast on September 23. Later a TIROS VII photograph at 0942Z September 26 (Orbit 1464) showed a large cloud mass in the area between 10 and 15N and 35 and 40W. No additional information was received until a KLM jet airliner bound from Lisbon, Portugal to Paramaribo, Surinam reported a disturbed area near 12.4N 47.2W at approximately 2230Z September 28. On the basis of the KLM report, the San Juan Weather Bureau requested special ship reports in the area east of the Lesser Antilles.

Following ship reports and US Navy reconnaissance aircraft flying to the area on September 30, the first advisory for Hurricane Flora was issued, with hurricane warnings for Trinidad, Tobago and the Grenadines.

Flora followed a long and circuitous track through the Caribbean, part of which is clearly shown on this map:

A map from the current Weather Underground site indicates the strength of Hurricane Flora as it traveled on its path of destruction:wu-hurricane-flora-track-1963

When Flora eventually moved away from the region, it left behind devastating death and damage:

The effects on Jamaica were substantial, though nothing near the catastrophic effects on Haiti and Cuba.

Rainfall levels for Jamaica were record breaking, with the highest amount of 60 inches recorded at Spring Hill in Portland. (The highest amount recorded in the region was 100.39 inches in Santiago de Cuba.)

us-weather-bureau-monthly-review-october-1963-hurricane-flora-jamaica

US Weather Bureau Monthly Review Vol 9 No 3, p. 136

The Gleaner headlines give an indication of the news in Jamaica at the time:

gleaner-oct-3-1963-flora

Daily Gleaner, Thursday, Oct 3, 1963

gleaner-oct-4-1963-flora

Daily Gleaner, Friday, Oct 4, 1963

gleaner-oct-6-1963-flora

Sunday Gleaner, Oct 6, 1963

gleaner-oct-7-1963-flora

Daily Gleaner, Monday, Oct 7, 1963

gleaner-oct-8-1963-flora

Daily Gleaner, Tuesday, Oct 8, 1963

gleaner-oct-1963-flora

Daily Gleaner, Wednesday, Oct 9, 1963

As a 6-year-old, I wasn’t aware of any of this news, the deaths, the destruction and the severe hardships being faced by so many. Children nowadays see images on television and the internet, bringing them far closer to the news of things that don’t touch their lives directly. I do remember that when we went back to school, we had to take boiled water with us and we had strict instructions not to drink water from the pipes, as it would make us sick. I carried my water in a regular glass jam jar, with its metal screw-on lid. All the water bottles were lined up on a shelf in the classroom, with our names labelling them.

We lived on Gore Terrace at the time, which is near to the Sandy Gully and one day, my father walked with my older brother and me out to the Sandy Gully Bridge on Constant Spring Road. It wasn’t raining , and there were many other people standing on the bridge looking at the water roaring through the gully and under the bridge. I don’t remember the sound, but the image of the rough torrents of brown water rushing through the gully is seared into my memory. When we crossed the road to the other side of the bridge, the water churned even more violently as it went down the slope in the gully. I clung to Daddy’s hand and that provided a measure of security, but I had a terrible sense of the danger of that water, which seemed like a frighteningly live thing.

Hurricane Matthew has battered Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas over the past few days, and is now threatening the eastern coast of the USA. The news reporting is in real time, with non-stop images via cable, the internet and social media, which is vastly different from the type of reporting possible 53 years ago. As a comparison, you might watch these two short videos about Flora, one recent (using archival footage) and the other from 1963.

Jamaica has escaped with little damage, though at times it seemed as if we might experience Matthew’s category 4 strength. Today, as in 1963, we know that an October hurricane has dealt a far harsher blow to our regional neighbours than it has to us.


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Keeping Track of Hurricanes: Gilbert vs #Matthew

That weekend in September 1988, I knew that there was a hurricane in the Caribbean; it was on the news, but I wasn’t paying close attention. It wasn’t until my mother called me on the Sunday morning (Sept 11), that I began to pay attention.

“Susan, this one looks as though it’s going to hit us,” she said. And the following day Hurricane Gilbert did hit us, as a category 3 hurricane, with the eye travelling across Jamaica from the east to the west.

hurricane-gilbert-12-9-88-eye-approaches-jamaica

National Hurricane Center satellite  picture, showing eye approaching eastern tip of island on Sept 12, 1988

At that time, the radio newscasts  and the weather forecast on the nightly television news were the main sources of information, which came from Jamaica’s Met Office.

How different it is today!

Matthew

On September 23 (2016), Jeff Masters of Weather Underground began to comment on the system that became Tropical Storm Matthew, before it even became Invest 97L.jeff-masters-23-9-16

He has continued to track and forecast about the system since then and his blog – Dr Jeff Master’s Wunderblog – is a good weather blog to follow.

There are many good Twitter accounts to follow for weather info about storms and hurricanes, and two that had early tweets about Invest 97L were:cantore-tweet-29-9-16andErdman 23-9-16.PNGThere are official sites, such as the US National Hurricane Center, at which you can read updates and view forecast maps & satellite imagery.

(Forecast map & satellite image – Matthew, 29-9-16)

met-service-29-9-16-aThe Meteorological Service of Jamaica site is the official government site for updates & is a good place to check. It has issued a severe weather alert for Jamaica and has advised us to pay attention to subsequent releases.

Yesterday Matthew began to affect the Caribbean and Twitter came alive with updates from around the region..

A short while ago, I saw online that Matthew has now been upgraded to a hurricane and posted a tweet myself. It looks as though we may be feeling some effects come Sunday…sg-tweet-29-9-16I still listen to the radio for hurricane updates, but there are so many other sources nowadays that tracking Hurricane Matthew is a vastly different experience than tracking Hurricane Gilbert was 28 years ago!

