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Forecasters Alert to Enhanced Hurricane Activity in the Atlantic for 2024

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Scenes of devastation in St. Thomas with trees battered and seas tempestuous, captured during Hurricane Irma’s onslaught on September 6, 2017. Courtesy of V.I. CONSORTIUM

The AccuWeather team, renowned for their expertise in hurricane forecasting, has sounded an alarm about the potential for a highly active hurricane season in the Atlantic in 2024. Jonathan Porter, the Chief Meteorologist, has voiced significant concerns regarding a season that could be amplified by a confluence of climatic conditions.

With the season commencing on June 1, there’s an anticipation of heightened activity attributed to the emergence of La Niña and the unusually high temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean. “As we transition from the current El Niño pattern to a La Niña pattern in the latter half of the season, we’re likely to see reduced wind shear, which is conducive to the formation of more tropical storms and hurricanes,” explained Porter.

Reflecting on past seasons, there’s a notable link between La Niña years and spikes in hurricane activity, with the 2005 and 2020 seasons standing out for their record-breaking 31 tropical systems. AccuWeather’s Long-Range Expert, Paul Pastelok, suggests that the latter part of 2024 might see a replication of these high-activity seasons, should La Niña materialize as anticipated.

Porter also emphasized the role of the Atlantic’s warm temperatures, noting that as of mid-February, the ocean’s warmth paralleled mid-July levels, a condition that could exacerbate as the year unfolds. “The exceptionally warm waters mean that any forming storms could intensify rapidly, even when approaching land,” he cautioned.

This year’s pronounced warmth in the Atlantic’s Main Development Region (MDR) sets a concerning precedent for the season’s potential severity. February’s ocean temperature anomalies revealed a 65% increase compared to the previous record, highlighting the likelihood of an unusually active season.

Areas along the Gulf Coast, particularly near Texas, are identified as particularly vulnerable to tropical systems this year. With Pastelok’s insights, there’s a call for increased vigilance for those residing along the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Seaboard, especially considering the recent trend of early-season tropical system formations.

AccuWeather is set to publish its detailed forecast for the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season in March, aiming to provide both business clients and the general populace with precise information. The community is urged to pay attention to these preliminary alerts and to prepare for what could be an unparalleled hurricane season.

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Weather

Tropical Storms Hit the Virgin Islands: How to Prepare

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As tropical storms and hurricanes frequently threaten the U.S. Virgin Islands, it is crucial to be well-prepared to ensure the safety and well-being of residents. The Atlantic hurricane season spans from June 1 to November 30, peaking between mid-August and late October. Effective preparation can mitigate the risks associated with these powerful storms.

1. Understand the Risks

The Virgin Islands face several hazards from tropical storms, including high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges, and flooding. Understanding these risks is the first step in preparing adequately. The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) provides resources to help residents stay informed about potential threats.

2. Develop an Emergency Plan

Creating a comprehensive emergency plan is essential. Discuss with your family the steps to take if a storm approaches. Include plans for elderly and disabled family members, and ensure all household members know what to do. Make sure to:

  • Identify evacuation routes and shelters.
  • Plan for communication if family members are separated.
  • Register for emergency alerts to receive timely updates.

3. Assemble a Disaster Supply Kit

A well-stocked disaster supply kit can be a lifesaver during and after a storm. Your kit should include:

  • Non-perishable food and water for at least three days.
  • Medications, first aid supplies, and personal hygiene items.
  • Flashlights, batteries, and a portable radio.
  • Important documents, such as insurance policies, medical records, and identification, stored in waterproof containers.
  • Supplies for pets, if applicable.

Keep your kit updated and make sure all family members know its location​ (VI Department of Health)​​ (VITEMA)​​ (Home)​.

4. Prepare Your Home

Strengthening your home against storm damage is vital. Take the following steps to safeguard your property:

  • Trim or remove trees and branches that could fall on your home.
  • Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any debris to prevent water damage.
  • Install storm shutters or board up windows to protect against flying debris.
  • Secure and reinforce the roof, doors, and garage doors.
  • Consider purchasing a portable generator for power outages, ensuring it is used safely and kept outside away from windows and doors​ (VI Department of Health)​​ (Home)​.

5. Stay Informed and Connected

Staying informed about weather updates and maintaining communication with family and emergency services is critical. Sign up for local alerts and warnings through VITEMA and other emergency management agencies. Follow official sources on social media for real-time updates.

6. Know the Difference: Watches vs. Warnings

Understanding the terminology used by weather services can help you respond appropriately:

  • Watch: Conditions are favorable for a storm. Begin making preparations.
  • Warning: A storm is imminent or occurring. Take immediate action to protect yourself and your property​ (VITEMA)​.

7. Community and Neighbor Support

In the aftermath of a storm, community support can be invaluable. Help neighbors secure their homes and share resources and information. Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) can provide training on basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, and medical operations​ (Home)​.

