Hurricane season expected to be extreme

The first prognosis about the 2010 hurricane season is that it will be more active than last year and has the potential to be an "extreme season" similar to 2008. 

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We can all recall Hurricane Omar in mid-October 2008 when it passed less than 50 miles from the island as a major category three causing over US$100 million in damage especially to coastal properties due to storm surge.

The early hurricane season forecast has been made by Meteorologist and Hurricane Forecaster Joe Bastardi. In 2008, there were 16 named storms, eight became hurricanes. The forecast for 2010 is 16 to 18 storm systems of which seven will become hurricanes and five of those will become a category three or stronger.

What’s behind a forecast active 2010 hurricane season, well a rapid weakening of the current El Nino in the Pacific Ocean; warmer sea surface temperatures; and an expected weakening of the Atlantic trade wind.

Traditionally an El Nino occurring in the Pacific Ocean leads to a typically less active hurricane season, but this year this seems not to be the case.

For this time of the year it has been noticeably very dry and warm. The U.S. has been experiencing some very extreme weather situations such as a number of blizzards and just recently torrential rains that have caused flooding in certain states.

There is much concern by weather experts with respect to neighbouring earthquake ravaged Haiti where a minor tropical storm could cause what has been described as a catastrophe.

In Haiti, 80 per cent of the population is without access to television or radio, and communicating weather forecasts to the public is a great concern. Two weeks ago part of Haiti experienced flooding from a cold front weather system which killed up to 20 persons. Thousands of people continue to live in temporary shelters which are extremely vulnerable to wind and rain.

At the Regional Association IV Hurricane Committee, which brings together hurricane experts from across the Americas, held in Bermuda last week, Haiti was one of the main topics of discussion. A positive outcome at the meeting for Haiti and its people is Jamaica and Cuba will be asked to provide radar images while other countries have offered to provide storm tracking and communications equipment as well as personnel.

Disaster management planners will be paying keen attention in the coming weeks as other forecasters will be coming out with their seasonal projections for the 2010 hurricane season. The next one is early April by Colorado State University hurricane forecasters Philip Klotzbach and William Gray followed by the Miami NOAA/National Hurricane Center on June 1.

Roddy Heyliger