 


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Zika Virus: Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Shares a Regional Perspective at Jan 25 Media Conference

In Port of Spain, Trinidad, yesterday, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) held a media conference to give an update regarding the Zika virus in the region. Ms Carlon Kirton, Communications Manager, who chaired the briefing, explained the reason for it being held:

“As you may know, CARPHA is the sole public health agency for the Caribbean and our functions include the coordination of effective responses to public health crises in the Caribbean, as well as the provision of accurate, reliable, timely and relevant public health information. It is therefore important that we clear the air on issues pertaining to the Zika virus.”

Five presentations followed:

carpha Hospedales 25-1-16Dr C. James Hospedales, Executive Director, gave a regional perspective on Zika in the Caribbean (text).

“Zika, like Chikungunya in 2014/15, is historic as only rarely does a new disease emerge and spread through a population. And CARPHA, like CAREC before, has a major part of its mission as the discovery and monitoring of the spread of new diseases, with the support of health workers who are on the front line, the laboratories, and regional airlines which cooperate in transporting diagnostic specimens from our 24 member states….

As a new disease in this population, it’s not completely clear how it will behave. The situation is rapidly evolving as new information comes to light. In terms of context, we already have Dengue fever — for generations, and ChikV. We also have Leptospirosis and Malaria, in some countries, which can have similar symptoms to Zika. Doctors and health workers need to consider these possibilities when seeing patients with Zika-like disease.

Dr Karen Polson-Edwards, Senior Technical Officer, Vector-Borne & Neglected Tropical Diseases, presented on Zika – the disease (text).

“Zika is transmitted primarily by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same mosquito which transmits Aedes_aegypti_during_blood_meal (1)chikungunya, dengue and yellow fever and which is present in every country of the Caribbean. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person during the first week of infection with the virus and in turn these infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.

The symptoms of Zika are similar to other mosquito-borne infections such as dengue and chikungunya, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, headache, muscle and joint pain, and a general feeling of being unwell. Only 1 in 4 persons infected with Zika virus may develop symptoms which are usually mild and last for 2-7 days. However, serious complications can sometimes occur in persons who are infected.”

Dr Lisa Indar, Programme Manager for the Tourism and Health Programme, spoke about Zika and Tourism (text).

Caribbean_general_map“The Caribbean is the one of the most tourism dependent regions in the world, thus travel related diseases like Zika have the huge potential to negatively affect the economies and tourism destination reputation of Caribbean countries. In fact, according to our partners, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and Caribbean Hotel and Tourism association (CHTA), there are already reports of travel cancellations in the Caribbean due Zika….

CARPHA, through its integrated regional Tourism and Health program, and in collaboration with its partners, CTO and CHTA, is taking a holistic aggressive approach to travel-related Zika (and other mosquito borne infections) through prevention and control….”

Dr Derrick Aarons, Ethicist, made a brief statement on Ethical Issues – Zika virus in the Caribbean (text) carpha Dr Aarons

“To limit the effects of any possible epidemic, good early communication, and adequate community engagement and collaboration are required. Our communication must therefore outline sufficient details for persons to realize its relevance to them individually before the onset of the illness within their country or community. And so – at the governmental level, good, helpful information about the zika virus and effective measures to minimize infection through eliminating mosquito breeding sites and measures to avoid being bitten by a mosquito – should occur. This helps to avoid confusion, mis-communication, and misunderstanding.

Further, as in every infectious disease, our relevant authorities should not downplay the risks – as this could lead to higher rates of preventable infections. Neither should we overstate the risks, as we would not want any panic or any lack of public trust occurring subsequently, as this can be long-lasting. It is always good to provide timely, adequate and appropriate information, as we are now doing. And so we are telling you of the nature of the disease, the types of interventions to be implemented, and the reasons for these interventions.”

Dr Joy St John, Director, Surveillance, Disease Prevention & Control, reported on Strengthening the Health Sector Response to Zika (text).carpha dr st john

“It is important to note that the laboratory testing for ZIKV is not geared toward identifying EVERY SINGLE case of ZIKV which may occur in a country, as many persons may have mild disease and may not come to clinical care or require a test, at all. The numbers of clinically confirmed cases are therefore not intended to reflect the actual number of cases in any given country; rather, lab confirmation of ZIKV circulation is meant to keep track of the appearance of ZIKV in new areas and provide updates on the spread of the virus. In most cases, physicians will need to use clinical criteria (patients’ signs and symptoms) as well as epidemiologic data on the circulation of ZIKV in the areas from which their patients present, in order to come to a diagnosis of suspected ZIKV.

Special attention is warranted in the follow-up of patients for varying types of neurological sequelae after ZIKV infection and particular attention should be paid to follow up of pregnant patients who present with febrile illness compatible with ZIKV, and their offspring, in light of current concerns regarding a potential connection between ZIKV infection in pregnancy and the development of microcephaly in infants of affected mothers. CARPHA is currently in the process of piloting systems to facilitate the documentation of such cases, should they occur, so as to detect any similar patterns of association, in the Caribbean region, as early as possible. Barbados has been chosen as a pilot site for this activity.

It is important that we follow the course of this disease in the Caribbean very closely from more than one perspective. The first is that it is new to this region and its potential impact is still largely unknown.”

After the presentations, there was a question and answer session. A video of the media conference is posted online.

carpha agenda 25-1-16

As the Zika virus continues to spread throughout the Caribbean, CARPHA is one source of information for the region. Their website is carpha.orgCARPHA objectives