On 10 June 2011 a Categoy 4 Hurricane and a Weather-maker!

On 1 June 2011 the Atlantic hurricane season opened with plenty of disturbed weather over the eastern and southern Caribbean as well as along the coastline of Panama and Central America , which over time began to evolve, move and progress until by 5 June one coaleced around a center of low pressure in the central Caribbean showing some signs of potential cyclonic development, and another cell over quite warm surface waters of the eastern east Pacific off Nicaragua also began to show signs of possible cyclonic development [See 5 June 2011 posting here: “The Caribbean and Esatern East Pacific Flare-up on 5 June 2011”].

More recently, over the past five days, the Caribbean system has weakened but caused heavy rains, and flash floods as it interacted with the mountains of Cuba, Jamaica and Hispanolia, while moving generally northward toward eastern Cuba and the Bahamas. In the course of these developments, flash floods in Haiti resulted in at least 30 dead and addiitonal suffering for the thousands of survivors of the 2010 earthquake still living in tent cities and makeshift shelters. Meanwhile over in the eastern east Pacific we had tropical storm Adrian form off the coast of Mexico to the southwest of the resort city of Acapulco [See 8 June 2011 posting here: “The Northern Tropics are Acting-up!”], and far away from our neck-of-the-woods large tropical waves generated disturbed weather over the South China Sea just west of the Philippines and west of Mumbai, India over the Arabian Sea.

Category 4 Hurricane ADRIAN over eastern east Pacific near Mexican coast

  Today, 10 June 2011, there is category 4 Hurricane ADRIAN near the Pacific coast of Mexico some 500 south of Puerto Vallarta, moving toward the northwest and away from the continental land mass. Adrian is the first tropical cyclone of the 2011 East Pacific season that started on 15 May 2011.

The satellite view on the left [courtesy of the Navy Research Laboratory] shows a well defined and large storm churning along toward the northwest, which will take it away from land toward the central north Pacific .

Another satellite view [courtesy of NASA], below, shows a color-enhanced infrared image of Hurricane Adrian with a well defined eye as it moved basically in parallel to the Pacific coast of Mexico in the early morning of Friday 10 June 2011.

Color-enhanced infrared satellite view of Hurricane ADRIAN on 10 June 2011
Also on 10 June 2011 the weather-maker system that traversed  from the Caribbean over Cuba is now centered above the Bahamas and moving generally northward, while generating plenty of stormy weather and scattered thunderstorms and rain over a large region, as seen in the satellite image below [courtesy of NASA]:
GOES satellite view of the larger Caribbean basin on 10 June 2011
The main question concerning this system, which is moving into an atmospheric environment ahead that does not favor cyclonic development, is how much it will affect Florida if at all. This is quite an important issue as the Florida peninsula is suffering one of its worst drought of the past 30 years, and a weather-maker like this could bring some much needed rain to the state. Although any rain generated by this system over Florida will not solve the problem, it would at least alleviate some of a current situation that has the waters of Lake Okeechobee at such low levels that no water is flowing naturally through the C-8 canal, and water management authorities have had to use pumps to provide water to the agricultural area south of the lake, while diverting water away from the Calootsahatchee River causing an environmental problem with high salinity, dead fish and flora, and severe adverse impact on tourism dependent activities in Fort Myers and adjacent areas, as well as throught the greater Everglades. Given these problematic issues, there are some in Florida who are wishing for the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season to send a couple of wet hurricanes toward Florida soon, even though the quid-pro-quo might be structural damage and human suffering for some. What a dilemma!!
While we wrestle with this important question in Florida, far away over the South China Sea tropical storm SARIKA, which generated a coupld of days ago off the Philippines coast near Manila, is now approaching landfall in mainland China as a weakened cyclone that is generating plenty of rain over a wide region. The satellite image below illustrates:
Color-enhanced infrared satellite image of tropical storm SAKIRA on 10 June 2011
So, what will be next over the northern tropics? Will tropical cyclone activity drive rain toward parched regions enduring severe drought? Or will tropical cyclones only bring damage and destruction to affected areas worldwide? Only time will tell what happens next, we must however remain prepared and vigilant for it only takes one impact to cause a disaster and plenty of human suffering. Be prepared! Pay attention!! Mitigate!!!

Playa del Carmen, Mexico, gets ready for hurricane season!

I have just returned from a marathonic, but quite rewarding yet brief three-day visit [June 1-3, 2011] to Playa del Carmen, a resort town some 60 kilometers south of Cancun in the midst of the Mayan Riviera in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico.

My trip to Playa del Carmen was at the invitation of the President of the Municipio de Solidaridad [equivalent to our County Mayor here in Florida] to be the keynote speaker at the ceremony of Installation of the Operational Committee in Case of Hurricanes for 2011  for the ‘municipio’[a political subdivision of the state equivalent to our county or parish] of Solidaridad. The city of Playa del Carmen is the seat of the municipio.

The installation of the Operational Committee is a key component of Civil Protection activities that take place annually throughout the political subdivisions of the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico. The ceremony of installation of the Committee is done jointly with the official adoption of the annual Civil Defense Plan, and carries in addition to the pomp and circumstance the swearing-in of committee members by the MunicipaL President, and the signing of the ordinance that gives the Committee and the Plan their legal authority to carry out their charge of protecting life and property in the Municipio de Solidaridad.

