While Barbados was spared the brunt of tropical storm Kirk today, local meteorologists are cautioning residents to still expect some bad weather tonight and early tomorrow.
However, the Ministry of Education announced tonight that all public schools and other educational institutions, which were closed today, would reopen tomorrow with the exception of St Leonard’s Boys Secondary.
From early today, homeowners and businesses were bracing for the storm to start impacting the island from around 8 a.m. as forecast, along with accumulated rainfall of upwards of four inches between today and tomorrow. None of this materialized even up to late this evening.
Responding to persistent complaints throughout the morning from frustrated residents as to what was really going on, Acting Deputy Director of the Barbados Meteorological Services (BMS) Clairmont Williams explained that the severe weather system that was predicted had “toned down”.
Williams noted that even though the centre of the storm had also passed the island during this time without incident, they were still concerned about the impact which a feeder band that was lagging behind, would have on Barbados between tonight and tomorrow.
He said that as a result, his department had decided at 5 p.m. today to keep a tropical storm warning in place until further notice.
“There is still some concern with respect to a feeder band that is trailing the system. That band will probably start to affect the island within another hour or so [about 6.30 p.m.]. And once that band starts to affect the island, it would give us a better idea of the possible wind speeds that could be impacting the island,” the Acting Deputy Director told Barbados TODAY in an interview at the Met Office headquarters in Charnocks, Christ Church.
Williams said this would also determine how much longer to keep the warning in place. “But for now, the tropical storm warning remains in effect at 5 p.m. this afternoon,” he added.
“Tomorrow we might be looking at the possibility of a few showers. By then, the centre of the tropical storm would be somewhere over the Eastern Caribbean sea and for us, the greatest concern would be rainfall. We are not seeing beyond the first part of tomorrow. We are definitely seeing a general improvement in conditions,” he assured, adding that winds should by then return to the normal easterly flow of about 15 knots.
With the situation remaining fluid, the Deputy Director of the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) Captain Robert Harewood said tonight [just after 7 p.m.] there were reports of significant rainfall in Christ Church, St Philip, St George, and St John.
Captain Harewood also noted that the hurricane hunter which went into the eye of the storm to gather data should be able to supply details of the wind speed within the trailing band from Kirk and in turn guide the Met Office on whether or not to downgrade the storm.
However, he cautioned that even if the winds were no longer a threat, there was still enough intense rain to generate flooding, particularly in low-lying areas.
He said the data would therefore allow education authorities to say whether or not to keep schools closed tomorrow.
The 5 p.m. advisory on tropical storm Kirk said that it continued to move west-northwestward and away from Barbados.
“However, feeder bands trailing the system are expected to move across the island later this evening into early tomorrow bringing pockets of moderate to heavy showers, periods of rain, isolated thunderstorms and occasional gusty winds. Rainfall accumulations of one to two inches are possible and residents should still remain on the alert and take all necessary precautions,” the advisory read.
It also said that maximum sustained winds were near 50 miles per hour with tropical storm force winds extending outward up to 120 miles to the east and north of the centre, and 110 miles to the southeast of the centre.
Gradual weakening of the system is forecast as the system moves into the Eastern Caribbean Sea, the Met Office bulletin said.
The DEM Deputy Director said tonight that even though emergency shelters were not opened today, a family was given access to one of them, but they later returned home.
Meanwhile, the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) of the DEM, which was activated at 5 o’clock this morning, is now into its second shift as personnel representing key public and private sector services remain on standby to respond to any emergency during the passage of Kirk and its remnants.
The NEOC includes representatives from such agencies as the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF), the Ministry of Health, the Drainage Division, the Barbados Defence Force (BDF), the Barbados Fire Service (BFS), the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), the Ministry of Tourism, the Barbados Light and Power Company (BL&P), Social Care, Transport Board and the Barbados Port Inc.