31 October 2010

Haiti – worrying forecast track for hurricane Tomas

Posted by Dave Petley

Hurricane Tomas is currently passing through the southern part of the Caribbean.  Yesterday it passed over St Vincent, causing extensive damage.  The Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, is reported to have described the storm as “the worst storm in living memory”  and to have said  “It is terrible, we are in a bad way”. The storm has also reportedly caused some damage, including landslides, in St Lucia and also in Barbados.

For the last few days the forecast track has taken the storm towards Jamaica, staying to the south of Haiti.  However, the most recent track reports suggest that the hurricane may take a turn to the north, which would then provide a direct hit on the earthquake-affected areas of Haiti.  Tropical Storm Risk has a map that shows this track well.  The yellow dot is the current location; the thin line is the forecast track

Note that the forecast track would take it over Haiti towards the end of the week.  We should of course be cautious about over-interpreting a forecast this far in advance, and there is a high likelihood that the track will be substantially different to this.  However, the vulnerability of the population in Haiti to such a storm is extreme, even though it is only likely to be a category 3 (Hurricane force) storm at landfall.  The potential combination of strong winds (a category 3 storm has peak sustained winds of 185 km/h) and intense rainfall is very serious when there are up to 1.5 million people reportedly living in camps.