The ceremony was presided by the Municipal Secretary General, in representation of the Municipal President, with the Municipal Regents[equivalent to a Board of County Commissioners], a representative of the State Governor, representatives of the armed forces, public and private sector dignataries, and the new members of the Operational Committee in attendance as well as the general public including school children and the media. All in all some 600+ guests participated in the ceremony.

The official ceremony is about to get underway. Some 600 guests are in attendance in the pavilion erected for the event on the Plaza Municipal in Playa del Carmen

 The state of Quintana Roo in Mexico has developed an effective emergency management [Civil Defense] structure over the years, with an excellent record of timely evacuations and preparedness during several hurricane strikes on important tourism resorts and population centers including such memorable storms as Gilbert [1988], Wilma [2005] and category 5 Dean [2007]. Loss of life and injury have been kept to a minimum during these hazard events. A testimony to the seriousness with which the State and Municipal governments, and the population at-large, treat the issue of hurricane risk and civil defense actions is the formal ceremony to install the Operational Committee and approve the Civil Defense Plan for the year. This ceremony not only includes the enactment of a municipal resolution installing and swearing in the committee and the formal adoption of the annual Civil Defense Plan, but it is also intended to send a message to all residents of this vulnerable community that the protection of life and property in case of hurricane impact involves the collective effort of all sectors of society, with support from local and state authorities.

Panoramic of the audience and view of the Presidium during the event in Playa del Carmen on 2 June 2011
Another view of the audience as Ricardo Alvarez delivers the keynote at the Municipal Pavilion in Playa del Carmen
Municipal Civil Defense Director Eng. Alamilla Can addresses the audience and Presidium members

 The ceremony included opening remarks by Municipal Civil Defense Director Eng. Genaro Alamilla Can who gave an overview of the emergency management structure, explained the significance of Operational Committee as a key component of Civil Defense especially during the hurricane season.

The Director also explained how the Operational Committee represents key agencies in the municipality, and how the Committee works with Civil Defense staff and supports Municipal authorities in making critical decisions while activated during a hurricane event. The entire community is placed on a first stage of alert when a tropical cyclone enters or forms in the eastern Caribbean. Evacuation plans for tourists are also set in motion at that time, while all shelters are readied for full activation should the situation warrant it.
Ricardo Alvarez delivers the keynote address during the event in Playa del Carmen

 When inviting me to deliver the keynote address at this event the Municipal President specifically asked me to talk about hurricane protection, drawing on my field work, research and educational efforts in thestate of Quintana Roo going back to 1988 in the aftermath oh major hurricane Gilbert that devastated Cancun. I titled my address “Sol, Aire y Agua” [or “Sun, Air and Water”] to reinforce my message that we need to use a simplified approach to emergency management by focusing of that which is critical, such as wind and water as essential components of hurricanes and also the main causes of damage during an impact. In my remarks I encouraged the existing civil defense structure to fill in existing gaps, by inviting and involving a sector that has been largely absent, that of the building design and construction profesionals [meaning architectsand engineers]. I also emphasized the need to change/enhance the traditional model for emergency management on which their current civil defense structure is based, by making mitigation the central “hub” anchoring the traditional phases of preparedness, response and recovery. Other key concepts I presented were: (a) the importance of considering vulnerability as an interactiveand dynamic process that is shared by all in the community; (b) the need to understand how buildings, housing and infrastructre interact with wind and water, the main damage components of a hurricane; (c)  how hurricane protectionin order to be effective must involve the collective efforts of each and all the residents in a vulnerable community; (d) there is a need to create a state-wide support infrastructure involving sientific research, building product testing and approval and mechanisms to incoprorate hurricane mitigation criteria into the design of all new builsings and housing or the retrofit of existing ones, and (e) how educationof all sectors of society mut be a keystone component of all civil defense efforts moving forward. [You may view a summarized version of the PoerPoint presentation used to illustrate my comments by clicking on the link that follows: AIRE & AGUA2aa]

At the conclusion of the event members of the Presidium, the keynote speaker, members of the Operational Committee, and invited guests exchanges views and comments and also fielded questions from the audience and gave interviews to members of the media who covered the ceremony. The consensus view among all was that the event had been quite successful in addressing key issues and in engaging the local residents and the media.
State Civil Defense Northern Zone Coordinator for Quintana Roo, Eng. Guillermo Morales Lopez, exchanges views with keynote speaker Ricardo Alvarez after the ceremony
From left to right: Eng. Luis Carlos Rodriguez Hoy, State Director of Civil Defense, Eng. Guillermo Morales Lopez, Civil Defense Coordinator for the Northern Zone, Ricardo A. Alvarez, Keynote Spekare, and Eng. Genaro Alamilla Can, Municipal Civil Defense Director for the Municipio of Solidaridad
Folllowing the event and a luncheon with state and local officials I also had a working meeting with members of the boards of the Colegio de Ingenieros Civiles del Municipio de Solidaridad and the Colegio de Arquitectos del Municipio de Solidaridad, the professional association of engineers and architects in Solidaridad. We exchanged views on the need to improve design and construction in this vulnerable region, and also the need to educate members of the building design professions in the concepts and practice of mitigation as a way to reduce the potential for damage to buildings, housing and infrastructure from the impact of recurring hurricanes.
As a state official put it after this event “It left a good taste with the people”! AMEN!