Hurricane ’Elsa’ which, at the time of writing has been downgraded to a top-end tropical storm, intensified from tropical depression 5 on Wednesday June 30, 2021 to a category 1 hurricane in less than 24 hours. The National Hurricane Center (NHC), based in Miami Florida, began issuing ‘Potential Tropical Cyclone advisories at 5 PM (AST), 2021.
CARIBBEAN PUT ON NOTICE
Hurricane Elsa, has broken several records, including the earliest and furthest forming tropical cyclone in the month of July.
The NHC began to investigate Invest 97L as a tropical wave, and as a possible threat to Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and the southern Windward Islands. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Martinique were immediately put on Tropical Storm Watches. Meanwhile, governments and citizens in the rest of the Windward islands, the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti were advised to follow the progress of the storm which the NHC gave the area of low pressure that was 1,195 miles (1,920 (Kilometers) East of the Windward Islands, a 70 percent chance of developing into a tropical storm in the next 48 hours, and a 90 percent possibility over the next 5 days.
The obligatory press conference
Barbados,the most Easterly of the islands in the Caribbean chain, which had suffered ‘at least 13 houses with roof damages from what authorities termed a ‘freak storm’ on June 16, sprang into action holding a press conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, which was carried live at 7:12pm on the night of July 1, 2021. “Clearly we have an urgent matter that is upon us,” Prime Minister Mia Mottley told the nation, “with respect to Tropical Storm Elsa. I’m asking everyone who is listening, to listen carefully, and who is not listening those of you who are listening I’d like you to carry a message to people who are not listening because do not assume that everybody is on social media. Do not assume that everyone is listening to a radio. Therefore the combined efforts of communication as we prepare ourselves, and this tropical storm watch is absolutely critical,” she said.
Meanwhile, Director of Meteorology, Sabu Best told the briefing that a tropical storm warning was in effect. He mentioned that a tropical storm warning is issued when sustained wind speeds reach 34 to 63 knots or between 39 and 70 miles per hour associated with a tropical storm or hurricane are forecast could affect Barbados within 36 hours. “In this case,” he said, “ in the very early hours of the morning on Friday the 2nd of July 2021.” He went on to warn Barbadians that he expected that the country would begin to feel the effects of the storm in the early hours of the morning and that he expected an increase in sustained wind speeds to around 60 miles per hour.
Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, expressed his ministry’s state of preparedness. “Following the freak incident over the last couple of weeks we are aware of the fragility of a number of the properties in Barbados and we are expecting sustained storm-force winds .”
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which was under a tropical storm watch, also held a press briefing. St Vincent is recovering from a series of explosive volcanic eruptions that began on April 9 when La Soufrière Volcano erupted sending clouds of ash into the atmosphere and thick dust sediments settled across St Vincent and as far as Barbados. He too urged his countrymen, residents many who have lived in shelters for weeks, and visitors to take heed of the warnings and directives of the authorities. He made particular mentioned of persons who may have returned to their holdings near rivers, warning them of the danger of lahars as a result of the large deposits of volcanic ash still on the hillsides.
ELSA BECOMES A HURRICANE
The National Hurricane Center in its July 2, 8:30 AM AST special Advisory declared Elsa a hurricane. Sustained winds reached 75 mph, and it was churning towards Barbados and St. Vincent, now under a Hurricane Warning at a good clip of 28 miles mph. Dominica was added to islands of the Windward now under a tropical storm watch which included Grenada and it dependencies, Saba and Sint Eustatius and Jamaica. In that advisory, a tropical Storm Warning was issued for Martinique ,the Southern coast of the Dominican republic and the entire coast of Haiti.
Elsa had just become the earliest fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season since the era of satellite observations began in 1966, replacing Hurricane Eduardo which formed on July 6, 2020 which prompted, Meteorologist Ella Dorsey, to publish during her coverage “it is very rare that we see storms form in the Atlantic Ocean this early. “ according to the Certified Meteorologist, “the water usually isn’t warm enough”.
Tropical cyclones in this part of the world, are generated over tropical Atlantic waters “between 8 and 20 degrees latitude”. Tropical storms favour high humidity, light winds, and warm sea surface temperatures starting at 26.5 degrees Celsius (80 Fahrenheit). The warmer the sea the more conducive it is for development. Usually, in West Indies hurricane activity peaks during the months of August to late October.
