Hurricane Tomas

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For other storms of the same name, see Tropical Storm Tomas (disambiguation).
Hurricane Tomas
Category 2 hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Hurricane Tomas 2010-10-30 1429Z.jpg
Tomas shortly after intensifying into a hurricane near Barbados
Formed October 29, 2010
Dissipated November 14, 2010
(Extratropical after November 7)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained: 100 mph (155 km/h)
Lowest pressure 982 mbar (hPa); 29 inHg
Fatalities 71 total
Damage $741 million (2010 USD)
Areas affected Windward Islands, ABC Islands, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Cuba and Bahamas
Part of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Tomas was the latest recorded tropical cyclone on a calendar year to strike the Windward Islands. The nineteenth named storm and twelfth hurricane of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, Tomas developed from a tropical wave east of the Windward Islands on October 29. Quickly intensifying into a hurricane, it moved through the Windward Islands and passed very near Saint Lucia. After reaching Category 2 status on the Saffir-Simpson scale, Tomas quickly weakened to a tropical storm in the central Caribbean Sea, due to strong wind shear and dry air. Tomas later regained hurricane status as it reorganized near the Windward passage.

Throughout the hurricane's path, 71 people are known to have been killed, 14 of whom were in Saint Lucia. Monetary losses throughout the Windward Islands were estimated at US$588 million, mainly in Saint Lucia. In the wake of the storm in Haiti, flooding intensified an ongoing cholera outbreak indirectly causing more fatalities. According to a report released in December 2010, 55 people were killed in Cuba and Hispanola, though the distribution of these fatalities are unknown. Overall damage from the storm was at least $741 million.

Meteorological history[edit]

Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm according to the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale

A tropical wave, or elongated low pressure area, exited the western coast of Africa on October 25, and was soon embedded within the Intertropical Convergence Zone.[1] Moving quickly westward, the west contained scattered areas of strong convection, or thunderstorms, as well as a broad circulation.[2] The National Hurricane Center (NHC) first mentioned the wave in its Tropical Weather Outlook on October 27 when the system was located about 1200 miles (1940 km) east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles. At the time, the agency assessed a 10% chance for tropical cyclogenesis within 48 hours, noting that conditions would become more favorable for development in a few days.[3] By October 28, the system was becoming better organized, with a large area of convection.[4] The next day, Hurricane Hunters investigated the disturbance and reported a developing surface circulation with tropical storm force winds.[5] As a result, the NHC initiated advisories on Tropical Storm Tomas late on October 29 when the system was about 290 miles (470 km) east-southeast of St. Vincent.[6]

Upon being classified, Tomas was in an area of low wind shear and high moisture, both supportive of rapid intensification. At the time, the low-level and upper-level circulations were not vertically aligned, which was expected to cause slow strengthening. The NHC forecast indicated that Tomas was expected to attain hurricane status within 36 to 48 hours.[6] By three hours after it was classified, however, the winds had already increased to 60 mph (95 km/h).[7] The outflow became well-established in all quadrants as deep convection increased into a prominent rain band.[8] Radar on Martinique indicated an eye was forming, and Tomas continued west-northwestward toward the Lesser Antilles, steered by a ridge to its north.[9] While located only 35 miles (55 km) east of St. Vincent, Tomas attained hurricane status, based on Hurricane Hunters recording surface winds of 75 mph (120 km/h). At the time, the eye's diameter ranged from 35–46 miles (56–74 km).[10]

A weakening Tropical Storm Tomas over the Atlantic

On October 31, Hurricane Tomas passed very near Saint Lucia as an intensifying cyclone, producing 92 mph (148 km/h) winds on the island.[11] By later in the day, it became increasingly better organized, and reports from the Hurricane Hunters indicated that the winds increased to 100 mph (160 km/h), a Category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Concurrently, the storm was being impacted by southwesterly wind shear, which computer models forecasted to increase. Despite the shear, Tomas was forecast to strengthen into a major hurricane.[12] However, Tomas weakened as the convection waned near the center, due to the shear and dry air,[13] and by early on November 1 diminished to tropical storm status.[14] Later that day, the storm was described as a "highly sheared tropical cyclone", because the circulation became dislocated from the convection by more than 100 miles (160 km). As a result, the winds were estimated to have decreased to 45 mph (75 km/h), although an area of thunderstorms reformed northeast of the center.[15] Over the subsequent day the structure became better organized, with more deep convection over the center due to lighter shear and a moister environment. By that time, it was passing just north of the ABC Islands.[16] However, the structure again deteriorated, and Tomas weakened to tropical depression status on November 3 about 325 miles (520 km) southeast of Kingston, Jamaica.[17]

