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Omar dies, but leaves behind plenty of damage

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 3:01 PM GMT on October 18, 2008

Tropical Storm Omar has lost all of its heavy thunderstorm activity, and has been declared dead by NHC. The cleanup continues on those Caribbean islands hit by Omar's rain, wind, storm surge, and high waves, though. Reports from some of the islands to the right of Omar's path indicate that a significant storm surge topped by high battering waves did significant damage to coastal buildings and beaches. The storm's unusual west-to-east motion resulted in storm surge and waves affecting the western side of the islands, which are not as well-defended against these effects. These normally sheltered coastal regions tend to have higher amounts of development, as well. Thankfully, no deaths or injuries have been reported from the storm, which avoided making a direct hit on any islands. The islands should be fully recovered by the time the main tourist season begins in November. Hard hit were:

The Office of Disaster Management reports widespread infrastructural damage to roads, sea defenses, ports and utilities from sea swells. The main port was damaged and the Ferry Terminal was extensively damaged. The cruise ship ports were slightly damaged. All barge access for hauling sand and stones were totally destroyed. About 125 people were made homeless by the storm.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines
The western coast of St. Vincent and the Grenadines was severely impacted by swells from Hurricane Omar. Preliminary assessment has indicated widespread flooding, significant erosion, and destruction and damage to coastal property and businesses in the Kingstown areas, Central Leeward, East St. George and the Northern and Southern Grenadines.The Cruise Ship terminal building received significant damage and the businesses housed in the terminal were evacuated. Approximately 20 shops housed in the Bus Terminal in the area of Little Tokyo were destroyed by the battering waves and several others were damaged from the flood waters.

St. Kitts and Nevis
There has been significant coastal damage on the south-western end of the island. Approximately 50 people have been displaced, 30 houses sustained minor damages while nine houses sustained major damages.

Anguillanews.com reports damage to a number of beach front hotels, with many boats grounded.

Antigua received 5.71" of rain at the airport, and severe flooding washed out roads and prompted many boat rescues, putting up to 100 people in shelters. Crop damage was heavy, and Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer warned of a produce shortage, saying the farming community "appears to have suffered an extensive loss of crops."

St. Croix
St. Croix, whose eastern tip caught the eyewall winds of Omar, received $700,000 in damage to roads, and had about 40 boats damaged or destroyed in the main harbor. About half of the island's 55,000 people remained with power on Friday, and damage to crops was heavy.

Figure 1. Track of Hurricane Omar. Image credit: reliefweb.org

Elsewhere in the tropics
Heavy rains continue over the Central American nations of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and El Salvador, in association with the remains of Tropical Depression Sixteen. Mudslides and flash flooding have killed three people in Costa Rica and left two more missing, according to ticotimes.net. The remains of TD 16 are expected to remain over land and not regenerate into a tropical storm in either the Atlantic or Pacific.

A small area of heavy thunderstorms is between Jamaica and Haiti, moving west-northwest. This disturbance is under about 15-20 knots of wind shear, is surrounded by dry air, and is too small to develop into a tropical depression over the next two days.

Wind shear is expected to be low over most of the Caribbean during the coming week, and we need to watch the Western Caribbean for tropical storm development. The GFS and Canadian computer models are predicting the development of a tropical depression in the northwestern Caribbean near the western tip of Cuba 5-7 days from now. The other computer models predict that wind shear will be too high in this region to allow a tropical cyclone to develop. If a storm did develop in this region, it would likely move north or northeastward and affect the Gulf Coast of Florida. The likelihood of a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico over the next ten days is about 20%, and is about 40% in the Caribbean Sea.

Hurricane Ike relief efforts
There continues to be an urgent need for relief supplies in the wake of Hurricane Ike. I recommend contributions to the portlight.org charity fund, formed by wunderground members to serve the needs of those often bypassed by traditional relief efforts. Contributions are fully tax-deductible, and more details can be found at StormJunkie's blog.

I'll have an update Sunday morning.

Figure 2. Damage to Antigua from Hurricane Omar. Image credit: Iain Mellows.

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.