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It’s still storm season

Sunday, December 8, 2013
Outside Track

No Sandy, no Ivan, no Katrina. But cold-weather Cleon and Xaver are here to see out the year. This year’s hurricane season was the weakest since 1982, and the first for almost 20 years with no major hurricane—one which packs more than 110 mph. There were 11 tropical storms, which mostly flopped around in mid-Atlantic, and two fairly wimpy hurricanes.


And yes, the forecasters got it wrong. All predicted at least seven hurricanes, three major hurricanes, and overall activity one-third above normal. As it turned out, storm activity was way down—not above normal, but two-thirds below. So, we can all relax? Dire predictions of climate change and spiralling storm damage all come to nothing? 


Don’t say that to the Filipinos. Their typhoons are the close Pacific cousins of our Caribbean hurricanes. This year’s super-typhoon Yolanda—aka Haiyan—killed close to 6,000 people. Wind speeds reached almost 200 mph. In Tacloban City, people were evacuated to the “safety” of a convention centre. Its lower floor was flooded by a storm surge, which pulled sea waters 17 feet above their normal level. The storm was 600 km across. That is the distance from Trinidad to Guadeloupe. Historically, Yolanda was a record-beater.


Japan offered more than $300 million (TT) in humanitarian aid; distant Norway gave $215 million (TT). China managed just $9 million (TT). The challenge was getting help fast to those in need. India was hit in October by Cyclone Phailin, its most powerful storm for 14 years. And in the wider Caribbean, this year’s hurricane season brought death and destruction for some.


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