Hurricane Awareness Week Day Three – Water, Water Everywhere!


The Canal by Masters ltd. overflowed during a flash flood event in July 2006.
The Canal by Masters ltd. and Bull’s Head car park overflowed during a flash flood event in July 2006. Image from Bernews.

Although Tropical Cyclones (Tropical Storms and Hurricanes) are notorious for their powerful winds, their deadliest and most damaging component is flooding.

Because these storms often originate in the maritime tropical regions of the Atlantic, they carry deep tropical moisture with them. As a result they can dump extremely heavy rains that can lead to flash flooding. In Bermuda, low-lying areas can flood easily at high tide. As seen around the canal in Pembroke. Additionally, rock slides and wall collapses have also recently been observed, potentially linked to heavy rain events. Heavy rain can result in flood waters entering homes, businesses, and vehicles causing extensive damage, even if nothing is swept away.

Massive waves generated by approaching Hurricane Igor crash over South Shore Road in Smith's in September 2010. Image from Bernews.
Massive waves generated by approaching Hurricane Igor crash over South Shore Road in Smith’s in September 2010. Image from Bernews.

Meanwhile, the violent winds in a Tropical Cyclones frequently whip up large swells, hazardous rip currents, and coastal erosion – even when a storm is far out at sea making things dangerous for mariners and beach-goers. If a nearby storm generates a period of powerful onshore winds, a storm surge can be produced. These onshore winds push and pile up the sea against a coastline, it is measured above the mean high tide mark. This too can enter homes, businesses, and vehicles causing flood damage – however it is frequently accompanied by large, battering waves that can cause additional damage. Storm surge from Hurricane Fabian (2003) washed away a part of the Causeway, flooded the Airport, and caused extensive beach erosion claiming or severely damaging several South Shore residences and businesses.

Strong easterly winds far ahead of the core of Hurricane Igor flooded parts of Boaz Island in September 2010.
Strong easterly winds far ahead of Hurricane Igor flooded parts of Boaz Island, Sandy’s in September 2010. A south wind later flooded St. George’s. Image from Bernews.

Flooding, from either heavy rain or storm surge, can cause extensive erosion of roads and foundations. Additionally, muddy/sandy water may hide dangerous obstacles like debris, power lines or areas where roads have been washed away. Meanwhile, even shallow flowing water can be powerful enough to sweep people off their feet, potentially leading to life-threatening situations.

Avoid being in a flooding situation by evacuating low-lying coastal and inland areas prior to the approach of a Tropical Cyclone. Keep up to date with Emergency Measures Organization updates to know where and when shelters become available. Of course, monitor products issued by the Bermuda Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center (a US government operation out of Miami, FL) throughout the year, particularly their Tropical products during Hurricane Season. Heed watches and warnings as they are posted, take necessary precautions to protect life and property, and take the power of water seriously.

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