Hurricane experts warns against complacency
Bermuda should not become complacent after escaping a “hyperactive” hurricane season, experts warned yesterday.
Steve Cosham, national disaster co-ordinator for the Ministry of National Security, said Bermuda has recorded the strength of storms that battered the Caribbean last year.
He said: “Down south when they talk about Hurricanes Irma and Maria, they say Category 5. Categories stop at 5.
“If you were to continue that scale, what they are saying is it would be a Category 7, but Category 7 doesn't exist. We haven't had any more than a strong 3 — it came as a 4 and went to a 3 as it went past us. How would we fare with a 7? I don't know. We are going to be devastated.”
But Mr Cosham added: “We have the regiment, we are well positioned, and we have well-rehearsed hurricane plans.
“The more we have plans, and the more people are informed and prepared, the more we will do as well as we possibly could.”
Mr Cosham was speaking at the third annual Institute of Risk Management as part of Hurricane Preparedness Week.
The Atlantic hurricane season starts tomorrow and will run to the end of November.
Mr Cosham said the emergency broadcast station is already broadcasting at 100.1fm, and that members of the public can tune in now to see if they have a good reception.
He added: “We've got a very small loop of music on it, so it's not very entertaining after an hour or so, but you can tune in and have confidence you can hear it where you are and know if you can receive it at your home.”
Updates will also be released through the media, social media, e-mails, text messages and the government website in the event of an imminent hurricane strike. Mr Cosham said he hoped to see comprehensive disaster management legislation announced before the end of the year.
The US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted a near-average season this year with between ten and 16 named storms. Between five and nine of them are expected to reach hurricane strength.
James Dodgson, director of the Bermuda Weather Service, said cool waters off Africa and signs of El Niño conditions could help limit hurricane growth this year. But he highlighted the risk from warmer-than-average water near the island.
Mr Dodgson said: “The main development region is at or slightly below normal, whereas around Bermuda is fairly warm.
“We might not get storms developing in the main development region, but if we have low pressure forming around Bermuda and there's little upper-level flow to push it away from us, there is a lot of energy there to give some impetus to storms.”
But Mr Dodgson added that it was still early and conditions could change before the peak of the season.
He said most hurricanes that hit Bermuda are recorded in September and October as the Bermuda-Azores high — a large system of high pressure — moves away from the island.
Mr Dodgson said the 2017 season was a busy one with 17 named storms recorded and a series of major hurricanes.
He said: “It was not just an active season — it's technically called a hyperactive season — however for Bermuda it was quiet.
“We had some swells, some small craft warnings, but no tropical storm watches or warnings were issued at all. That was the first time in ten years.”