The weather affects everyone, everywhere, every day. At the very least it can affect your mood. Care to choose between a wet, gloomy day and a bright, sunny one? A no-brainer. Be happy.
Then there’s severe weather. When Mother Nature throws a hurricane our way, more than mood is affected - lives may be on the line. We’ve been watching Tomas, a confused and growing storm. Here’s the timeline for the last several days.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 28
Tropical Storm Tomas threatened Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday into overnight, to the extent that the capital city, Port of Spain, shut down – schools and businesses were closed and residents battened down as they awaited a face-to-face with a named storm. But Tomas had other plans. Late into the evening he changed course and set his sights on the waters east of Grenada. Our day continued as planned. We didn't know then that our weekend forecast was about to change.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29
Hurricanes have a mind of their own. In 1999, Hurricane Lenny defied all the experts – he moved from west to east – very unusual. He’s called Wrong Way Lenny – less than fondly. Grenada was at the very south end of Lenny’s path of destruction, but they remember him. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan grew to the size of Texas and still holds the record as the 10th worst Atlantic hurricane. Grenada – NOT a hurricane zone - suffered catastrophic damage. There is still rebuilding happening today.
So Grenadians weren’t taking information about Tomas lightly. They expected, at the very least, heavy rain and very strong winds on Friday. The government ordered businesses and schools to close early so residents could prepare their homes and the island water supply was shut off to avoid possible contamination from storm water.
The storm projection called for a midnight arrival of the chaos. Many cruising boats changed anchorages for better protection, some put down second anchors, still others went into marinas and tripled up their dock lines. We stayed at anchor, preparing Beach House by letting out more anchor chain and making sure various bits and pieces were well secured on deck. And then with assurances to each other that we’d done all we could, we settled in for a long, wakeful night.
But nothing happened. Nada. Oh, possibly a few drops of rain – but that happens most nights – a tropical thing. And there was no wind. At all. The heaviest thing in the air was expectation. All night.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 30
We hit the computer early Saturday morning to see what Tomas was up to.
These two images are from Ralph’s Tropical Weather site – a year apart. The shot on the left is from October 2009 and contains those three little words we prefer – No Active Storms.
On the right is a screen grab from Ralph’s site on Saturday. Quite a different story this October - Shary weakening to the north and Tomas building in the south.
Ralph's site also shows “Possible Tracks” for named storms.
Given that these predictions, as varied as they are, come from the same available information, it makes you wonder how accurate any forecast is. How nice to be a weather forecaster – you can be wrong 95% of the time and still keep your job and get paid.
Then we sought out Chris Parker’s expertise.
Chris is a cruiser and weather guru, now manning The Caribbean Weather Center out of Florida. He’s been doing weather forecasts on the SSB for several years, including individual advice to “sponsoring” vessels. Chris recently added interactive webcasts to his repertoire.
It seemed Tropical Storm Tomas was on his way to becoming Hurricane Tomas and the predicted path was between St. Vincent and St. Lucia. This screen grab from Storm Pulse, another great weather site, clearly shows Tomas’ intent on hitting those two islands.
Grenada had been spared a direct hit but wasn’t totally in the clear yet – severe thunderstorms were expected well into Saturday evening.
So we stayed home, not wanting to leave Beach House during the predicted weather. Instead of celebrating Geoff’s birthday at a local venue with friends, we had a quiet dinner aboard and watched a movie - not The Perfect Storm.
And the captain enjoyed a dram of his prezzie from me.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2010
Once again, the predicted ‘long night of bad weather’ didn’t happen. No wind, just a few drops of rain, no thunder, no lightning.
We heard via a special Sunday edition of the Coconut Telegraph, a cruisers’ net on the SSB, that Dave and Michelle, friends who headed north about a week ago, are fine. Their boat was tied up in Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia for the blow. They experienced winds up to 50 knots – quite significant. Ken and Diane, friends who have a house on the southeast coast of St. Lucia are fine. They and their house survived unscathed.
Our weather sites show more on this continuing story this morning. This is a radar shot from NOAA’s site. Hurricane Tomas is clearly past the Windward Island chain as he heads WNW, but a significant disturbance is trailing behind him.
The blob in the lower right hand corner will pass over Grenada today. The wind has started to pick up and the rain seems more serious. Whatever the amount of rain and wind, we’re grateful it’s just that – rain and wind.
Current information suggests that Hurricane Tomas may gather strength as it crosses the warm water of the Caribbean Sea, heading towards Haiti. This screen grab from the Passage Weather site is a projection for next Friday, showing the surface wind speeds and wind direction.
The swirling hurricane formation is quite clear in the little ‘arrows’ that show the wind direction. Those million and a half survivors of the Haiti earthquake certainly don’t need another natural disaster as they struggle to manage in tent cities. What an understatement.
Hurricane season isn’t officially over until the end of November. At the moment, there’s nothing new brewing off the west coast of North Africa where all these disturbances originate, but we’ll be watching very carefully as we choose a time to start moving north. This has been a very different hurricane season from last year’s non-event.
In the meantime, we’re hoping to call our next blog entry “Blue Skies”.
Hope the weather where you are is making you smile.