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“June too soon, July standby, August you must, September remember, October all over” Print E-mail
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Written by By Rudolph Williams   
Thursday, 07 June 2012 00:00

 Hurricane Richard’s damage - YarboroughProfessor Gray’s June 1, 2012 revised hurricane forecast calls for 13 named storms, three more than his April 4, 2012 forecast However, he maintains that the 2012 season will be near normal.  He increased the number of hurricanes from 4 to 5, yet he maintains that only 2 will become major hurricanes.  Professor Gray's revised forecast includes the two pre-June storms Alberto and Beryl and reminds us that pre-June activity has little bearing on the remainder of the hurricane season.   The 1887 and 1908 hurricane seasons are the only two on record with two pre-June storm formations, the former being very active and the latter normal.

Professor Gray forecasts landfall probabilities for the United States.  He also forecasts a 39% chance of at least 1 major hurricane (CAT 3, 4, or 5) tracking through the Caribbean.  Note the forecast is for at least one but it can be several.  This does not help us here in Belize therefore, we must be vigilant.  We can use the history to help us prepare for, God forbid, a storm eventuality.

Reviewing the 1851 -2011 HURDAT archives for storms (Tropical Depressions excluded) impacting the coast of Belize confirms what we already know, that is, September is the most active month with 16 storms followed by October with 14 storms and August with 10 storms.   The records show that Belize experienced 26 Tropical Storms, 7 CAT 1, 9 CAT 2, 4 each CAT 3 and CAT 4 and 3 CAT 5 hurricanes. So Belizeans, any number can play; get ready, we are officially in the Hurricane Season.

Speaking about the Hurricane Season, we were taught this rhyme about the season “June too soon, July standby, August you must (be prepared), September remember, October all over”.   Officially the season is that period when most storms form, June to November.  However, the records show that formation of storms is not limited to June to November.  Storms have formed as early as January 18, 1978 and February 26 1952, so Alberto and Beryl in May 2012 are not that exceptional.  As a matter of fact, storms have formed in the Atlantic and Caribbean during March 1908 (CAT 2 unnamed) and April 1992 (sub-tropical storm), April 2003 (TS Ana) and April 2010 (CAT 4 Carolyn). But is November really the end of the season?  Tropical Storm /Hurricane Alice was formed on December 30/31 in 1954 and Tropical Storm Zeta on December 30, 2005.  We now have to change our rhyme from “October all over” to “November all over” to be in sync with the official end of the season.  Maybe we are always in the Hurricane season.    So Belizeans storms can occur at anytime of the year. Be like the Scouts: “Be Prepared”.

Part of being prepared is to know how vulnerable we are.  The review of the archive shows that the Belize District coastline was impacted 24 times, 9 of which were near or direct hits on Belize City.  The Stann Creek coastline was hit 13 times, Corozal coastline 8 times, and the Toledo coastline 6 times.  So while Belize District and Belize City seems to be the most vulnerable, no coastal community is immune to the impacts of storms.  Even inland communities are vulnerable to storms and the consequential floods.

Looking at the numbers, Belize’s coastline is statistically impacted every two years (1851 – 1950, 23 storms and 1951 – 2011, 30 storms).  We in Belize know that this is not true.  The longest periods without storms were 1870 – 1892, probably due to the poor quality data, and more recently 1978 – 1993.  To date, the year with the most storms making landfall on the Belizean coastline is 2010 (4 storms) followed by 1931 (3 storms) 1941, 1961 and 1974 each with 2 storms.   Statisticians know that when we use statistics to forecast real events there is a high level of uncertainty.   That is why the meteorologists and forecasters at the National Meteorological Service use real data and dynamic models to simulate future weather conditions.  The results are more reliable.

Be reminded that being inland makes you less vulnerable not immune to the effects of storms.  We have been given some additional time to prepare for storm and flood events, Belizeans, please begin your preparations.  If you live along stream or rivers, plan to evacuate and practice your evacuation plan.