Friday, June 1, 2012

Trying to Reason

Happy Hurricane Season 2012 everyone! Today, June 1, marks the official start of the Atlantic Hurricane season, but as you probably know, the unofficial start this year was on the 19th of May, when Tropical Storm Alberto developed off the coast of the Carolinas to become the first named storm of the year. With the subsequent development of Tropical Storm Beryl a few days later, 2012 became the first year since 1908 to have two named storms before the official June 1 start of hurricane season.

Despite all the early-season activity, NOAA is predicting an average season this year. What does this mean for hurricanes in the BVI? Not much. It only takes one head-on hit to make it a devastating hurricane season for the BVI, and that can occur even in a slow hurricane year. So if you're a newbie here wondering what to expect, or planning on travelling to the area, here's what you need to know.

The absolute worst weeks for hurricanes in the BVI are the last week of August and the first two weeks of September. Something like 75% of all storms that have hit or brushed the BVI have occurred in this narrow window. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared at all other times, but maybe you might want to avoid travelling here during those weeks.

Overall, the BVI is a pretty safe place to be during a hurricane. The buildings are extremely sturdy, built to withstand not just hurricanes but earthquakes. There's little risk of storm surge, due to the deep waters surrounding the island, but even so, it's best not to remain in coastal areas if avoidable. Most buildings have storm shutters, which help keep the worst effects of the winds at bay. The government shuts off the electricity, so there is no chance of electrocution from downed wires -- an inconvenience if you don't have a generator, but ultimately a pretty smart safety precaution. Heavy rains flooding your residence or landslides should be your biggest concerns during a storm. Stay high and dry.

Perhaps the most important measure to take if you're in the BVI during hurricane season is to stay informed. Know what's brewing out there in the Atlantic and in the Gulf, and if it looks like something is coming our way, take preparations. My preferred source of information is Weather Underground's tropical weather page, but for the most up-to-date details, it's hard to beat NOAA's Hurricane Center. Take note, though, that many sources of weather news are US-based, and will only discuss storms that are threatening to US landmasses. Our proximity to Puerto Rico keeps this info relevant, but sometimes there will be a hurricane or storm that's not reported on until it's very close, as was the case with Earl two years ago.

All in all, despite the hurricanes, summer is my favorite time in the BVI, so if you're here with me, I hope you enjoy it too!

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