Upon weakening to tropical depression status, Tomas maintained a poorly defined and elongated circulation, with little convective organization near the center. The NHC described the weakening as "difficult to explain", due to generally favorable conditions.[17] The circulation lost further definition, becoming part of an elongated area of low pressure across the western Caribbean, and the NHC sent a Hurricane Hunters plane to determine whether Tomas was still a tropical cyclone.[18] The flight determined that the circulation reformed to the northeast, and Tomas re-intensified into a tropical storm late on November 3.[19] Gradual intensification occurred as it tracked north-northwestward, although initially the low-level and mid-level centers were non-aligned.[20] By late on November 4, the circulation was still dislocated from the deepest convection, indicative of the presence of wind shear. Around that time, Tomas was turning northward as it passed around the western periphery of the subtropical ridge.[21] Over a six hour period, there was an increase in organization of the cyclone's core thunderstorm activity, with a corresponding quick drop in central pressure.[22] As it turned northeastward through the Windward Passage, Tomas regained hurricane status by 0900 UTC on November 5, just 36 miles (58 km) west-southwest of the western tip of Haiti.[23]

After re-attaining hurricane status, Tomas accelerated to the northeast due to an approaching trough, passing between eastern Cuba and western Haiti. Due to land interaction, the convection became slightly ragged-looking near the center, although atmospheric conditions favored continued intensification. During the afternoon of November 7, strong wind shear caused by the approaching upper level trough caused Tomas to weaken back to a tropical depression status. Late on November 7, the National Hurricane Center issued its last advisory on Tomas as it became an extratropical cyclone.[24] Early on November 10, the extratropical remnants of Hurricane Tomas whisked northeastward by another extratropical storm, just off the coast of the northeast United States. The system subsequently raced off into the north Atlantic ocean, until they it was absorbed by another extratropical system east of the British Isles on November 14.[citation needed]

Preparations[edit]

Prior to the development of Tomas, the NHC noted the potential for heavy rainfall and strong wind gusts to spread across the Windward Islands, Venezuela, and northern Guyana, due to the tropical wave of which later developed into Hurricane Tomas.[25] Upon development of Tropical Storm Tomas, most of the Windward Islands were put under a tropical storm warning, issued by their respective Governments; a tropical storm watch was also issued for Dominica.[26] Six hours later as Tomas was nearly a hurricane, the tropical storm warning was replaced by a hurricane warning in Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Martinique; the tropical storm watch in Dominica was also upgraded to a tropical storm warning.[27]

In Barbados, people evacuated to schools and shelters for safety during the storm.[28] On St. Lucia, the government closed the island's two airports and ordered the closure of all businesses. Additionally, a large Creole festival was canceled due to the storm.[29] Officials in Trinidad and Tobago closed beaches across the country.[30] In St. Vincent, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) issued advisories that a tropical system was approaching the country. The rapid intensification of Tomas caught many citizens in St. Vincent off guard. Early on October 30, the Prime Minister addressed the nation and informed the country of the situation it was facing.

Following the west-southwesterly motion of the storm, swells generated by Tomas produced breaking waves on coastal sections of the ABC islands during the morning of November 1. Consequently, a small craft advisory was issued at 1415 UTC for all three islands.[31] In addition, a state of severe weather was declared for Bonaire and Curaçao during the passage of Tomas.[32] In Haiti, the country which was devastated earlier in the year from a deadly January 12 earthquake, government officials began preparing for possible impact from Tomas by October 30. One United Nations spokesperson remarked that a hurricane strike would be "the last thing Haiti needs".[28] The Haitian government issued an orange storm alert, one level short of the highest state of alert, and warned for the possibility of winds, thunderstorms, and flooding.[29]

Impact[edit]

Lesser Antilles[edit]

Tropical Storm Tomas reorganizing over the Caribbean Sea on November 4

Barbados and the Windward Islands[edit]

As Tomas passed 20 miles (32 km) to the south of Barbados, it produced a wind gust of 63 mph (100 km/h), which damaged homes and power lines on the island.[33] There were also reports of blown off roofs, impassable roads and uprooted trees.[34] Later, a station on Saint Lucia recorded sustained winds of 48 mph (77 km/h), with gusts to 69 mph (110 km/h).[35] There was widespread damage to homes and power lines.[36] The winds destroyed the roof of a hospital and a school, with several trees and power lines blown down.[29] Additionally, a station on Martinique reported a gust of 51 mph (82 km/h).[35]

On Saint Vincent, there were no deaths but two persons sustained serious injuries while trying to effect repairs to house roofs and two persons were reported missing. The two persons reported missing were found on November 1, off the island of Balliceaux. The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) declared all areas from Park Hill to Owia on the eastern side and all areas from Belle Isle to Fitz Hughes on the western side disaster zones. It was also reported that the agriculture sector sustained over US$25 million(EC$67 million) worth of damage. Over 1200 people were forced to seek refuge in hurricane shelters across St. Vincent. About 600 houses lost their roofs. A lot of downed power lines, trees and landslides made some roads impassable but NEMO, the Bridges Roads and General Services Authority (BRAGSA) and the St. Vincent Electricity Services Company (VINLEC) were able to clear the main road by the November 1.

