It is that time of the year again, the start of hurricane season…
Currently hurricane season in the Caribbean runs from 1 June until 30 November. This wasn’t always the case though; remember the famous wreck of the Rhone? She went down on 29 October 1867. Back in those days hurricane season finished on 1 October, now we know better and it is extended until the end of October. The peak of hurricane season is 10 August until 10 September though, but saying that there have been hurricanes in almost every month in the BVI history.
What is a hurricane, or when do we call it a hurricane? A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with sustained winds higher than 74 mph. They can be up to 600 miles across and reach speeds of up to 200 mph. Normally they last for about a week and move at a speed of 10-20 miles per hour. The “eye” of the hurricane or the center is the calmest part, it will go flat calm when it passes over.
A hurricane doesn’t just happen of course and before we can call it a hurricane it goes through a couple of stages. First it is named a tropical disturbance or wave, which is a system of clouds showers and thunderstorms, remaining intact for 24 hours or more. Once this develops a closed circulation it becomes a tropical depression and can have winds up to 38 mph. When it reaches winds between 39-73 mph it gets a name and is considered a tropical storm. Once the wind gets stronger than that we can speak of a hurricane! Hurricanes are then put into categories on a scale of 1 to 5, depending on their wind speed and we call this scale the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, named after the inventors.
Like I mentioned we name the storms. Back in 1953 they started by only using women’s names but this changed in 1979 when they started to use men’s names as well. These days the naming is done by the World Meteorological Organization, which has different sets of names, depending on the part of the world the storm is in. There are 6 different name lists that get rotated and if a hurricane was really bad they will take that name out and replace it with another one.
What does this hurricane season means for us? Not too much honestly! We keep an extra eye on the weather forecast and are prepared for anything. If it gets above 25 knots we will put our boats out on specially designed hurricane mooring. These moorings have 3 sand screws and a heavy concrete block on the bottom. Then chain goes up to a downline where it connects the mooring ball to the painter. We use an extra long painter to give to boats more swing radius. Both boats have ridden out hurricanes on their hurricane moorings and they didn’t have a scratch on them. If we all head out for the summer and there is no one left to check on the boats, then we just pull them out of the water and put them on a trailer in the boat yard!
Luckily, most hurricanes seem to just miss the BVI! They tend to go just north or south of us, keeping us safe. When they pass just north or south of us, it general y means we get some wind and maybe rain, but normally nothing above 30 knot winds.
Occasionally of course we do get hit; there are about 17 hurricanes on record that hit the BVI. The most current one was Earl in 2010 that did quite a lot of damage to the resort. Earl was however the first hurricane to hit the BVI in almost 15 years.
So let’s keep our fingers crossed this year and hope for another hurricane free season!