Barbados is hit hard
The NHC forecasted that ‘tropical storm conditions would begin affecting the portions of the Windward Islands Lesser Antilles on the Friday. A storm surge of from 1 – 3 feet as far as Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles was predicted. The new hurricane was expected to dump anywhere from 3 to 10 of rain across the hurricane watch area, accompanied by flash flooding and mudslides. Tropical storm conditions were expected across the Windward Islands through to the Dominican Republic and Jamaica on Saturday night. The minimum central pressure dropped to 1003 mb, as it raced toward Barbados. with sustained winds of 74 mph and higher gusts of 86 mph recorded by the Barbados Met service. The CBC News TV8 in Barbados remained on the air. Their Facebook page featured a live broadcast on which seasoned broadcasters sought to reassure the Barbadian public abreast of the situation as reports began to file in of damage to properties around Barbados. One young reporter who had been out covering the progress of the hurricane said, that her team was trapped by falling trees and other debris. By morning Images of uprooted trees, deroofed houses and other damages were being flashed on the screen. The Barbados Defence force were deployed to help elderly citizens, as power and water outages, reports of families trapped in their homes were reported to the island’s National Emergency Operations Centre.
Elsa was the first hurricane in 66 years to near-miss the island since Hurricane Janet of 1955.
Elsa treks west-northwest
As the center of the system passed near St. Vincent and St. Lucia, Elsa was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm early Saturday, but continued moving west-northwest at near 29 mph toward the greater Antilles leaving a trail of devastation in its wake across Barbados and parts of the Windward Islands. Social media images and footage told a harrowing story. Roofs were lifted clean off some buildings and palings were blown away, roads were impassable, and rivers swelled their banks.
The Prime Ministers of Dominica, St. Lucia and ST. Vincent and the Grenadines all issued stay-at-home orders with employers are asked to close their operations until the all clear was given. Prime minister, Mia Amor Mottley of Barbados, at a press conference to announce the ‘all-clear’ remarked that her island had sustained “significant damage across the island” At a press conference on July 3rd, Mottley said, “Elsa is clearly up there between Tomas and Janet as one of those events that literally brought dislocation, anxiety and horor to too many Barbadians over the course of the last 36 hours.” She reported that there were no lost of life in Barbados, however, “some people have lost everything. She said, adding “ The quality of construction has to be dealt with.”
Meanwhile, Director of the Department of Emergency Management, Kerry Hinds who joined meeting via zoom, reported that among reports of storm damage were 2 reports of flooding; 7 incidents of water damage; 13 impassable roads; 15 electricity power outages; 15 roof leaks; 60 fallen poles; 62 house collapses; 85 fallen trees; 89 accounts of house damages; 743 reports of roof damages and 87 other types of devastation.
Meantime Prime minister, Allen Chastanet of St. Lucia disclosed that the island suffered one fatality during Hurricane Elsa’s passage. By Sunday Hurricane Elsa was in the vicinity of Jamaica and Hispaniola were it claimed two lives in the Dominican Republic, while and dumping significant amount of rain in the area, up to 15 inches of rain on Jamaica and Southern Haiti causing widespread flooding.
In the latest National Hurricane Center’s 5 AM (EDT) Monday, July 5, 2021 Tropical Storm Elsa Advisory Number 20, Elsa was just south of Central Cuba. Maximum sustained winds at 65 mph (100 km/h). The system is moving northwest at 14 mph forward speed and it is expected to traverse Central and Western Cuba today, then it near the Florida Keys early tuesday before moving over the coast of West Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday
Hurricanes, Cyclones, Typhoons: Disasters Explained | ShelterBox (2021). Available at: https://www.shelterbox.org/hurricanes/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw24qHBhCnARIsAPbdtlKBBU7I1hjz0lyGlIxZ-CsnVLk2mRj19pMHb5sBHPKHBS00lkUaQcUaAuKUEALw_wcB (Accessed: 5 July 2021).
Hurricane ELSA Advisory Archive (2021). Available at: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2021/ELSA.shtml? (Accessed: 5 July 2021).
Allen Chastenet. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/allenmchastanet/videos/817195805600322/ (Accessed: 5 July 2021).
Roosevelt Skerrit Available at: https://www.facebook.com/SupportRooseveltSkerrit/videos/1487762858245890 (Accessed: 5 July 2021).
Mia Mottley. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/SupportMiaMottley/videos/147983160734606 (Accessed: 5 July 2021).
Ralph Gonsalves. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/nbcsvg/videos/1638722479654978 (Accessed: 5 July 2021).