Right Steps & Poui Trees


#Matthew: The Preferred Approach to Hurricane Preparedness?

“PM, yuh think wi should start do something now? Open some shelter, sen out a bulletin, tell people fi board up?”

“No man, Desmond. Breeze nuh start blow yet, and only likkle rain ah fall. Wait till wi really start feel it, man. If it look like di storm surge covering the road and reaching people house, I will call Up Park Camp and ask them to send some soldiers to Portland and St Thomas same time.”

“But, PM, dem can reach in the middle ah di hurricane? By di time dem reach, people nuh wash wey aready?”

“No man, Desmond, wi mustn’t overreact. After all, look how many times wi prepare and no hurricane come. Evan seh Matthew might come, but he’s only a meteorologist; what them know about weather? And the National Hurricane Centre is in Florida, so they cyaan know what is going to happen in Jamaica.”

“Okay, I will talk to Major Davis. ODPEM must just watch Matthew a likkle longer. Dem shouldn’t move to NEOC Level 2 activation too soon. Dem cyan always prepare afta di storm.”


Sometimes it is necessary to imagine the ridiculous in order to highlight  a situation.

There are some people who are angry with the government and the weather forecasters because they advised people to prepare for a possible encounter with Hurricane Matthew, and in the end Jamaica hasn’t been severely impacted. Based on the ongoing information available from meteorologists locally, regionally & internationally, Jamaica was in the cone of possible impact of the system, which on Friday night reached the level of a Category 5 hurricane, the highest strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.nhc-matthew-cat-5-30-9-16-11pm

Matthew did a number of things which the weather forecasters didn’t expect. Its rapid intensification from not even being classified as a tropical depression on Wednesday morning (Sept 28) to being a Category 5 Hurricane on Friday night (Sept 30) was completely unexpected; it was described on Jeff Master’s blog on Weather Underground as ” a jaw-dropping stretch of rapid intensification” (October 1, 2016). The path of the hurricane was also unusual and it slowed down and wobbled before it took the predicted turn to the north, which took place later than initially expected. This is a satellite image of where Hurricane Matthew was on Sunday morning, at a point when it was moving west at a forward speed of 3 mph:


Image from Weather Underground

Our local forecasters gave their updates based on the data available at the time and reminded that the forecast could change. Forecast accuracy has improved over time, given the advances in technology and available data, but meteorology is not an exact science.

It would have been grossly irresponsible if the government, given the information available to it, had not begun serious preparations for the possibility of a major hurricane hitting or passing close to Jamaica. Advisories had to be issued for people to prepare well in advance of projected impact.

No-one enjoys the disruption to normal routines that happens because of hurricane preparations. (Except perhaps for children who get time off from school.) People may feel frustrated, impatient, angry, anxious, frightened or any number of other emotions. Spending money on hurricane supplies when money is in short supply is frustrating and if the hurricane doesn’t materialise, the frustration may intensify. Boarding up, moving to a shelter, closing a business, worrying about family who are vulnerable are among the stressful experiences associated with preparing. But preparing is essential.

As I tweeted yesterday:sg-tweet-3-10-16-hurricane-prep-optionsAnd I saw this tweet by a US meteorologist today:holthaus-tweet-re-matthew-4-10-16The government will obviously need to review its actions over the past week or so, to identify any flaws in its response and what improvements can be made. Meteorologists will definitely review the data about Hurricane Matthew for years to come, seeking to understand this unpredictable storm among unpredictable storms. And all of us can review our own responses to see what lessons there are for us to learn about how best to protect ourselves and our families.

As we watch Hurricane Matthew battering Haiti and Cuba, let’s remember that we were facing that possibility and if the track had wobbled a bit to the west and Jamaica had been hit, would we have wanted to be prepared or not?

350 Words or Less: June Too Soon – Hurricane Season 2016

So the Atlantic Hurricane Season begins today, and the traditional rhyme comes to mind:

June, too soon

July, stand by

August, come it must

September, remember

October, all over.

However, the season is off to an unusual start. The first named storm – Hurricane Alex – actually developed in January, a very unusual occurrence. Alex developed maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and went on to affect the Azores.

Hurricane Alex Wikipedia graphic

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And then last week, Tropical Storm Bonnie formed and made landfall as a tropical depression on the South Carolina coast. Bonnie wasn’t a strong storm, but brought a lot of rain.

tweet bonnie flooding

So the traditional season starts with two of the twenty-one assigned names already used.

Alex   Bonnie   Colin   Danielle   Earl   Fiona   Gaston   Hermine   

Ian   Julia   Karl   Lisa   Matthew   Nicole   Otto   Paula   Richard   

Shary   Tobias   Virginie   Walter

The predictions are generally for a near average hurricane season with NOAA giving the following prediction:

The outlook calls for a 70% probability for each of the following ranges of activity during the 2016 hurricane season:

  • 10-16 Named Storms, which includes Alex in January
  • 4-8 Hurricanes, which includes Alex in January
  • 1-4 Major Hurricanes
  • Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) range of 65%-140% of the median, which includes Alex in January

And out of the 2016 Wet/Hurricane Season Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum in Dominica, there is this prediction:

“We expect that there will be more extreme wet spells. That means a couple of days in which there will be enormous amounts of rainfall that can come. Because that chance is getting higher and higher as we go on into our wet season, the risk of flash floods that lead on from such wet spells becomes much greater,” Cedric Van Meerbeeck, climatologist at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), based in Barbados, told The Gleaner.


ODPEM Recommendations

The Office of Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Management (ODPEM) has a list of recommendations for hurricane preparedness. How many of these have you done yet?

ODPEM hurricane prep 1


And if you’re interested in the history of hurricanes in Jamaica, take a look at Dr Joy Lumsden’s site: 18th century hurricane accounts & 19th century hurricane accounts

Lumsden website - hurricanes 1

Best to be  prepared!