Could the US and Caribbean be heading for their worst hurricane season?

Alex Dick-Read (based in Tortola, British Virgin Islands) explains that experts are concerned as two potential hurricanes head north, with coronavirus complicating matters. Read the full article at The Guardian-UK.

Two potential hurricanes are heading towards the northern Caribbean and mainland United States – with a third building in the Atlantic – in apparent confirmation of meteorologists’ predictions that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season will become one of the worst on record.

The largest of the three, Tropical Storm Laura, was named on Friday, breaking the record for the earliest use of the letter L in a storm name in the region. Forecasts said it poses a potential hurricane threat to the US and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Cuba and possibly southern Florida in the coming days.

The US Gulf coast may be hit by two storms next week as Laura curves north towards Louisiana and another, Tropical Storm Marco, pushes north from the Yucatan peninsula.

[. . .] Mid-August to mid-September is considered the peak of Atlantic hurricane season, the period in which powerful storms most regularly develop as they cross the Atlantic. Earlier this month, meteorologists unexpectedly increased their predictions of an “extremely active” season from a 60% chance to 85%.

The United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) now says the number of named storms could be between 19 and 25 – well above the yearly average of 12. They blame extremely warm seas, unusually moist air and low winds in the upper atmosphere, estimating the amount of Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE), an indicator of overall storm potential, to have risen from twice the usual average to between 140% and 230%.

The pandemic is a complicating factor. Some scientists say that reduced air traffic is affecting forecasts, as fewer planes are now collating weather information. “I do think this year’s reduced weather data from commercial aircraft has made a big difference,” said Lightbown.

In small Caribbean islands and large cities on the mainland, the threat of hurricanes is increasing pressure on emergency systems already strained by Covid 19.

In the British Virgin Islands, a tiny archipelago in the north-east Caribbean with a population of just 30,000, the dangers of hurricanes are well known after category 5 Hurricane Irma devastated the islands in 2017. [. . .]

So far, the BVI has seen just 12 cases of Covid-19, compared with almost 600,000 in southern Florida. New storm shelter protocols in the BVI, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands closely resemble those of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but authorities across the region will probably be forced to improvise. [. . .]

For full article, see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/22/hurricane-us-gulf-coast-coronavirus

[Photograph: Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/EPA.]

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