August 2023 Saint-Barthélemy — As per tradition, the Bureau Xavier David news blog is back in action with our preview of the upcoming peak hurricane season. Although there are ample sources of news information for hurricanes and tropical storms, our efforts will primarily be to distill the relevant information for St Barts as that can be difficult to find particularly once a storm hits and disrupts local utilities.
For context, although the hurricane season officially begins on June 1st and lasts until November 30th, the peak of hurricane and tropical storm activity in the Atlantic Ocean is the month of September with August and October also typically including much storm activity too.
Image Source: NOAA
Although there are exceptions, St Barts is particularly vulnerable to Cape Verde style storms that originate from Africa before gaining strength while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The west African rainy season that fuels the formation of these storms is most active in August and September which coincides with the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. Two of the most notable hurricanes to impact St Barts in recent memory are Hurricane Luis of September 1995 and Hurricane Irma of September 2017, both of which were the classic Cape Verde style storms that gained strength while crossing the warm waters of the tropical Atlantic.
Hurricanes that impact St Barts after September are unlikely given the prevailing trade winds, however, they do happen: for example Hurricane Omar of October 2008 and Hurricane Lenny of November 1999. Both of these hurricanes originated in the Caribbean Sea—instead of the Atlantic Ocean—before heading eastwards and crossing St Barts. In particular, Lenny was nicknamed "Wrong Way Lenny" for its track in nearly the exact opposite direction of most Atlantic hurricanes.
Image source: NOAA
Although the 2023 season is off to a slow start with no catastrophic tropical storms thus far in 2023—only the mild Arlene, Bret, Cindy and Don to date—there is no clear consensus amongst most of the experts who are offering a variety of predictions ranging from below average to above average. Warm Sea Surface Temperatures tend to imply an above-average amount of activity, however, an El Niño event in the Pacific typically suppresses hurricane development in the Atlantic due to increased wind shear. The uncertainty over when exactly the El Niño begins thus contributes to the high amount of disagreement amongst experts this year.
For additional resources on Hurricane and Tropical Storm activity, trackthetropics.com provides a smorgasbord of information. The interactive Wundermap at wunderground.com can also be very helpful for tracking a storm once it has formed. Moreover, the Twitter feed of Bureau Xavier David will be utilized by us to relay St Barts specific hurricane and tropical storm information whenever possible.
Lastly, if it has not already been done, now would be good time to review hurricane preparedness plans and stock up on basic supplies like food, water, batteries, etc. For additional information on Hurricane Preparation, the National Weather Service provides a wealth of resources.