Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:38 PM GMT on November 06, 2010
Tropical Storm Tomas is over the open Atlantic, headed away from the islands, and is unlikely to trouble any more land areas. Despite bringing heavy rains of 4 - 8 inches to highly vulnerable Haiti yesterday, flooding from the storm is only being blamed for seven deaths thus far, and Haiti has avoided a flooding catastrophe. More Haitians died (12) last weekend from flooding rains of much lesser amounts, so I think part of the credit for the low death toll during Tomas has to go to the preparedness efforts made in advance of the storm. Many people were removed from flood-prone ravines, and flood control ditches and sandbagging efforts helped stymie flood waters. Luck also played a role--had Tomas tracked just ten miles farther west yesterday morning, the eyewall would have avoided disruption from the rugged terrain on Haiti's southwest peninsula. This would have allowed Tomas to strengthen to a Category 2 storm, and the band of very heavy rain to the south of Port-au-Prince would probably have held together and dumped an additional 2 - 4" of rain on the vulnerable earthquake zone.
Tomas plowed through the southeastern Bahamas and Turks and Caicos islands early this morning as a strong tropical storm, and I anticipate that damage in the islands will be minor. Satellite loops show that the storm remains well organized, but clouds from an approaching cold front can be seen to Tomas' north, and the front is expected to catch up to the storm on Sunday and bring a rapid demise for Tomas.
Figure 1. Early afternoon satellite image of Tomas.
Tomas the second most damaging hurricane in St. Lucia history
Prime Minister Stephenson King announced Thursday that damage on the island of St.Lucia was $185 million--five time higher than earlier estimates. This sum is 19% of St. Lucia's GDP, and is the second most expensive hurricane ever for the island. Tomas damaged 10,000 homes and killed 14 people during its rampage over the island last Saturday. St. Lucia received the full brunt of the northern eyewall of Tomas as it intensified, and the St. Lucia weather service reported that sustained winds of 90 - 95 mph affected the island. Power has been restored to 90% of the island and most of the tourist facilities have reopened, however.
Tomas is the strongest hurricane to affect St. Lucia since Category 1 Hurricane Dean of 2007 brought 90 mph winds to the island. Dean killed one person and did $6.4 million in damage--0.5% of the nation's GDP. The island's strongest hurricane since accurate records began in 1851 was Hurricane Allen of 1980, which struck as a Category 3 hurricane with 130 mph winds. Allen killed 18 people on St.Lucia, and caused catastrophic damage of $235 million dollars ($613 million 2010 dollars.) This was 177% of the nation's GDP that year. The deadliest hurricane in St. Lucia history was the Category 5 Great Hurricane of 1780, which killed approximately 700 people. The Great Hurricane of 1780 was the Atlantic's deadliest hurricane of all-time, with 22,000 fatalities, mostly in the Lesser Antilles Islands.
Figure 2. Damage on St. Lucia from Hurricane Tomas. Image credit: St. Lucia Star.
Organizations Active in Haitian Relief Efforts:
Portlight disaster relief has shipped their mobile kitchen to Quisqueya, Haiti, and the kitchen will be ready to feed 500 people per day.
Lambi Fund of Haiti
Haiti Hope Fund
Catholic Relief Services of Haiti
I'll have an update Sunday morning.
My post on Haiti's hurricane history is now a permanent link in the "Articles of interest" section on our Tropical & Hurricane web page.
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