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Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane’

PSDWE2013-150x150I love the sea and my surprise to have a special visitor from it across from my home is a treat.

Planet Solar cuts though the ocean on the energy of the sun.

The world trek of the vessel is rich in science and public appeal.  Staffed and crewed by scientists and open ocean seamen, this sleek boat rising on its two pontoons and full of technical equipment, is on a mission.  The destination is to research the sea  and reach far from distant ports to bring the message of solar power.  The track of Planet Solar began at Univerite de Geneve to raise public awareness of the interaction of ocean and climate, the Gulf Stream and atmosphere.  The MS Turanor ” Planet Solar” is the largest solar catamaran built. The crew of several left the Mediterranean Sea via  Spain and headed for the Caribbean.  The port of call in May was Sint Maarten/ St.Martin.  Miami. Florida and then New York followed and now the boat is in Boston, MA, USA.

SYP-0295-170x114The Fan Pier area of Boston Harbor is a perfect mooring for Planet Solar.  The education of the expedition to the public has occurred on the several days in port.  The Next port of call should be Halifax, NS, CAN.  The mission has a delay of departure from the unwelcome Bermuda High weather pattern now gripping the east coast of New England.  The trough of storms and ensuing lightning and the rough seas have them safely in place tied to the pier.  My discussion with Team Scientist, Anh Dao, and her recollection of the journey and the intense work left for the vessel is impressive.

The great opportunity to fulfill the mission and complete Planetsolar Campaign 2013 for the Environmental Sciences at the University of Geneva  can bring pride to the crew.  Much thanks to the many sponsors and port hosts.  www.planetsolar.org

anh dao

Crew Scientist Le T Anh Dao, M.Sc. Eng.

planetsolar2solar3solar2solar1solar4Panetsolar1

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Idyllic and tranquil are the two regular descriptions of Jamaica’s Western point of Negril.

This exposed region hosts a seven mile beach of white sugar sand and the proverbial “gin clear water” of this reef protected district.  Negril beach and the nearby West End Cliffs supports a number of small family run hotels and a few larger all-inclusive resorts. October 21, 2012 5:00PM local Kingston television news began reporting the stalling of the 90 L weather front at 200 nautical miles due south of the island, the name Sandy was uttered.  Mid-October brings the usual tropic afternoon thunderhead cloud formations to this part of Jamaica.  They build with a light sea breeze and the Westmoreland Parish mountains beyond the Great Morass wrings the moisture out of the passing formations with a dense soaking at two or three PM each day. All are prepared for a ten minute rush to shelter from the front and then back to the most gorgeous late afternoon sunsets.  October 24th was no different. Yet this day. the tone changed at two o’clock.

I spoke to the hotel owner, who had anxiously walked the beach near the moored dive boats and non motorized watercraft. He asks: “Do you believe the reports?”  I had been monitoring several online weather services and the numerous models. Stormcarib.com has become a staple for me.  We both knew the answer. One hour later all his boats had steamed east to the town of Lucea, and the safeharbor sheltered up the nearby river.  The beachboys, 15 in total, organized and hauled the windsurfers, pedalboats, hobiecats and all to the grassy areas well beyond the beach. Next came the chaise lounges numbering in the hundreds.  When the season is in full swing these chaises reach from the cocopalms to the water’s edge and carpet the several hundred yards of frontage. In the three hours before sunset, all were stacked and stored beyond the hotel’s buildings. Tensions began to mount as several communications of the storm preparations were placed under the hotel room doors. Occupancy was at 79% and the staff at 100%.  The beach scene was an eerie vision: light waves lapping the shore, a glimmer of sun filtering down through intermittent breaks in the purple-gray thunderheads and a handful of humans roamed the water’s edge. The lighter side of the whole circumstance came when all was secured by the beachboy staff.  The soccer ball was produced and the goals drawn in the sand for a rollicking game by the most hearty staff.

Soon the Ground’s Keeper crew emerged, as they proceeded to pull the weakest limbs from the cocopalms and surrounding vegetation. The tractor and wheelbarrows were filled. These precautions included the open air dining rooms, where the potted planters were brought in from the perimeter of the exposed regions.  These folks knew their jobs and silently all were carried out. The night of October 23, Tuesday, the diners found wonderful meals and rum punches flowed.  The eyewall of Sandy stood a mere ninety miles south of Kingston, Jamaica.  All models determined a direct hit at hurricane strength within 20 hours.  As the gusts of winds began to pick up to 25 tp 30 knots, I knew the beach was prepared to take the brunt on the next day.

