WE ARE in the middle of a severe dry season, with the question of water supply so fraught WASA and farmers have battled things out in court. Those matters are at an end, but the dry weather belies the approach of the hurricane season, which will officially begin next Saturday and for which we must take steps to prepare.
On Monday, the first named storm of the season, Storm Andrea, arrived ahead of time. Though the nascent storm, which formed east of the Bahamas, lasted a few hours it was a reminder of the unpredictability of the hurricane season and why efforts must be made to be as ready as possible
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US is predicting a “near-normal” season with between nine to 15 named storms. But that should not make anyone complacent. The 1963 hurricane season was expected to be near average as well. In the end, it featured one of the deadliest hurricanes on record, Hurricane Flora, which passed over Tobago, reaching sustained winds of 145 miles per hour.
We endorse the call of Earl Hernandez, the chief of operations at the Tobago Emergency Management Agency, for plans to be put in place to ensure the agency is ready for this year’s season. In fact, such plans should have already been put in motion. And not just for Tobago.
All of our national resources should be audited and properly bolstered. While the dry season is expected to last longer than normal, its severity is a sign that the risk of serious damage from ordinary rainfall is higher than normal. Flash-flooding, caused by greater run-off, is likely to occur, no matter the severity of the systems that are to come.
Hernandez has urged the public to be vigilant, which means being aware of local infrastructure and shelters, preparing homes, taking stock of emergency supplies, and devising plans of action in the event of an emergency.
With the Office for Disaster Preparedness and Management having weathered criticism in the past over its response to flooding, it too must ensure it is not caught off guard. The prolonged dry season may be an opportunity for dredging and any overdue infrastructural work to take place and local authorities and state-level agencies should co-ordinate. Have we learned from our past experiences? Do agencies review performance with a view to improving?
The unusual weather patterns all over the world, including in the US where violent tornados tore across Missouri this week, also point to the need for analysis of shifting patterns and the impact of human development and climate change. We talk about the need to conserve water resources and to prepare, but have we analysed the deeper issues, like how climate change has directly affected local patterns?