Disaster officials prepare as hurricane season looms

Hurricane Irma ravaged much of Barbuda in 2017 (Photo by Gemma Handy)
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By Shermain Bique-Charles

[email protected]

The National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) has been moving swiftly ahead with preparations for this year’s hurricane season, which officially starts next Wednesday and is already predicted to be an above-average one.

Acting Director Sherrod James told Observer yesterday that a number of plans and policies are already in place to ensure that challenging issues can be properly addressed, such as adequate shelters.

“We have been also working with coordinators on the ground as well as with Public Works. Inspectors have been inspecting the facilities and working with district disaster coordinators on the ground to review the structures for adequacy,” he said.

James said NODS has also been looking at additional facilities that can be utilised, reviewed, and used for public shelters.

“We have a number of new buildings where owners have expressed interest in becoming public shelters. We have been working with them through a number of development partners and a number of churches to do training to ensure we have increased capacity,” he said.

Barbuda is not being left out of the preparation mode, according to James, who confirmed that work has already started on the sister isle.

“We are ensuring that the buildings currently being rebuilt are developed to a higher standard and that they are more resilient. We are working with volunteers and development partners in this light,” James explained.

The senior officer is warning that much of the nation is mentally unprepared for hurricanes and disasters, particularly storms that intensify rapidly and leave little time for evacuation.

James fears that people have become complacent over the years where preparing for disasters is concerned.

The hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with early predictions from climatologists suggesting a busy season ahead.

“It pays to always be vigilant. You may have a warning for a number of things and it doesn’t happen for 10 to 15 years, and it’s the one time that you don’t prepare for it, it can happen,” James said.

He added that, given the current global climate, including the effects of climate change, global warming, and even the Covid-19 pandemic, people should always “act like something is happening and always prepare for the worst”.

Meanwhile, climatologist Dale Destin has updated his forecast for the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, predicting a very busy and active season, with the potential of it being super hyperactive.

“A super hyperactive season like 2017 also remains possible. There is a 33 percent chance of the ACE [accumulated cyclone energy] exceeding 223.

“Further, there is a 42 percent chance of more than 19 named storms, a 27 percent chance of more than 11 hurricanes and also a 27 percent chance of more than six major hurricanes,” Destin said.

If the forecast pans out, this season, according to Destin, would be the third most active since 2017, in terms of ACE, and the 16th most active since 1851.

It would also tie with 1933 for the fourth highest number of named storms.  

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