Lessons learnt

The intrusive nature of television in the 21st century dictates that we will be seeing first hand, for some considerable time, the disruption and suffering caused by Hurricane Sandy in the United States.

Some of us will no doubt soon grow tired of the images of flooded streets, homes, mass transit systems, including the subway networks, that is, if we have no already done so. In the case of CNN, since their hurricane coverage started in earnest at the weekend, it really has not stopped.

And while we have not been impacted directly by Sandy, or any other storm so far for the 2012 hurricane season, there is no reason why we should not grab the opportunity to learn every lesson possible from this latest tragedy.

Before Sandy made landfall on the US mainland, disaster officials and political leaders expressed grave concern that because of the number of times storms had been forecast to hit the southeastern coast, but never materialised, many residents would probably not take the warnings seriously.

Sounds a lot like the Barbadian scenario?

Fortunately, it would appear, the images of the massive geographical area that was about to be enveloped by Sandy, and the in-your-face warnings of the mayhem that could unfold, coupled with the enforcement of laws that allowed for mandatory evacuation of at risk areas, resulted in a mass, but orderly exodus, followed by a shutdown of mass transportation.

There can be no doubt that this combination was responsible for the relatively small number of deaths and injuries, given the millions that would have been impacted.

In Barbados, with half a century having passed since the last major direct hit by a major hurricane, many in our population have grown complacent. We may hear the advisories and warning messages, but too many pay little attention.

After hearing notice after notice about a pending weather system, how many of us can recall the strength of the wind gusts expected?

What about the storm surges? Do residents of a community like Six Mens or Sherman’s, St. Peter, or Weston/St. Alban’s in St. James take note of how far inland waves are likely to travel?

When residents of Trent’s, St. James or Wotton, Christ Church get trapped in their homes, is it because they don’t accept the predictions of meteorologists or that they just don’t bother to listen to the information provided?

It is time we stopped looking at weather systems that by-passed us as failed predictions and instead see each situation as a blessing. So for the benefit of our readers, and in the face of what occurred in the United States with Sandy, we provide again the various messages that can be issued by meteorologists and what they mean.

* Tropical Storm Watch: An announcement that tropical-storm conditions are possible within the specified area.

* Hurricane Watch: An announcement that hurricane conditions are possible within the specified area.

Because outside preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, watches are issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

Action: During a watch, prepare your home and review your plan for evacuation in case a Hurricane or Tropical Storm Warning is issued. Listen closely to instructions from local officials.

* Tropical Storm Warning: An announcement that tropical-storm conditions are expected within the specified area.

* Hurricane Warning: An announcement that hurricane conditions are expected within the specified area.

Because outside preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, warnings are issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

Action: During a warning, complete storm preparations and immediately leave the threatened area if directed by local officials.

* Extreme Wind Warning: Extreme sustained winds of a major hurricane (115 mph or greater), usually associated with the eyewall, are expected to begin within an hour.

Action: Take immediate shelter in the interior portion of a well-built structure.

It is in your best interest to pay attention to what the experts advise. It could make the difference between life and death.

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