May 13, 2021

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In the eye of a “hyperactive” hurricane season

Almost three years after Hurricane Maria devastated the Island, Puerto Ricans have every reason to be vigilant to any tropical wave that arises in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

“Everything has development potential,” he told Meter Ernesto Morales, meteorologist at the National Meteorology Service (SNM) in San Juan.

As the US National Office for Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted last month, we are in the midst of a “hyperactive” hurricane season.

“It is a season that has broken records,” said Morales, who stressed that at the moment 17 tropical storms have formed, including five hurricanes, of which one was of high intensity (Laura). The previous record was nine storms before August and 13 before September.

There are so many storms that have already formed this year – at this moment meteorologists are closely following “Paulette” and “René” in the Atlantic Ocean – that only four names remain.

Meanwhile, a tropical wave is expected to break out of Africa today and to turn into a tropical depression in the coming days. Morales indicated that its development must be closely monitored.

Damage caused by Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja. / Archive / Dennis A. Jones

Season full of complications

According to the meteorologist, the 2020 hurricane season arrived with aggravations.

“We are still dragging the damage to infrastructure due to the 2017 season, which was (when the hurricanes struck) Irma and María. Then we had the tremors at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. That also affected the infrastructure, it affected the way of working. Then we have COVID-19, which has made emergency management have to think differently, everything related to evictions, managing shelters, “he said.

And just as NOAA predicted, it didn’t take the peak of the season for Puerto Rico to go on alert. In August, tropical storms Isaías and Laura touched the island and –with their rains and winds– again put the response capacity of the authorities to the test.

Vital preparation

After what happened in 2017 with Hurricane María, and the two storms of a few weeks ago, Morales warned that it is absolutely necessary for people to prepare to face a new blow from nature.

Preparation is the foundation. We cannot control the weather conditions… The only way we can take control of the situation is by preparing for this type of event. If we prepare, we avoid the crisis, the hysteria, because we are prepared, “said the meteorologist.

He also recalled that when a storm or hurricane is approaching, people should not focus on the exact location of the system, but on the general effects that it will have on the area. That is why it is important to be attentive to the official SNM bulletins.

“We cannot control the weather conditions … The only way we can take control of the situation is to prepare for this type of event. If we prepare, we avoid the crisis, the hysteria, because we are prepared”

“We do not need the system to have a direct impact, for the center or the eye of the system to pass over Puerto Rico to feel the direct or indirect damages thereof. And more of us who are still vulnerable since the 2017 season ”, he assured.

Although Morales thinks that Maria was a sobering experience for many, not all have created the necessary awareness.

“I think many people have learned, but other people have not learned anything. And it is very sad that we have suffered so much during Maria, not at all. Now that we have that fresh memory, of what worked and didn’t work during Maria, (we must) incorporate it into our emergency plans. Because we don’t want to improvise again. Improvisation is what brings us the crisis ”.

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