During the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, this blog will focus on tropical systems that impact The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands.
By: BahaHurican, 9:12 PM GMT on August 20, 2007
The World Meteorological Organization, or WMO, coordinates the sharing of tropical cyclone information worldwide, so that loss of life can be kept to a minimum. The body responsible for tropical cylone information in the Atlantic Basin is the United States' National Hurricane Center, a subsection of that country's National Weather Service. Countries around the Caribbean, including those in Central and South America with Caribbean coasts, Mexico, and other Atlantic Basin entities like Bermuda and Canada are dependent on information from the NHC as part of their emergency preparations for hurricanes and tropical storms.
Both the NHC and the NWS in general do an excellent job, in their collection and interpretation of scientific data as well as in in their dissemination of information to the public. Unfortunately, sometimes Americans allow their superiority in this area to cause them to falsely assume their systems are superior in every way, even though loss of life in the US sometimes exceeds that in its poorer, often more densely populated neighbours to the south.
One basic difference I've noticed is that in emergency situations such as hurricanes, Americans seem to take a more "each man for himself" approach, while in much of the Caribbean there is a more "communal" way of thinking. This is why, for example, electrical workers from various member CARICOM (Caribbean Community)nations are likely to converge on a hard-hit area (this time around, with the aftereffects of Hurricane Dean being felt, it's likely to be Jamaica and Belize) in order to give support.
Actually, part of this response on the part of Caribbean basin countries is simply a matter of expediency - we generally can't evacuate, so we have to do the next best thing. Some of it, at least on the islands, is smaller, more interrelated populations (everybody is your cousin or your neighbour's cousin). But a great deal of it is what Emergency Management Agencies along the FL and Gulf coasts have started to do in the wake of 2004: learning from others' experiences, sharing information and resources, and being our brothers' keepers. It doesn't work perfectly nor does it work all the time, but I am certain these factors contribute to reduced loss of life in many so-called "third world" countries in the face of hurricanes.
I know people complain a lot about people in the blogs being only interested in what happens in their own neck of the woods. Florida bloggers only post when there's a storm threatening them, people say. But I have seen a decrease in the unmitigated self-interest among posters on the Wunderground. It was encouraging to see bloggers, regardless of location, sharing knowledge, experience or just sheer positive thoughts and concern with others who were in the path of Hurricane Dean. People in unaffected areas were supportive of those affected,from the Lesser Antillies to the Yucatan and Belize,and tried, where they were less well-informed, to glean some understanding of what the far-away area was like. I think it's beginning to come home to us that from June to November every year, we're all under the same hurricane gun, and it's a game of Russian roulette as to whether we get the bullet or not. It's a lot harder to be unsypmathetic when you just "went through [insert name of storm here]" or could be next on the firing line.
So we are learning from each other, despite our differences, despite intitial impressions. Florida builders CAN build strong houses more inexpensively; TX city officials CAN take down traffic lights and insist on mandatory evacuations before a bad storm. What's to prevent MS electrical workers from shutting down the power grid when the storm is at its worst? Better everybody without power for a few hours than people dead from electrocution. These are all ways poorer countries have learned to cope.
Countries who depend on NHC for hurricane information would find life much more difficult without the input of sophisticated American technology and communication skills. Perhaps we can reciprocate by sharing our many years of experience in coping with the sudden onset of storms.
The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.