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Elsa was big, we were spared

When news of what became the first hurricane of the 2021 season, hit us on Friday morning (July 02) how many of us imagined that it would have been so huge. It’s the hurricane season so we expect that systems will develop. We also expect the usual rhetoric from NaDMA which maybe some of us take seriously. On June 29 when Meteorological offices and Hurricane Centres revealed that a tropical wave and associated convection was located roughly 800 miles southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands, that certainly did not sound ominous.

We even heard that the disturbance began to gradually show signs of organization over the next several hours within a favorable environment, and by the next day, it was designated as potential tropical Cyclone Five, while located about 1,195 miles east of the Windward Islands. How many of us took notice of that? We simply went about our business and even children were sent to school.

Elsa was said to be an active system which threatened the eastern Caribbean. We heard, with little concern, reports that Carriacou and Petite Martinique were in her way. It was only when the system became the first Atlantic hurricane of 2021 and started blowing off roofs and breaking down trees in the eastern Caribbean that the seriousness hit home to many of us. What started off as a wave, became an active strong tropical storm with wind speeds between 74 and 95 mph (119 and 153 km/h); the fifth named storm and first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. The four names on this year’s list ahead of Elsa (Ana, Bill, Claudette and Danny) were given to tropical storms that didn’t reach high enough wind speeds to qualify as hurricanes. 

This unusually early Caribbean hurricane once again tested our readiness. With such an early start, it’s possible that the 2021 hurricane season may rival that of 2020, which set a record with 30 named storms, beating the previous record holder of 28 storms named in 2005, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Of those 30 named storms of 2020, 11 made landfall in the United States. 

How many of us are familiar with the conditions associated with a warning and a watch? Do we know off hand what is required when one is issued? Are business owners now factoring in the weather in their plans so that staff will be on board with them? The behavior of some of these weather systems can sometimes be unpredictable, leaving little time to prepare to survive.

Benedict Peters who is now back as the chief of NaDMA is encouraging us to understand what is required so as to avoid panic. That’s certainly very good advice, which can only serve to save lives. Another important issue he pointed out is people finding pleasure in wading through flood waters. Simply put, that water is dirty and can carry pathogens that can lead to serious infection.

Both Saint Vincent and Barbados took a direct hit from Elsa. Thank God Grenada was spared.

The people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, who were displaced by the eruption of the volcano, were recently returning to their homes to start life anew, only to be hit by another woeful situation.

As Barbados got its share of ash from the volcano in Saint Vincent, some experts have revealed that the eruption of the volcano created an abnormal situation since normally the wind blows in the opposite direction in that area and was not expected to dump so much ash on Barbados. It is even believed that climate change which the world is experiencing, may have a part to play in the strange behavior of the volcano.

Should we continue to joke about God being a Grenadian and continue to ignore the hurricane season? It may be best to learn to live with mother nature and plan now for a smooth ride through it all. In the Caribbean we only have two seasons which we should start focusing on in our planning. They each come with their peculiar needs. The dry season may not have enough water while the rainy season most times comes with too much.

There is much to learn from the lessons of long ago experienced on Carriacou and Petite Martinique.


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