Eye on the Sky

Weather Warning

Tropical season could spell trouble.
By Paul Wilkerson

The predictions are in, and it appears that the hurricane season for 2022 will likely result in above normal activity for the Tropical Atlantic. Thankfully, the overall odds of a storm impacting the Turks & Caicos Islands is relatively low based on historical data. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to prepare and take due diligence to ensure your safety during the season.  

Island residents and visitors hope that the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season (June 1 to November 30) remains as calm and serene as this comfortable retreat at Leeward-Going-Through in Providenciales.

As we look towards the 2022 season, we investigate the typical host of resources and markers to help us determine what this season is likely to become. At the present time, La Niña is the active ENSO pattern currently ongoing across the Northern Hemisphere. In this scenario, the waters of the Pacific Ocean near the equator between Indonesia and South America are cooler than average. Historically when these conditions exist, we see calmer upper level winds across the breeding ground of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. For hurricanes to thrive and become the behemoths that sometimes develop, they depend on these calm winds in the upper levels. Strong winds aloft in general will shear apart the top of tropical lows, which prevents them from growing large and powerful.

Beyond the wind environment, we have to turn to the ocean and sea surface temperatures to determine the quality of the “fuel” available for tropical system development. At this point in 2022, temperatures in the open waters of the Atlantic and Caribbean are above normal and will continue to remain above normal as we head into the season. Plenty of fuel unfortunately will be available to just about anything that develops in the traditionally favored areas.

The final aspect of forecasting hurricane season has to do with areas of low pressure that form over Africa and emerge into the Atlantic. Over the last several years, there has been a greater frequency of Africa-based low pressure systems/waves—many of which are strong—moving out over the Atlantic.  Whether this is the result of climate change is still up for some debate, and likely an area of research that will be needed in the years to come.  These waves, in many cases, are what develop into hurricanes well east of the Windward and Leeward Islands. It appears that as of late May 2022, all of the forecast ingredients are signaling that the 2022 season will once again be an above-normal one.

Colorado State University released their predictions in April and called for an above-normal season with a 28–30% increase in named storms this year based on the historical average from 1991–2020. Colorado State also anticipates about two more (nine) hurricanes than the statistical average, with one more (four) major hurricane than the norm.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their hurriacane season outlook on May 24, 2022, and are also calling for a 65% chance at an above-normal season thanks to La Niña. NOAA also anticipates up to 21 named storms, and 6 to 10 hurricanes this season, with 3 to 6 of those becoming major hurricanes. NOAA noted that the presence of La Niña conditions along with above-normal water temperatures likely lends to a busy season once again.

For those on island, you generally know the drill. For those that may be new to the Islands and haven’t been through a hurricane yet, there are a few things you need to do in order to weather the hurricane season. It all starts at home. Take a look at your dwelling and your relation to the coastline. If you live near the coast on any of the Islands, you need to look at flood maps to see what kind of inundation would occur to your area should you try to stay home during a hurricane.

Look at your roof, windows, yard. Think about wind impacts—what would likely get damaged if caught by winds. Keep your yard clear of debris. If a tropical system is headed your way, bring in plants and anything that could become an airborne projectile. Consider procuring some resources well in advance that you could use to hurricane-proof your home, such as plywood sheets for windows.

Develop your hurricane evacuation plan. It should include a hurricane shelter in one of your communities. Think about food and electricity. If you are able, stock several flashlights, non-perishable foods and bottled water. A three to five-day supply of each is a good start!

Once you have your plan in place, tell friends and family, as communications could be severed for days at a time. Your plan will give friends and family a starting point to look for you to know you are safe.

Finally, and most importantly, follow TCI’s Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies (DDME). The staff has invested a lot of time and training to be able to provide the Islands’ citizens with excellent information when severe weather threatens. DDME is the official source for information during impending tropical systems on the Islands. They have a Facebook page that is a great resource for information. Utilize it.

For tourists, it is advisable that you monitor weather a week or more before you travel. A couple of go-to sites include the National Hurricane Center and Turks and Caicos Islands Weather Info on Facebook. If you do find yourself on island during a tropical system, take comfort in knowing that the resorts have plans and protocols in place for their guests to stay safe during hurricane season. Stay in contact with the front desk. They will have important information you need and will work as a team to keep all of their patrons safe. Make sure you share your flight and length of stay information with friends that you trust. That will give them important information if they need to look for you after a hurricane passes.

Hurricane season can be scary, however, armed with the right information you will be prepared. You will be able to move about your day to day plans with confidence, knowing you are ready to weather whatever Mother Nature sends our way.



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