Since the pounding received in September by hurricanes Irma and Maria residents have dreaded the arrival of 1 June which is the opening of the new hurricane season. Now that the date is here the worry has intensified as the first named storm for this Atlantic Hurricane year has already claimed lives.
From Monday this week the US news reported of subtropical storm Alberto which is the first named storm of 2018. Alberto struck the US state of Florida and left two dead. Other named storms of the year are Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sara, Tony, Valerie, and William. Meanwhile floods and endless and huge lightning storms have affected the UK and vast regions of continental Europe.
As it relates to how worried residents should be it is still too soon to tell, but so far the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted on 24 May that there was a 75-percent chance that this hurricane season will be near or above normal.
The hurricane season runs from 1 June 1 to 30 November and NOAA stated that an average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes. For this year, it was noted that of the 10 to 16 named storms predicted this year there is a 70-percent likelihood that five to nine could become hurricanes, including one to four major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher).
The Territory is still in recovery mode from the effects of the last hurricane season, but it was announced that preparation for this season is also being worked on. Mention of the BVI’s hurricane readiness was made during a press conference by His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert on 16 May.
The Governor under whose portfolio disaster management mainly falls announced that Cabinet has been working on disaster management matters. The Governor told reporters: “I think Cabinet is comfortable. Everything won’t be in place for June but most of the issues will definitely be in place as time evolves and certainly by the time of the peak of the hurricane season to ensure that we can face any storm.” Last year some hurricane shelters were in disrepair and most people had to fend for themselves proving that preparedness is a hope and not a fact.
“Things are not in the perfect condition and that is why recovery is such a priority to make sure we get on with that. We have the plan. We have the vision. We have the structure and the money…We have also agreed to plan extra funding from the Cabinet to repair shelters across the territory and to get communication systems in place,” Governor Jaspert added.
During her appearance before Standing Finance Committee Director of the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) Sharleen DaBreo told legislators that the shelters are being looked at for use during this hurricane season.
In addition to noting shelters to be repaired and possibly removed from the shelters list Dabreo mentioned that the Department has identified new venues that can be used as shelters during this hurricane season. One such structure is the New Testament of God Church in Baugher’s Bay.
As the DDM pushes to ready shelters Dabreo noted that the Department plans to keep the number of shelters on the list at 30 or above for this year. The DDM Director also noted that the Department has been working with the Public Works Department and the Environmental Health Unit to complete structural and public health assessments on shelters identified. This she said will determine which structures remain on the list of shelters.