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Hurricane Tomas on the rampage

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Friday afternoon, as I was leaving work, I heard that there was a tropical wave in the area, and when one person wished me a happy weekend, I had no idea what was in store for us.

Saturday morning, October 30, 2010, information reached me that a hurricane was brewing and that the tropical storm would soon turn into a hurricane. As early as seven o’clock there was a brisk wind, but outside was bright and clear.{{more}} Like most Vincentians, I thought that we would be spared, as usual, because I cannot remember any devastating hurricane during my lifetime. We had no major storms, while our neighbors in the Caribbean have suffered the full brunt of hurricane force winds. In 1988, Gilbert, a category 4 hurricane, pounded Jamaica; in 1989, Hurricane Hugo devastated Montserrat; in 2004, Hurricane Ivan, a category 4 hurricane, pounded Grenada, severely causing death and destruction in its path.

Category one hurricane

Hurricane Tomas did not spare us. It was bent on its path to St Vincent, and by the time it reached us, it had been upgraded from a tropical storm to a category one hurricane. After battering Barbados, the tropical storm headed for SVG and St. Lucia, where the eye passed over the southern part of St Lucia and the northern part of St Vincent. Hurricanes are measured on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale from Category one to Category five, with the latter being the most severe. Category one has wind speed of 75 to 95 miles per hour (mph), Category two, 96 to 110 mph, category three, 111 to 130 mph, category four, 131 to 155 mph, and category 5, over155 miles per hour.

Damage

According to the National Hurricane Center, trees that are not anchored deeply could be uprooted, and there could be extensive damage to power lines, roofs and buildings that are not properly grounded. Tomas lived up to this expectation, and it wreaked havoc on the Northern part of the island. Bananas and plantains were wiped out. Other parts of the island got their share of gusty wind and rain, but not as severe as the path of the eye. Fortunately, no one died in St. Vincent, but unfortunately five persons died in St Lucia.

Lessons from Tomas

We are happy to see the back of Tomas, and I hope it has taught us many lessons, among them preparedness. Secondly, that we must keep our surroundings, especially our homes, free from overhanging branches and tall trees. Many houses narrowly escaped the damage from fallen trees and branches. There are some people who grow huge trees close to their neighbors and refuse to even cut back the branches. I hope this is going to make neighbors more considerate of others.

The brighter side

The radio station and NEMO must be commended for the coverage, and Cable and Wireless for the continued telephone service during the storm. The electricity was turned off during the early part of the storm, but it was restored in some places in record time.

Where next, Tomas?

Today, Tuesday November 2, 2010, as I write, Tomas is kicking up a storm in the Caribbean Sea. It has been down graded to a tropical storm, but according to the weather report, it is expected to whip up some more energy as it makes “a kick back” for the island of Hispaniola, where it would cross over in the area of Port au Prince, perhaps as a category 3 hurricane.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]

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