The end of hurricane season 2014 – Why to never let your guard down
The end of November brings two significant events. The first is a full court press for the start of the holiday season, and the second is the end of the official Atlantic hurricane season. Regarding the former, let’s hope it is a good one. Things are looking good as the U. S. stock market continues its upward trajectory, and despite reports from the financial sector that 25% of some of the world’s largest economies are in a recession (some even facing deflation), the U.S. economy continues to grow with the additional good news of little threat of inflation for the homeland. As an aside, love those falling fuel prices!
As to the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, simply unbelievable, collectively all of us along the U.S. eastern seaboard were again spared the wrath of Mother Nature’s fury. But there is a lesson from this year hurricane season that serves as a reminder of how quickly things can change, and I mean devastatingly quick. Let me explain.
How many people remember Hurricane Gonzalo? Probably not many, as this October storm in the Caribbean Leeward Islands came as a big surprise to a lot of people in the northern Caribbean islands of Antigua, Anguilla, Barbuda, and particularly to the residents and resort owners in Dutch St. Maarten and the island-sharing French prefecture of St. Martin.
Hurricane Gonzalo ultimately became a Cat 4 hurricane and in addition to the Leeward Islands, it also impacted Bermuda and its remnants made landfall over the British Isles where it was reported that two people lost their lives with others suffering injuries attributed to the 75 mph winds and heavy rain that battered the U.K.
The National Hurricane Center started tracking a tropical wave east of the Lesser Antilles on October 10th and as the storm passed over Antigua, wind speeds quickly reached 67 mph. As folks turned in for the day on October 13th, the general consensus was that St. Maarten/St. Martin would experience the passing of a strong tropical wave. As the night wore on and the winds continued to pick up, the residents knew from generations of experience from tropical systems that what was happening was not a tropical wave, but something much more severe.
As daylight broke, the extent of the damage confirmed that in just a few short hours, this storm had ramped up to a significant wind event. Wind speeds that we know about and confirmed to us by a local Dutch loss assessor (adjuster) were observed at 122 mph sustained in the Oyster Pond section of the island! Hurricane Gonzalo had inflicted significant damage to an island community who had gone to bed expecting the passing of a benign tropical wave.
The island marine community experienced heavy losses (and tragically one life) as storm tackle had not been set as is the normal practice, and many yachts were grounded or sunk on both sides of the island.
In the Caribbean the end of the hurricane season is the beginning of the high season. Repairs are underway and the loss assessment and adjustment of claims is in high gear. We are pleased to be part of the team helping our clients’ recovery from the loss and damages inflicted by the fury of Hurricane Gonzalo.
So in closing, as we have seen, things can change quickly (remember Hurricane Charley’s turn in 2004) and now in upstate New York, folks are struggling with a major snow and subsequent flooding event. It’s important to pay attention to your surroundings and in particular, listen and heed the advice from emergency management officials. You and your loved one’s life may depend on it, not to mention your property.
Happy Thanksgiving and stay safe.