What Everybody Ought To Know About Hurricanes

In St. Kitts, over the months of August and September, it seemed like every weekend there was a hurricane coming close to us. All any of them amounted to was some wind and rain. For some reason, they all seemed to come on the weekend, which had us grumbling because that’s our time to go to the beach. But it prompted me to consider how I felt when we first moved to island and hurricanes were a new experience for me. Hurricanes really are not so bad most of the time. But, there are things you should know if you are planning to live in the tropics. Like how to protect yourself and where to find information about the storm. I hope that this article will help you to find the information you need to get through hurricane season.
If you’re new to St. Kitts the prospect of a Hurricane may seem rather daunting.  The first thing you should know is that Hurricane season begins June 1st and ends November 30th.  The actual peak of the Hurricane season occurs in the Hurricane Georges Sept 1998 What Everybody Ought To Know About Hurricanesmonths of August and September.  These are the two hottest months in St. Kitts, which has an influence on hurricane formation.  The warmer the water temperature, the more likely it is that a hurricane will form.  If you are coming from the Midwest is should be a relief to know this.  Two months is not much to endure, as opposed to twelve months when you can have tornadoes, snow storms, drought, ice, and floods.

Since 1930 there have only been 18 Hurricanes.  In 81 years that’s not too scary.  Out of that number only two have done any serious damage.  Hurricane Georges in Sept. 1998 and Hurricane Lenny in Nov. 1999. Five deaths were caused by Hurricane Georges, electricity and phone services were affected, 60% of buildings damaged, and Port Zante was destroyed.  The economic impact was estimated at US$445 million.   Hurricane Lenny’s effect was not as serious.  No lives lost, there was damage to property estimated at US$41.4 million.  These were the most serious hurricanes in the last 15 years.  Both were Category 4.

How are Hurricanes categorized?  A storm is first named when it reaches the Tropical Storm stage.  Storms are classified using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  This scale has five categories which are determined by the intensity of sustained winds.  A Category 1 must have sustained winds of at least 74 mph, while a Category 5 has winds exceeding 155 mph.  A Category 1 hurricane typically won’t cause any significant structural damage.  As the category number increases you can expect more damage to occur.  You can find a chart with complete details on the scale here.  This scale can be helpful to determine how much damage a storm may cause.

The following video was taken during Hurricane Earl which was a Category 3 Hurricane.  There was damage associated with this storm but on a smaller scale.

In most cases, the storms are tracked and categorized as they come across the Atlantic from Africa.  Occasionally a storm may develop closer to the islands with less warning.  But, typically, you have several days to prepare.  A good site for tracking storms can be found here http://www.stormpulse.com/  What I like about this particular site is that is shows the islands named, rather than just a cluster of dots.  Geography has never been my strong point, and I like seeing the names on the map.

How do you prepare for a hurricane?  The following is a list of supplies and considerations to help you weather the storm. This list comes from The National Hurricane Center’s Hurricane Preparedness.
Water – at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days

Food – at least enough for 3 to 7 days
— non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices
— foods for infants or the elderly
— snack foods
— non-electric can opener
— cooking tools / fuel
— paper plates / plastic utensils

Blankets / Pillows, etc.

Clothing – seasonal / rain gear/ sturdy shoes

First Aid Kit / Medicines / Prescription Drugs

Special Items – for babies and the elderly

Toiletries / Hygiene items / Moisture wipes

Flashlight / Batteries

Radio – Battery operated and NOAA weather radio

Telephones – Fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a traditional (not cordless) telephone set

Cash (with some small bills) and Credit Cards – Banks and ATMs may not be available for extended periods


Toys, Books and Games

Important documents – in a waterproof container or watertight resealable plastic bag
— insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.

Tools – keep a set with you during the storm

Vehicle fuel tanks filled

Pet care items
— proper identification / immunization records / medications
— ample supply of food and water
— a carrier or cage
— muzzle and leash


Keep in mind that if you are living in a low lying area you may be asked to evacuate.  You may lose electricity for several days.  Water from your tap, during flooding conditions, is considered contaminated and should be boiled prior to use.
If you were living in your own home you would want to consider several other things like boarding windows.  But since this site is about rentals in St. Kitts I won’t cover those things here.

The St. Kitts storm record is low.  Other than being annoyed by rain, we have very few storms that give reason for concern.  But, if you’re going to live in St. Kitts you need to be aware that hurricanes are a possibility.  Knowledge is the key to a good outcome.


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