The hurricane season officially started yesterday (June 1) amid appeals for persons in the British Virgin Islands to be prepared, and to resist the temptation to become complacent.
Director at the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) Sharleen DaBreo noted that the territory has been fortunate over the past few years to be spared a direct hit from cyclonic events.
The sense of calm associated with that reality, she added, may have caused persons to become complacent.
“I strongly caution you against becoming too relaxed because, even if we are not directly impacted, the outer bands of the hurricanes and tropical storms might be enough to cause significant inland or coastal flooding in the territory, resulting in infrastructural damage and even loss of life,” DaBreo explained.
She further stated that, while hurricane predictions for the season may change, her department’s preparedness message will not.
“We want all individuals in the territory to make hurricane preparedness a way of life because we know hurricanes will develop annually, but we do not know where they will make landfall or how severe the impact will be,” DaBreo said.
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) government said this hurricane season is regarded as above normal. That is because the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is based in the United States, has predicted a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms, of which five to nine could become hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes.
In terms of an average hurricane season, on the other hand; it produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
Lead seasonal forecaster with NOAA, Gerry Bell, said the above normal prediction for this hurricane season is further due to “weak or non-existent El Nino, near or above average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region”.
Viona Alexander-Smith, who is the Information and Education Manager at DDM, said multiple media platforms will be utilised to reach the public with hurricane messages. The DDM added that persons should start conducting inspections of their homes and businesses, and undertake any remedial work that may be necessary to lessen the risk of flooding and wind damage especially on rooves, drains, doors, windows, and general surroundings.
Meanwhile, the Governor’s Office has issued a reminder for members of the community to ensure travel documents are valid this hurricane season.
“There are no British citizen passport facilities in the territory, and the Governor’s Office cannot help with passport enquiries,” it noted. “British citizens should submit their passport renewal applications online to Her Majesty’s Passport Office in the UK, or apply to the British High Commission in Barbados for an emergency travel document if the passport has been lost or stolen, damaged or expired and there is an urgent need to travel. British nationals may need a visa to travel through other countries with the emergency travel document, and they should check with the embassy or consulate of each country they are travelling to,” said the Governor’s Office.
It further advised that nationals of other countries should consider applying for a replacement passport if they intend to visit their home country over the summer.
“Copies should be made of key documents including passports, birth certificates, work permits, and drivers’ licences, and stored in a safe place separate from the originals. In the event of an approaching hurricane or tropical storm, original documents should be kept in waterproof bags or containers,” the Governor’s Office further said.
In relation to persons travelling to the United States, it advised: “Persons who may wish to travel to the US either before or immediately after a hurricane; it is essential that their documents are in order. It is extremely unlikely that anyone without appropriate documentation will be allowed to enter the United States. Those who do plan to travel to the US should also be aware that the Visa Waiver Programme only operates for commercial flights, and they should therefore also obtain a US visa if travelling on charter or private flights including medical evacuation.”
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