Barbadians are being warned to brace for more heavy showers over the next 48-hours, even as many attempt to pick up the pieces from Thursday morning’s ‘freak storm’.
There is, however, no indication from experts that the startling events that damaged houses, downed trees and disrupted utilities would repeat itself at any point in the near future.
In fact, Acting Director of the Barbados Meteorological Service Sabu Best revealed that such a phenomenon had never occurred in the country’s recorded history.
Best explained that the Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) was first detected 150 miles to the east-northeast of the island as a small vortex trailing a relatively weak tropical wave.
He added that while Met Office officials made preparations to issue a warning for severe weather, they were also mindful of the fact that such systems often appear on their radar before suddenly vanishing.
A decision was then taken to issue the bulletin when the weather feature was 25 kilometres off the island.
“These messages would have gone out on our mobile app and also on CAP.CAP [app]. I agree these messages came out when the feature was just on our shores,” Best conceded.
“What’s unprecedented here and what we would love our citizens to understand is that these features, because they are very small in nature, can spin up really quickly and disappear just as quickly.
“None of them actually forecast this to happen and so it was actually our pure skill from monitoring this system throughout the entire night to actually track it and issue the warnings just before it came onshore,” the meteorologist added.
What followed were very intense downpours of four to six inches of rain, winds of up to 43 kilometres per hour and hundreds of continuous lightning strikes.
Data also revealed the existence of a low-level vortex, which fit directly within the centre of the island.
So rare is the phenomenon that Best’s most recent comparison was the 1995 weather system that claimed the life of calypsonian De Great Carew in a severe flood at Weston St James.
“I remember that really well because that’s when I first started the Met Office and, unfortunately, that is when Carew got washed away. There was severe lightning and thunderstorm activity; lightning was flashing every second and that was really intense. But that was not the same setup dynamically. It was different. So when you combine what happened: winds, lightning, heavy rainfall, really quick and finished in an hour and a half, certainly from my recollection and memory, it’s the first time” the meteorologist confirmed.
Best, however, explained that the country is not yet out of the woods as tropical waves could be expected almost every three days during the rainy season.
In fact, he added that two are expected to occur late Saturday night into Sunday and another next Tuesday as well, that could be more dangerous because of high levels of moisture already in the atmosphere. This type of activity, he explained, is expected to persist beyond September.
“….The work we have been doing with the CIMH [Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology] and our deterministic model runs, suggest that especially coming up to August and September we are seeing more peaks and rainfall coming. We have to be ready and prepared for what is to come,” said Best. ([email protected])