By Jem Smith
The start of the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially began on Tuesday, June 1, and in Belize City, started quite aptly with rain showers. We can expect even more rain, and even thunderstorms and hurricanes since the season does not end until November 30. During June to November in Belize, it is colloquially referred to as the “rainy” or “wet season”, so locals are generally used to the wet weather, but meteorologists say that we should prepare for an above-average hurricane season. Prior to the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and National Meteorological Service (NMS) in the Ministry of Disaster Risk Management held a conference. There, they provided key information on what exactly is meant by an “above average hurricane season” and how Belizeans can prepare for it.
Based on international predictions and estimates, including those from the Colorado State University, there are already some 17 named tropical storms, with 8 of them having the possibility of becoming hurricanes. Of those eight hurricanes, four are expected to be major, according to the University’s Tropical Meteorology Project. Dr. Philip Klotzbach, hurricane specialist at CSU, presented the forecast during a conference, saying that the primary reason for the above-average forecast is based on a predicted lack of El Niño and a warmer-than-normal subtropical Atlantic Ocean. To make it more personal, the University says that there is a 55% chance of at least one named storm tracking within 50-miles of Belize. Ronald Gordon, Chief Meteorologist, says that while that percentage might seem low, it is not and is instead a great cause for concern since it is 15% higher than average.
NEMO has been active since before the start of the year to ensure the viability of current shelters. They will continue to work to ensure that should we need those shelters, they are up, running, and stocked. There are concerns, however, surrounding the use of these shelters with the current COVID-19 protocols and restrictions in place. These organizations will have to work in tandem with pertinent government entities to work around this problem. One possibility which these organizations are looking at is the use of privately owned buildings.
An average hurricane season generally produces 12 named storms and six hurricanes.
Last year’s hurricane season was record-breaking, with 30 named storms and 13 hurricanes, including six major hurricanes. With the current numbers being predicted by international sources, it is no doubt then that the Belizean government and population will be sure to have their hands full.
By Jem Smith