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January 17, 2014
Christmas storm was a one in 100 years event – World Bank

Analysts from the World Bank have described the storm that wreaked havoc here on December 24 and 25, 2013, as an “unpredictable and unforecastable weather event.”{{more}}

The data analysts, from the Bank’s international post-disaster assessment team, in a presentation to government officials Wednesday morning, said what happened last month was at least a “one in 100 years event, perhaps even one in 500 years.”

According to a source present at the meeting, the analysts were able to recreate the weather event, using infrared satellite pictures from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website.

Based on the satellite pictures, the analysts concluded that the “super storm” resulted from a merging of two low pressure troughs.

The satellite imagery animation model developed by the analysts showed two separate cloud systems early on December 24 (see picture A), moving towards each other, and merging into one system that blanketed the northern parts of St Vincent from approximately 8 p.m. (picture B).

Based on the analysis of rainfall return data obtained from hydro-meteorological services here, the team also concluded that the storm, which dumped upwards of 10 inches in three hours on the northern mountain range, was at least a “one in 100 years event.”

The team said there is a possibility that the storm could be a one in 500 years event, but they would not state that, because records going that far back do not exist.

The National Emergency Management Organization in St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia, in the wake of the disasters in their respective countries, came in for much criticism for not alerting the public to the possibility of adverse weather. Officials from both organizations said they did not receive a warning that the weather system was approaching.

The World Bank was in St Vincent and the Grenadines this week, to conduct an independent damage and losses assessment, in the aftermath of the super storm which left in its wake, millions of dollars of damage and nine people confirmed dead, with three others missing.

Wednesday’s presentation was part of the overall damage and losses assessment report that will be released to donor agencies today.

The World Bank officials have referred to the December 24 and 25 weather system as “the Hurricane Sandy of the Eastern Caribbean.” (Please go to www.Facebook.com/Searchlight1 or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOyNIW9I57I to view a video showing the accelerated progression of the two systems as they merged into one on Christmas Eve.)