Thursday, April 24, 2008

Nicaragua: A hard rain's gonna fall...

IPS: Having been hit by three hurricanes and 25 tropical storms in less than 10 years, Nicaragua is looking ahead to the next rainy season, due to begin in May, with wariness and trepidation. The government is alarmed by forecasts of an active cyclone season ahead.

Colorado State University in the United States has forecast that during the North Atlantic hurricane season from June to November this year, there will probably be 15 named tropical storms, eight of which will become hurricanes. Four of these will be capable of inflicting severe damage, they predict.

Nicaragua’s Civil Defence chief, Colonel Mario Pérez-Cassar, told IPS he is taking this forecast seriously, because over the years the university’s predictions have been "98 percent accurate." "Every year we assess the different scenarios and analyse climate conditions using national and international instruments," he said. Forecasts by Dr. William Gray, a Colorado State University meteorologist with 25 years’ experience of predicting hurricanes, "are always accurate, so this year we are preparing for the worst."

Pérez-Cassar said the army is drawing up evacuation and shelter plans for at least half a million Nicaraguans living in 996 areas that are extremely vulnerable to storms and flooding. He estimates a 50 percent chance that Nicaragua will be lashed by another hurricane like Felix, a Category 5 storm that destroyed a large part of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) in the northeast of the country last year. Category 5 is the highest level of hurricane intensity on the Saffir-Sampson scale.

…The Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies (INETER) has also predicted a turbulent rainy season. "Given the variation in temperatures of the continental platform in the Atlantic off Nicaragua because of the effects of global warming, the conditions are such that any tropical storm in that area will gather strength and become a hurricane," it warned….

Nicaragua's coat of arms rendered by Caleb Moore, Wikimedia Commons

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