Conclusion

Preparation is the key to minimizing the impact of tropical storms and hurricanes on the Virgin Islands. By understanding the risks, developing a comprehensive plan, assembling a disaster supply kit, preparing your home, staying informed, and supporting your community, you can enhance your resilience against these natural disasters.

For more detailed information and resources, visit VITEMA’s website and FEMA’s hurricane preparedness page.

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Weather

Saharan Dust Plume to Affect USVI and Puerto Rico

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Starting Friday, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will experience a significant plume of Saharan Dust, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in San Juan. This Moderate to Severe event is projected to continue through at least Sunday morning, posing several environmental and health challenges.

The dust, originating from the Sahara and Sahel deserts and transported across the Atlantic Ocean, will result in hazy skies and reduced visibility. The particles contain minerals, organic matter, marine salts, viruses, and bacteria. While beneficial as a natural fertilizer for ecosystems, the dust can pose serious health risks.

Individuals with preexisting health conditions, particularly those who are immunocompromised or part of vulnerable groups, may experience exacerbated symptoms. The Department of Health has noted an uptick in respiratory issues during such events. Exposure to Saharan Dust may lead to:

  • Nose irritation
  • Sinusitis
  • Allergies
  • Asthma exacerbation
  • Throat irritation
  • Eye and skin irritation
  • Acute bronchitis
  • Increased risk of respiratory infection

To mitigate these effects, residents are advised to keep medications handy, stay hydrated, wear light clothing, limit outdoor activities, and use face masks and eyeglasses.

The Virgin Islands Department of Health (DOH) has issued guidance to help residents manage the impacts of the dust. They emphasize preventive measures and advise seeking medical attention if severe symptoms occur.

The NWS will continue to monitor the situation and provide necessary updates.

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Weather

Hurricane Beryl Leaves Destruction and Death; Jamaica Under Hurricane Warning; Coastal Flood Advisory for St. Croix

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Hurricane Beryl has unleashed widespread destruction and claimed at least one life in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, according to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. Union Island, part of the Grenadines, experienced significant devastation with 90 percent of homes damaged, many losing roofs or being completely destroyed. Carriacou in Grenada also suffered extensive damage, with drone footage revealing numerous homes with destroyed roofs. Although Barbados was impacted, it did not receive a direct hit from the storm.

Current Warnings

Hurricane Warning:

  • Jamaica

Tropical Storm Warning:

  • South coast of the Dominican Republic from Punta Palenque to the Haitian border
  • South coast of Haiti from the Dominican Republic border to Anse d’Hainault

A Hurricane Warning signifies that hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours, while a Tropical Storm Warning indicates tropical storm conditions are expected within the same timeframe.

Monitoring Beryl

Residents in the Cayman Islands and the northwestern Caribbean should closely monitor Beryl, as additional watches or warnings may be issued. Despite Beryl’s severe impact in the central Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are expected to experience increased showers and gusty winds on Tuesday, with potential strong wind gusts accompanying the rain. Following Beryl, Saharan dust is forecasted to move in on Wednesday, followed by another tropical wave on Thursday with a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone.

Coastal Conditions

The main impact on the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will be deteriorating marine and coastal conditions. A Coastal Flood Advisory is in effect from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. AST on Tuesday for St. Croix, Vieques, and the southern coast of Puerto Rico due to waves up to 17 feet. Seas are expected to reach 8 to 15 feet as the system passes to the south on Tuesday.

Hurricane Beryl’s Current Status

As of 2:00 a.m. AST, Hurricane Beryl was located near latitude 14.2 North, longitude 65.8 West, moving west-northwest at 22 mph. The NOAA Hurricane Hunters reported maximum sustained winds of 165 mph, classifying Beryl as a Category 5 hurricane. Although fluctuations in strength are likely, Beryl is expected to remain a major hurricane as it approaches Jamaica on Wednesday, with weakening expected thereafter.

Expected Impact on Jamaica and Hispaniola

Wind:
Hurricane conditions are anticipated in Jamaica by Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions expected along the south coast of Hispaniola later today.

Storm Surge:
Storm surge could raise water levels by 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels along Jamaica’s coast and by 1 to 3 feet along Hispaniola’s southern coast.

Rainfall:
Beryl is expected to produce 4 to 8 inches of rain, with localized maxima of 12 inches in Jamaica on Wednesday, potentially causing flash flooding. Rainfall from Beryl’s outer bands may impact Hispaniola with 2 to 6 inches of rain possible.

Surf:
Large swells generated by Beryl will continue across the Windward and southern Leeward Islands over the next few days, reaching the southern coasts of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola later today. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

Additional Weather Systems

An area of low pressure about 1,000 miles east-southeast of the Windward Islands is generating disorganized showers and thunderstorms. While environmental conditions are only marginally conducive for development, heavy rainfall is possible midweek in the Lesser Antilles.

  • Formation chance through 48 hours: Low (20 percent)
  • Formation chance through 7 days: Low (30 percent)
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