EDITORIAL – Why were we caught unawares by Tomas?
We have often been told that God is not a Bajan and don’t take Mother Nature for granted.
In the past month alone, we have been treated to at least two rather stern reminders of this.
It was on October 3 that we were given our first reminder. The picture of a young farmer clutching his prized Black Belly Sheep in his arms will forever remain with us even if we have already forgotten the tornado-like winds that tore off roofs in Arch Hall, St Thomas and St David’s and Kingsland in Christ Church.
Lest we forget, there came another serious episode this past weekend. One, much more forceful than the first. It was of the sort to bring a grown man to his knees.
As thousands ran for sudden cover, trees were rattled, in fact uprooted – big trees at that. Not even the Christ is the Answer Family Church in Little Battaleys, St Peter was spared the wrath, neither was the historic Sandbox tree in St Mary’s Church yard in The City.
In the midst of the storm, there was a sure enough temptation for all of us to look to the sky and express thanks for deliverance from what the media has now termed “Terrible Tomas”.
And terrible indeed it has been; not only for Barbados, but our Caribbean neighbours as well.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines has already termed it the worst hurricane in living memory.
And from the pictures already seen from St Lucia, Stephenson King is unlikely to disagree with his regional colleague that Hurricane Tomas was definitely his country’s worst nightmare.
We can only pray now that this system dissipates as it churns towards Jamaica and Haiti, two of our most economically vulnerable neighbours who can least afford another brush with Mother Nature.
Thankfully for Barbados, Tomas, the 19th named storm of the 2010 Hurricane season, had not reached hurricane strength when, to the surprise of many, it arrived at our doorsteps last Friday.
But as a nation we should have been better prepared for what was to come. At 11:15 a.m., a special weather bulletin was issued by email by Barbados Meteorological Services basically informing that a strong tropical wave was affecting the island and that conditions were expected to deteriorate during the afternoon and into the night.
Next came the first official advisory at 5 p.m. that Tropical Storm Tomas had formed. By then, the system was clocking 40-mile-per-hour winds and was about 200 miles or 320 kilometres southeast of Barbados.
In a matter of hours, Tomas had significantly strengthened to the point where it was packing maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour.
By then Wendy Alleyne of Cleavers Hill, St Joseph had already lost her roof and there was no doubting Tomas was upon us.
The Director of Emergency Management Services, Judy Thomas, later said on radio that the system would have a significant effect on Barbados. She also raised national eyebrows when she said that shelters