In just over a week, Hurricane Season 2019 will open.
But already the season has seen an unofficial early start with the development of subtropical storm Andrea in the Atlantic this week, several hundred miles southwest of Bermuda with top winds of 40 miles per hour.
Fortunately, it was quickly downgraded to a subtropical depression before quietly fading away at sea.
According to forecasters, it was the fifth year in a row that an early system has emerged.
Perhaps, Andrea was Mother Nature’s early reminder to us to be storm-ready this season, regardless of experts’ predictions of a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season.
Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there would likely be nine to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including two to four major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher).
Colorado State University, which pioneered hurricane season predictions, is forecasting 13 named storms, five to become hurricanes and two to hit major cyclone status. Researcher Phil Klotzbach predicted that overall the Atlantic season will be about three-quarters strong as a normal season.
A bit of good news, perhaps, but it really shouldn’t lull anyone into a false sense of security. It takes only one major hurricane to knock an island nation back to the last century.
One system, churning out of the blue can flatten Barbados in mere hours, so it’s still best to prepare.
Back in April, Government led the way with Prime Minister Mottley instructing her Cabinet to ensure that “all systems are in place” and ready by the end of May in time for the start of the season.
Mottley said: “It is important that we get it right because the month of May has to be the month when all stops are pulled out to ensure that before the beginning of the hurricane season we are ready.
“When I say we have to go the extra mile, believe you me, we will go the entire mile because within 24 hours all that we know that is life and how we live can change.”
Barbadians need to heed the Prime Minister’s call.
Too many of us complacently think we’ll have plenty of time to prepare as a system churns towards the Lesser Antilles.
Indeed, Barbados has been largely spared the pain of devastation from hurricanes for 64 years.
We tend to brush off near misses as luck, for God, after all, is a Bajan.
But just last year the passage of Tropical Storm Kirk wreaked havoc here, flooding out several communities, damaging homes and infrastructure.
And we need no reminder of the 2017 onslaught of Category 5 hurricanes Maria and Irma on Dominica, Barbuda, Anguilla, Martinique, USVI, Haiti, Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Now is the time to prepare for the possibility of a hurricane, not in the hours leading up to a possible strike.
And we all know the drill.
Start assessing your home and try to fix any vulnerable areas. Check up on your home insurance, secure all critical documents, map out a disaster plan for your household, get your disaster kit in order.
Of course, stockpile at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water. Make sure you’ve got all the flashlights and batteries you’ll need if you lose power. Have an adequate stock of medication and supplies for infants and the elderly. Just prepare.
We don’t know what this hurricane season will bring, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
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