The Caribbean, already in a fragile economic state resulting from lockdown measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, is spread thin as it braces for what might be an active hurricane season this year.
According to the National Geographic, “conditions are ripe for a major Atlantic hurricane” due to “An ominous combination of warm ocean water and seasonal weather patterns” with winds from the western coast of Africa which may fuel this year’s storms.
“Currently, Atlantic surface waters are the fourth warmest they’ve been since NOAA began keeping records in 1982. The only years water has been warmer are 2005, 2010, and 2017, which bore witness to Hurricanes Katrina and Maria, two of the most devastating natural disasters to strike the Atlantic basin,” according to the National Geographic.
Earlier this year, Sahara Dust from the coast of Africa helped to tamp down the storms with the dryness of the air—a welcome result, especially as countries cope with COVID-19. However, as the dust settles, the storms are likely to again form and pick up speed.
So far, there have been a few named storms, but none the likes of Dorian, which devastated islands in The Bahamas last year or Maria, which virtually flattened Puerto Rico in 2017. Both countries are still struggling to recover from the devastation, with thousands still homeless, all while dealing with the realities of a global pandemic.
The Bahamas seems to have the coronavirus under control, but Puerto Rico is seeing spikes in cases and deaths.
Either way, the prospect of evacuating homes and moving into shelters is not a favorable one, given the high risk of coronavirus infections, with people from different households being crowded into shelters. This could prove even more devastating if hurricanes force people to seek public shelter.
Essentially, the Caribbean is unable to withstand another devastating hurricane.
However, on Thursday Tropical Storm Isaias dumped heavy rains and strong winds on Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The storm is headed to the U.S. East Coast.
Here in the U.S. with the out-of-control coronavirus pandemic and western wildfires, many in states like California and Arizona, emergency responders are already strained, making an active hurricane season most unwelcome.
Back in Puerto Rico, the prospect of another major hurricane is affecting residents’ emotional state. In the wake of Isaias, there are reports of downed trees and flooded neighborhoods—some where homes are still damaged from the recent earthquakes. Santos Seda, mayor of the southwest coastal town of Guánica, told The Associated Press, “The emotional state of people is deteriorating more every day.”
President Donald Trump has approved an emergency declaration in Puerto Rico due to the storm.
Isaias’ center is forecast to move close to the southeastern Bahamas by early Friday.