‘Widespread Devastation’ in Dominica as Maria Makes Landfall in Puerto Rico
With the Caribbean still struggling with the after-effects of Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria is barrelling through the region, packing winds of at least 160 miles (258 kilometres) per hour that have already devastated the islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe en route to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Maria intensified from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in just 27 hours, the U.S. National Weather Service reported, gaining 90 miles per hour due to elevated sea surface temperatures and other favourable weather conditions, like low wind shear. It hit Puerto Rico this morning as a Category 4.
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The “widespread devastation” on Dominica has been “mind-boggling,” said Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt. “So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace,” but “I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time,” he wrote on Facebook. “My focus now is on rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured.”
In the wake of Hurricane Irma, meteorologist and climate hawk Eric Holthaus reports on Grist, tourist destinations in the Caribbean were urging visitors to stay away, and cruise ships were being pressed into service as rescue vessels. “In some of the hardest hit islands, like Barbuda, Anguilla, and St. Martin, recovery could take years.”
Now, “weather models show Maria crossing the centre of Puerto Rico at peak strength, becoming the first Category 5 to do so since 1928 [as it turned out, the first Category 4 since 1932], and only the second in recorded history. The result could be catastrophic, with heavy rainfall leading to inland flooding and landslides, winds in excess of 170 mph battering coastal cities, and storm surge of six to nine feet inundating homes and businesses along the shoreline.”
Holthaus adds that “even though the wounds of Irma are still fresh, it’s important to remember that a hurricane as strong as Maria is exceedingly rare in the Caribbean. According to weather records dating back to 1851, no Category 5 hurricane has ever struck Dominica. Hurricane David, in 1979, was the only Category 4 to do so. That storm ruined the local economy and left roughly three-quarters of the population homeless.”
In the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) that it submitted ahead of the Paris climate conference, Dominica detailed the recovery effort it already faced after Tropical Storm Erika in 2015.
“As a developing country with limited economic output facing serious challenges to implement long-standing poverty eradication programs, Dominica cannot afford to continue financing the loss and damage resulting from global climate change,” the government stated. “Having made no net contribution to global GHG emissions, and making every effort to harness geothermal resources in a manner that will permit the country to export significant amounts of renewable energy, Dominica seeks an equitable transfer of international climate change financing to sustain priority adaptation and mitigation programs that will support green growth, social development, and poverty reduction in the country.” (h/t to The Energy Mix reader Fred Huette for pointing us to the Dominica INDC)