By Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): June 1 signals the start of another Atlantic Hurricane Season, and for the seventh consecutive season National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center is predicting above-average hurricane activity for 2022.
According to a statement from NOAA, it has predicted that there will be a range of 14 to 21 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), 3 to 6 of those could become major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher).
The anticipated above-average activity was predicted because of several climate factors; the ongoing La Niña that is expected to persist throughout the hurricane season, warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea as a result of climate change, and weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds and an enhanced west African monsoon.
Climate change’s impact on the strength and frequency of tropical cyclones is also a continuous area of study for NOAA scientists.
In a statement by the Hon Alexis Jeffers, Minister responsible for Disaster Management in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA), at the start of the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season, urged residents of Nevis to be ready for the possibility of “monster storms” matching or exceeding those of Hurricanes Dorian, Irma, Maria or superstorm Sandy.
Further, the Minister highlighted that one hurricane could cripple the economy and vulnerable groups have some of the lowest evacuation and shelter rates.
Abdias Samuel, the National Disaster Coordinator (NDC) with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said a current capacity issue exists within the available shelters in St. Kitts.
“The reality is we do not have sufficient physical space to house everyone. I am just being frank with the general public, and this is something I have spoken to with the authorities. Now at present, we have the capacity for about 2000 [people]; I have to find space for another 8000 [people] because we need to have the capacity for approximately 10,000 [people],” said Samuel during an interview on the June 1 broadcast of Good Morning SKN.
With shelter capacity not being where it needs to be, NEMA advocates for a community-driven contingency to help those who need shelter during a hurricane.
“The contingency to that is that we first advocate for what we call the buddy system, be your neighbour’s keeper. So if my house is stronger and I have a little room, I could allow my neighbour who has a little shack, I would allow my neighbour to shelter until the state can come in and assist the neighbour.”
The reduction in shelters results from a decision by the government not to use schools as shelters after a regional report informed of the negative impact of keeping children out of school for an extended period.
Jeffers offered the following tips for the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season:
1. Know where the Emergency Shelters are located (can be found here: https://www.nema.kn/emergency-shelters/
2. Stock up on food with extended expiry dates
3. Have supplies such as first aid kits, flashlights with extra batteries, and create go bags with essential documents, cash, medicines and change of clothing.
4. Trim trees with overhanging branches and clean known drains and waterways.
5. Listen to the alerts and warnings issued from the local meteorological offices and the Nevis Disaster Management Department.
The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 to November 30.