The southern Caribbean prepares for a tropical storm

Screenshot of satellite image taken from the YouTube video “Tropical Storm Bonnie 2022 will form within the Next 24 Hours.”

It's not even the end of June, yet, if you were to go by the current weather patterns across the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, it might as well be September, usually the most active month of the Atlantic hurricane season. The Climate Prediction Center of United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has already said they expect the 2022 hurricane season to be “above normal,” the seventh such season in a row.

This transatlantic hurricane season typically runs from June 1 to November 30, and NOAA is predicting as many as 21 named storms, of which a startling six to 10 have the potential to become hurricanes. Of these, three to six could be “major,” falling into Categories 3, 4 or 5 — storms with 111 mile per hour (178 km/h) winds or higher.

The latest weather system teetering of the brink of being christened is the one organising itself in the southern Caribbean. Currently pegged as “Potential Tropical Cyclone Two,” it will be called “Bonnie” if conditions for its strengthening continue to be favourable. Targeting the southern windward islands, the disturbance is expected to bring with it heavy rainfall and gusty winds.

Its current location at 9.5 degrees north latitude and 56.5 degrees west longitude means that there is a tropical storm warning in effect for Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and its dependencies, and a tropical storm watch in place for the coast of Venezuela and the ABC islands.

Its effects on the southern windward islands are expected to begin as early as the evening of June 28. If the system remains over water, it will grow in strength; chances of this happening over the next two days remain high, at 70 percent, increasing to 90 percent over the next five days.

Trinidad and Tobago's location at the southernmost tip of the Caribbean archipelago means that it is usually outside of the major hurricane zone, but that does not make the country immune to the effects of storms; 2017's Tropical Storm Bret was initially regarded a “minor,”storm but ended up doing a significant amount of damage.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like the Caribbean have long been at the forefront of the wrath of the Atlantic hurricane season, the effects of which have been worsening as the climate crisis deepens.

Across the Caribbean, the expected levels of rainfall will likely vary considerably, from 1-3 inches [2.5-7 cm] farther north along the archipelago, to 4-6 inches [10-15 cm] to the south, where many are concerned about the potential fallout from heavy rains, including flooding and landslides, not to mention possible damage from high winds.

Social media channels have been filled with updates and tips on how to prepare for the impending storm, including securing pets. In Trinidad and Tobago, schools have been closed, and many business places, financial institutions and government offices are closing early in order to allow their staff time to return home safely before storm conditions set in. Certain domestic and international flights have been disrupted, and ferry sailings between Trinidad and Tobago put on hold.

As it stands, regional netizens are just waiting. Trinidad-based Twitter user Maria Rivas-McMillan posted:

Florida-based diaspora member Sonya Sanchez Arias was concerned about the welfare of her Trinbagonian compatriots, saying on Facebook:

Be safe and prepared Trinidad and Tobago – it’s coming straight for you.
Do not take this storm lightly. I pray it passes quickly without creating too much flooding or doing too much damage. 

At this time, it appears Bonnie, as either a Tropical Storm or Hurricane, will be a threat primarily to the Windward Islands, the ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, the northern coasts of Columbia and Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago and eventually portions of Central America in or around Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

The Global Voices Caribbean team will continue to provide updates as the storm develops.

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