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Nov 30, 2017

Hurricane Season Over – Belize is Spared

It’s November thirtieth and that means the Hurricane Season has closed. The 2017 Hurricane Season lived up to expectations as a very active one, forecasted to be above average and it was, with seventeen named storms – and only six didn’t hit land. Belize was lucky to have escaped from the six major hurricanes – these wreaked havoc in different parts of the Caribbean and North America.  Today NEMO called a press briefing today to close off the hurricane season. News Five’s Andrea Polanco has more:

 

Edmond Castro, NEMO Minister

“First of all, I must give thanks to Jehovah for assisting and guiding us and protecting us and pull us through safely in the 2017 Hurricane season.”

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Belize was spared the wrath of the 2017 Tropical Atlantic Hurricane season, which ranks as the most destructive and among the busiest on record. Three storms, Harvey, Irma and Maria, did the most of the damage, and vulnerable nations are still recovering. In all, seventeen named storms passed over the Atlantic Ocean basin. Ten of them became hurricanes; six of them major — of category three or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

 

Catherine Cumberbatch

Catherine Cumberbatch, Chief Meteorologist

“The forecast for the hurricane season was for above normal activity and that is just what happened. We had for this season seventeen named storms and of those 17 named storms and ten of them became hurricanes and of the ten hurricanes – six became major hurricanes. When we refer to major hurricanes we are talking category three or huger on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane wind scale. The two strongest hurricanes formed this year were hurricane Irma and Maria.  As it pertains to Belize, we were very blessed that none of those 17 systems impact us. But we had two that came near the Belize border; those were tropical storms Franklin and Harvey.”

 

But what caused this very active hurricane season? According to the weather experts, nearly ideal conditions in both the atmosphere and ocean gave rise to the destructive storms. During the peak of the season, vertical wind shear — which can disrupt storm development — was significantly lower than average right where Irma, Jose and Maria reached their peak strengths. The warmer than average tropical Atlantic Ocean was also a big factor with September sea surface temperatures the third-warmest on record. The regular tropical waves off Africa were quick to take full advantage of these hurricane friendly conditions as soon as they entered the region.

 

Catherine Cumberbatch

“The vertical wind shear in the atmosphere decreased significantly and gave way to more contusive activity in the north Atlantic basin; the other factor is the high sea surface temperature; it was way above normal that we had. The other thing is the shift in the ENSO pattern later in the season that also caused the vertical wind shear to reduce and so was very contusive for tropical cyclone activity.”

 

And those conditions gave rise to major hurricanes that caused massive damage in the Caribbean and the parts of the U.S.A.; storms, Minister Castro says, no one can be prepared enough for.

 

Edmond Castro

Edmond Castro

“I think none of us in the Caribbean or anywhere else, even in the great USA that we are experiencing now and seeing because of climate change due to those category five storms that as soon as they leave Africa it seems that they develop into category three, four and five with maximum sustained winds. It is difficult for us to plan for something like that, not just Belize. But we are doing what we can do. One of the most important things we can do for our people is information. If we recognize that a storm is coming our way, we always make sure we prepare our people and inform them to get to safer grounds or take shelter. Those are the best    weapon we can ever have is proper and timely information.”

 

June-November is Belize’s “rainy season” which caused flooding in different parts of the country. Minister Castro says that NEMO continues to review their mechanisms as a part of overall preparedness.

 

Edmond Castro

“As a precaution, not to have the amount of flooding in those different parts of the country; we have the NEMO back-hoe that goes from north to south to clear out most of the drains and to make the path easier for the water to pass. Because what used to happen in the past is that some of the drains are clogged and it create other problems for us by washing away roads, washing away culverts, washing away bridges and so we are really using the back-hoe and so we are going to have less damages from flooding as a result of that.”

 

Each year, the World Meteorological Organization removes hurricanes that caused significant losses to life and property from the list of named storms. It is likely that Harvey, Irma and Maria will be removed from 2017’s list. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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