Exploring our Caribbean hurricane folklore

[Pictured] Category – 5, Hurricane Dorian makes landfall on the Commonwealth of The Bahamas- September 1, 2019 (Credits: National Hurricane Center)

The Caribbean is known for it’s diverse and colorful culture and breathtaking landscapes and its myths, tales and lived experiences of its hurricane folklore. The impacts of deadly hurricanes have recently come into sharp focus with an ever-increasingly violent hurricane season from 2017 to 2019. But the Caribbean is no stranger to hurricanes. Hurricanes, in the Caribbean, can be expected to form anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of West Africa, the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico between June 1 and November 30 during what is called the Atlantic Hurricane Season.

The Caribbean’s familiarity with severe tropical storms,is a phenomenon that is shared by many island states and continents that border on either the Atlantic or the Pacific ocean.

“The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th, and the Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15th to November 30th. The Atlantic basin includes the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. The Eastern Pacific basin extends to 140°W.”

Nhc.noaa.gov. (2019)

In May of this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center released its outlook forecast for the 2019 Atlantic hurricane Season. a near-normal season was predicted citing a 40 percent chance of near-normal season, a 30 percent of an above-normal season and a 30 percent of a below-normal hurricane season

A graphic showing hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms.
A graphic showing hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms. (NOAA)

The prediction Center further suggested that an average of 9 – 16 named storms was possible, of which 4- 8 could be come hurricane with 2 – 4 of those becoming major hurricanes.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is the measurement used to determine estimated potential property damage. The scale’s rating runs from 1 – 5 as shown in the table below with corresponding wind speeds and damage expected at landfall.

A breakdown of the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale
Myescambia.com. (2019)

The hurricane islands

Before I go any further in my musings over the Caribbean folklore, let us be clear that tropical storms are known as Cyclones when they are formed over the waters of the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, while they are known as typhoons over the NorthWest Pacific Ocean and Hurricanes form over the North Atlantic Ocean and Northeast Pacific. for the purposes of this post, we are looking the growing body of history, myth and legend as occasioned by the yearly visits by these dangerous, severe and in many cases causes of catastrophic natural disaster.

Politcal Map of West Indies in the Caribbean
Political Map of the Caribbean.
ationsonline.org, k. (2019)

Look at the the political map of the Caribbean above, including the United states coast line of which only South Florida is shown here and Central and South American countries of Venezuela , Columbia, costa Rica and Honduras. Particularly in the Caribbean, each country or island will have either its official records dating back to the plantation and european conquest era, or what has been retained by word- of-mouth by way of oral tradition. For us in the Caribbean, we don’t have to rely on the historical record or word-of-mouth. In the last three (3) years alone this region has had a rude awakening of the hazards of hurricanes and the potential impact they may have on any country that they make landfall. Here I am referring to the 2017, 2018, 2019 hurricane seasons, that have left large swarths of the Caribbean facing years rebuilding after being decimated by the Atlantic storms.

  • 2017 – Hurricanes Irma and Maria
  • 2018 – Hurricane Michael
  • 2019 – Hurricane Dorian

Tropical Weather Outlook

To wind up this instalment, I will share an extract from the Tropical Weather Discussion from the NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL at 7:14 AM EDT. Tue Oct 8 2019.

An eastern Caribbean tropical wave extends its axis along 66W from
21N southward, moving W at 15-20 kt. Scattered moderate
convection prevails from 10N-18N between 61W-72W, including over
the Windward Islands


See section above for details on two tropical waves over the
Caribbean Sea.

An elongated surface trough extends from Cancun Mexico to Ft.
Myers Florida. Scattered showers and isolated tstorms are seen 
over the Yucatan Channel. Upper-level diffluence is enhancing
scattered moderate to strong convection over the western Gulf of
Honduras from 16N-18N between 86W-89W. Isolated moderate
convection is from eastern and central Cuba to the Cayman Islands
to NE Honduras. The ASCAT pass from late Monday evening shows
fresh trades across the eastern and central Caribbean from 11.5N-
18N between 60W-77W.

The tropical wave along 77W will reach Central America on Wed. The
tropical wave along 66W will move south of the Greater Antilles 
Wed and Thu. Winds over the S central Caribbean will be locally 
strong through Wed. Otherwise, moderate to fresh trades will 
generally prevail across much of the region for the next several 
days. Large N swell will prevail east of the Lesser Antilles today
and tonight before gradually subsiding for the latter half of the


Bbc.co.uk. (2019). What’s the difference between hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons? – CBBC Newsround. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/24879162 [Accessed 8 Oct. 2019].

nationsonline.org, k. (2019). Political Map of the Caribbean – Nations Online Project. [online] Nationsonline.org. Available at: https://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/map/Caribbean-political-map.htm [Accessed 8 Oct. 2019].

Nhc.noaa.gov. (2019). Atlantic Tropical Weather Discussion. [online] Available at: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/MIATWDAT.shtml [Accessed 8 Oct. 2019].

Nhc.noaa.gov. (2019). Tropical Cyclone Climatology. [online] Available at: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/climo/ [Accessed 8 Oct. 2019].

Noaa.gov. (2019). NOAA predicts near-normal 2019 Atlantic hurricane season | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. [online] Available at: https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/noaa-predicts-near-normal-2019-atlantic-hurricane-season [Accessed 8 Oct. 2019].

Myescambia.com. (2019). Tropical Storms & Hurricanes . [online] Available at: https://myescambia.com/our-services/public-safety/beready/natural-disasters/tropical-storms-hurricanes [Accessed 8 Oct. 2019].