Saint Lucia arguably had sustained the worst damage from the storm overall. Throughout Saint Lucia, severe flooding and mudslides resulted in at least 7 fatalities confirmed by the Chief Medical Officer. According to a government minister, several other people were missing and buried in landslides.[37] By the morning of November 2, two more fatalities were confirmed on the island.[38]

Lesser Antilles[edit]

Gradually passing the Windward Islands into the Caribbean Sea, the hurricane produced strong winds and heavy rainfall on Isla Aves, located off the northern coast of Venezuela.[28] Although Tomas did not directly strike the ABC islands, the storm's rainbands produced torrential rains over the islands, triggering localized flooding during the night of November 1 to November 2. In total, at least 10.4 in (265 mm) of precipitation was recorded on the territory.[39] Majority of local roads were made impassable, with several cars stranded and hundreds of houses flooded. A severe thunderstorm caused large scale power, TV and radio station outages across the islands. In Curaçao, a rescue worker helping with the evacuation of a local hospital was killed by the collapse of a wall. An elderly man drowned after suffering a fatal heart attack while unable to exit his flooded car.[40][41][42] Authorities were forced to delay some flights from Curaçao International Airport due to persistent storm conditions.[43] All schools across the islands were closed on November 2 and 3 as a result of the storm.[44]

Lightning produced by Tomas sparked three large fires in a major oil refinery in Willemstad. The fires inflicted severe damage to several tanks, estimated at US$10 million.[45] Of all three islands, Curaçao reported the worst flood damage; insured losses across the island amounted to approximately NAƒ110 million (US$63 million), although total monetary damage was as high as NAƒ200 million (US$115 million).[46]

Hurricane Tomas as it tracks across the Greater Antilles

Greater Antilles[edit]

After days of anticipation, Tomas arrived just offshore in Haiti on the morning of November 5. The storm steadily intensified while brushing the disaster-weary nation, reattaining hurricane strength near the westernmost tip of Haiti. Torrential rains and tropical storm force winds buffeted the entire region. Within hours of the storm's arrival, flooding began to occur. In earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince, one of the largest refugee camps set up near the ruins of the capitol building was flooded following heavy rains.[47] By the evening of November 8, 20 people had been confirmed dead, 7 others were listed as missing and more than 30 000 people were in shelters.[48] Health workers also feared damage related to Tomas on the island could exacerbate the ongoing cholera outbreak.[49][50][51] Tomas passed just to the east of Cuba hours later, but no significant damage was reported on the island.[52] As the outer bands of Hurricane Tomas began to impact Cuba, Aero Caribbean Flight 883, an ATR-72-212 aircraft, crashed near the town of Guasimal in Sancti Spíritus province. All 68 people on board the plane were killed on impact. Although the plane was the last to leave the airport in Santiago de Cuba before it closed due to Tomas, it is unknown what role, if any, the storm played in the crash.[53][54] Following a review of the crash, it was determined that severe ice accumulation, at an altitude of 20,000 ft (6,100 m), along with errors by the crew caused the incident.[55]

Turks and Caicos[edit]

Hurricane Tomas narrowly missed the Turks and Caicos, sparing the islands a direct hit and causing only minor flooding.[56]

Aftermath[edit]

Impact by country or region
County/Region Deaths Damage Source
Barbados 0 $8.5 million
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 0 $288 million
Saint Lucia 14 $588 million
Martinique 0 unknown
Trinidad and Tobago 0 $0.63 million
Curaçao 2 $115 million
Cuba 34 unknown
Haiti 21 unknown
Total 71 ~$741 million

Estimates place the cost of damage in Barbados at BDS$17 million (~US$8.5 million).[57] Throughout the northern part of St. Vincent, the entire banana crop was lost. Press reports from the Prime Minister revealed that nearly every banana tree had been downed during the storm. The country's banana crop is a major source of income and jobs, accounting for roughly 60% of the workforce and 50% of the merchandise exported.[58]

Damage from the storm on Trinidad and Tobago amounted to TT$4 million (US$629,000).[59] Losses in Barbados reached Bds$17 million (US$8.4 million).[60] The Government of St. Lucia stated that damage from the storm could exceed US$100 million.[61] By November 5, the Prime Minister stated that damage from Tomas was roughly EC$1.3 billion ($500 million USD), five times higher than initially stated.[62]

Retirement[edit]

Due to the extent of damage across the Caribbean, the name Tomas was later retired by the World Meteorological Organization and will never be used again for an Atlantic hurricane. It was replaced with Tobias for the 2016 hurricane season. It was the first T name to be retired.[63]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  55. ^ Staff Writer (December 17, 2010). "Severe ice, crew errors cause Cuban plane crash". Xinhua. Retrieved January 4, 2010. 
  56. ^ "Tomas misses Turks and Caicos". Turks and Caicos SUN. 2010-11-06. Retrieved 2010-11-06. 
  57. ^ Brancker, Nadia (November 8, 2010). "Business to get moving in Barbados". The Barbados Advocate. p. Pg 2. Retrieved November 12, 2010. ...as well as the fall out from the passage of Tropical Storm Tomas, 20 miles to the South of Barbados causing damages estimated at BDS$17 million. 
  58. ^ Joel Julien (November 1, 2010). "Vital banana crop wiped out". Trinidad Express. Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
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  63. ^ Dennis Feltgen (March 16, 2011). "Two Tropical Cyclone Names Retired from List of Atlantic Storms". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved March 16, 2011.