Wednesday, October 24th started with a break in the overcast and the sun poured onto the beach. Sadly, there were no chaise lounges. All was packed in preparation. The Beach Vendors were absent. Typically a vendor would pass every several minutes, but they were long gone.  The Health Club was boarded up tight and the Spa had sent all home to their families.  Lunch and dinner were sanctioned to the buffets in the two largest dining halls.  A memo under each door required the verandah furniture to be brought inside of each room.

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

Negril is a low land area, more like a sandbar between sea and swamp.  The saving grace is the reef offshore approximately 3 KM out and sheltering most of the Seven Mile Beach and Bloody Bay. On a calm day, no waves break on the coral several feet beneath the surface.  On the morning of Wednesday, October 24, the gusts were picking up, and the seas were encroaching the sands.  The guests were gathered at the one swim-up bar; it was an active site. The beach bars were long closed and secured down.  Kingston TV reports were on full storm mode; anchors were taking the reports of the police and field reporters.  Sandy was making landfall in the eastern portion of Jamaica and east of Kingston was experiencing the  hit at 80 mile per hour winds.  In Negril, the winds rose and the seas churned higher, but the rain that was promised did not come.  Mudslides have ravaged the slopes of the hills in other areas in past storms.  Folklore prevails here in Jamaica.  There is a perception, call it a destiny, that storms with female names will pass-over the island. Hurricane Gilbert, Ivan and others lingered with infamy.

By 4:00 PM the rains came and the seas rolled, the cocopalms bent in the 60 mile wind gusts and the night concluded with sand blasting across the ground and walkways.  Most guests braved the elements to find dinner and then return to the security of their rooms. Thursday, October 25 let the world know that Sandy was focused and raging to the north. On Negril beach the licking was to begin.  The Jamaicans explained it perfectly: Hurricane Sandy was a ” Woman with a Tail”.  The seas continued to build and the reef did its best to protect.  Yet the waves threw fifteen foot monsters against the West End Cliffs and the Seven Mile Beach was strewn with seaweed and erosion swept away sand and shore. Negril still fared the best on this Birth of Sandy.  Other parts of the Eastern Regions did not do as well.  St. Anne Parish, Portland, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio all had disaster events and loss of life. Electricity, roads and bridges were out.  Still, Negril never lost power and the roads stayed open.  This was a blessing to an area of the world that evokes peace.  The path of Sandy could only have hoped for that fate.

Port Antonio to the East on Jamaica

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The Little Engine that could… is the best way to describe the source of the African Continent hurricane activity in the Caribbean Basin and points north. Considering that the 16th parallel on that land mass churns out the massive storms from an area that we can think of as desert and barren lands, the patterns are precise.  From June 1st to October 31st the nations of the West Indies are under the gun for tropical waves from Africa.  Spaghetti Charts ( I love these words) clearly indicate the track of theses tropical waves.  Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Western Sahara, Gambia and Mali all contribute to the pressure cooker driving the storms. Though, for Cape Verde, drought has ravaged the region for decades, driving food shortages.

As the hurricane season develops, the waves begin to roll off the western coast and form toward the borderline of status on the south of the islands.  Each one is numbered as TS # 13, for example of a Tropical Storm, or  94L to denote a Depression Wave.

Hurricane Katia as of Sept 2, 2011 in the Atlantic as cat. 1 , LOCATION…17.5N 52.4W

The patterns are like clock-work toward the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean Sea.

 Mariners  use services to plot and track all storms.  NOAA  and HURDAT, http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/index.html offer many tools.

I use http://stormcarib.com/guide.htm , because the depth of the Island data is linked to ground watchers and pleas for help are incorporated after disasters. Special local hurricane correspondents report from the Caribbean Islands about the situation with regards to threatening tropical systems daily.

Each season brings it’s own challenges, and the 2011 Hurricane Season is no different.  As I prepare to negotiate the next Wave off the Cape Verdes, my eyes are on the Leeward Islands I love so much. Field assignment September 9th, 2011 Punta Cana, DR,  just grazed by Irene 8/24/2011.  Peace.

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