Surfers call on Trinidad & Tobago Gov't
North coasts of Trinidad & Tobago damaged under heavy swell
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 14 January, 2013 : - - This morning massive waves greater than 20 feet tall battered the North Coasts of Trinidad & Tobago, reeking havoc on this countries beaches and causing serious property damage to the public. At the time of writing, at least 7 fishing boats and one sailing yacht have been destroyed in Tobago. Many of this could destruction may have been avoided had the Met office taken heed to the warning of the Surfing Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SATT), and issued a warning to the coastal communities and the general public.
SATT officials made contact with the MET Office days ago and warned of a serious ground swell developing in the North Atlantic, with the brunt of its energy focused on the Caribbean islands. These warnings were met with a generic response that their forecasts are calling for the seas to be 4 feet and there was no cause for concern. Today the media is still reporting seas to be 2.5 meters on open waters and 1 meter in sheltered areas, based on reports from the met office.
In October 2005, officials of the SATT issued a similar warning to the MET Office when a similar weather event developed in the North Atlantic. As a result of the high surf condition several million dollars in damage occurred to fishing and coastal communities where there was no intervention by a responsible party to reduce the risks presented. Luckily, no one was killed. In the days to follow there were reports of a “tsunami” in the newspaper headlines.
In March 2008, a similar Ocean Storm developed in the North Atlantic Ocean, only this time it was larger and more powerful. It was reportedly the most powerful north swell seen in recent history.
Fortunately, this time the Met office was also tracking its development and sent out warnings to the public.
On the first two days of the swell event, the surf in Tobago was the biggest seen in more than 30 years and all the beaches in the country had to be shut down to public access. Once again, millions of dollars worth in damage was sustained to coastal and fishing communities, only this time it was worse, lives were lost due to swimmers drowning and spectators being washed off the rocks.
Today’s swell event is being compared on many levels to the swell event in March 2008, only this time it has hit the islands without any public warning and the consequences are going to huge. Officials of the Surfing Association were able to forecast this swell up to 7 days in advance using online tools that are available to the public, and the MET Office, provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. (NOAA).
NOAA also owns and manages actual ocean based weather buoys that report back real time data of open ocean swell size and period, which can be used to verify the accuracy of the data produced by their forecasts. The readings being generated by these buoys are also available to the public online. In March 2008, the buoy at station 40140, which is stationed 470 NM east of Martinique reported a maximum wave height of 16 feet at 16 second intervals, which exactly the same as those reported last night at the same location.
Open Ocean swells of this size and strength can generally reach to 1.5 times its height when it hits shallow water on the coast, producing wave heights of up to 24 feet in wave height. Such swells are particularly dangerous because they generally are undetectable to the eye in offshore marine environments, which can appear to be calm and not raise a cause for concern.
In a situation of this magnitude, coastal communities require sufficient warning to take precautions like pulling fishing vessels out the water, shifting larger vessels to deep water anchorages, and closing beaches to swimming or diving. Since the swell in October 2005, the officials of the SATT have become more vigilant to pass on warnings of forecasted dangerous ocean swells.
The SATT has developed an independent non-profit organization called Trinidad & Tobago Water Safety to work with government organization and the public to help reduce the negative impact of dangerous ocean conditions. A personal watercraft (PWC) has been donated to the TTWS group and personnel are to be trained as first responders by the Hawaiian Water Patrol, experts in water safety.
Source: Surfing T&T
Author: Keith Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean, Surfing Association Trinidad & Tobago