With hundreds of residents in Grand Bahama and Abaco still grappling with the devastation due to last year’s deadly Hurricane Dorian (September 2019), an official from the Meteorology Office in Freeport, on Thursday (May 21) predicted a “very active” 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Chief Meteorologist and Officer in Charge, Freeport Weather Office, Shayvonne Moxey-Bonamy, in an interview with The Freeport News Thursday, noted that at least 16 named storms are expected in the upcoming season.
“The 2020 Hurricane Season is forecasted to be a very active one. All indications are that there will be, at least, anywhere between 16 to 18 named storms, of which anywhere between seven and nine would be full hurricanes, and, about two to four, major hurricanes,” Moxey-Bonamy said.
She added that during a normal season there are no more than12-named storms, with six being hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
“Colorado State University, which is like the pioneer in the area of hurricane season forecasts, is going for 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major (hurricanes). NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) will release their forecast later.”
She continued: “Generally, in terms of an active season, for us that means that we need to be prepared, because last year was a very slightly above normal season and we saw that we had Dorian. That does not mean that because it is forecasted to be an active season, that we will have a storm, because you can have an active season and all of those storms hang out in the Atlantic and do not threaten land.
“But, we have to assume that because it is an above normal season and an active season, that there is a good chance that we will get a storm.”
Moxey-Bonamy noted that in the last five years, since 2015, there was been at least one storm crossing some island in The Bahamas.
She added that if that is any indication, just from that alone, there is a possibility of almost an 80 percent chance that some islands in The Bahamas will be impacted by a storm.
“Of course, that can be proven wrong.
“From all indications, in terms of the atmosphere, it is very conducive for a pretty active season. The sea surface temperatures are already abnormally warm for this time of year. “Of course, we are having a more normal or near normal type of season in terms of El Nino. It is not very strong this year, and that will lend support in terms of upper level winds.
“Generally, in an El Nino year, you will have stronger winds and that will help to limit hurricane development. However, this year, because El Nino is weaker, the winds will be lighter in the upper level and that will create tropical cyclone and hurricane development.
“Conditions overall are pretty prime for an active season,” Moxey-Bonamy explained.
She disclosed that the names for the 2020 season are the same as those in 2014.
The Northern Bahamas was warned of a severe weather system affecting islands last week. Moxey-Bonamy was questioned whether that was an indication of what can be expected during the upcoming season.
“From 2015 until this year, we have had named storms prior to the start of the official hurricane seasons. If you look from 2015 to 2019, we have also had at least one major hurricane impacting at least one island in The Bahamas. In 2015 we had Joaquin; 2016 it was Matthew; 2017 it was Irma. We did not have a significant one in 2018, and, then last year was Dorian.
“Given that, you can say that there is a possibility that you may have something happening. Of course, we are hoping that will not be the case, because we are still trying to put our heads above water where Dorian is concerned.”
Admitting that it may be difficult for persons to prepare as they should for the 2020 Hurricane Season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chief Meteorologist encouraged residents to do their best to prepare as the stark reality is that the official 2020 season is mere days away.
“The reality is, hurricane season is just days away now and so, we should be very close to preparing. Preparing is relative, because how do you really prepare for a storm? You can go along with your checklist and ensure that you have everything, generally, that you would have when a storm comes, such as your personal emergency kits with all of your canned goods, water, medicine etcetera.
“Also, having some kind of plan in terms of how you will contact your family, in the event that it is really imminent. If you are in a flood prone area or if you are living near the coast and a storm is threatening, where are you going to go?
“Those are the things that you can start looking at now with your families and start talking about. I cannot even begin to speak about where persons may be in terms of home repairs, or even their lives at this point, because even if they were making progress, COVID may have slowed that down,” said Moxey-Bonamy.
“I just want to admonish Grand Bahama, Abaco and Bimini, of which I also have responsibility, that we just have to continue to push and do the best that we can. Prepare, take it one day at a time and continue to be on guard in the event that we issue any kind of warnings. Heed those warnings in the event that there are systems that have the potential of impacting our islands.
“If your buildings are not sound, if your home is not where you think it ought to be, then try to, at least, find a family member or some kind of shelter that may save you until the system has moved out of the area,” she advised.
In terms of preparation, Moxey-Bonamy said it is difficult to be conclusive, because it may not be as easy to be prepared now, because there are so many things that have transpired since Dorian.
“The best I can say is, do whatever you can in terms of all of the necessary precautions that you would generally take in the event of a hurricane or any tropical cyclone. If you feel, in any way insecure about your dwelling, then please try to seek help or assistance somewhere else. Please, if you are admonished to evacuate your area, do so. We have seen what can happen if you do not and so hopefully, we will take heed and do that,” she added.
She concluded by encouraging residents to visit their website www.bahamasweather.org.bs where they can be kept abreast of weather conditions throughout the archipelago.
“We have all of our radar coverage of the entire Bahamas on the home page of our webite. Please check out our website. Our news items, severe weather warnings, forecasts and our climatological information, satellite imagery and a mosaic of images radar wise of the entire Bahamas, more or less, is found on that website. There you can see regular weather systems as well as tropical cyclones that may affect us,” said Moxey-Bonamy.
The official 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1 and will conclude November 30, 2020.