2020 Independence Day Floods

Severe flooding at Arouca, Northern Trinidad following torrential rainfall across the East-West Corridor early Independence Day morning.

Strong thunderstorms and torrential rainfall triggered severe street and flash flooding across the East-West Corridor of Trinidad early Monday morning.

Note that no alerts, watches or warnings are in effect from the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service.

Where did the rainfall come from?

A tropical disturbance northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, INVEST 99L, has influenced our wind regime, causing winds to move from our typical east to west to now south to north.

Late evening thunderstorms, typical along the northern coast of Venezuela, moved towards Trinidad from the south. Thunderstorms southwest of Trinidad produced quite a lightning show as activity generally remained in the Gulf of Paria. Gusty winds and heavy rainfall did affect parts of Icacos, Trinidad, causing a power outage.

However, thunderstorms to Trinidad’s southeast, which moved off the coast of Venezuela, intensified as it moved across the island. Due to a phenomenon called orographic enhancement, we saw thunderstorms intensify as it moved across the Central Range and became severe as it encountered the Northern Range.

Instantaneous rainfall rates after 1:00 AM were as high as 247.90 millimeters per hour (9.72 in/hr), recorded at Mt. St. Benedict. These rainfall rates are typically associated with tropical cyclones, which produce torrential rainfall rates. Given that this volume of rainfall fell in a short period, street/flash flooding was almost guaranteed.

Affected Areas

Heavy to violent rainfall rates were recorded across parts of Central Trinidad. Street flooding was reported in Chaguanas, Longdenville, Lange Park, and Charlieville as drains became overwhelmed due to the high rainfall rates. Between 12:00 AM and 1:00 AM, up to 50 millimeters of rainfall had been recorded by nearby weather stations.

Shortly after 1:00 AM, violent rainfall began across the East-West corridor, with gusty winds. An automated weather station at Mt. St. Benedict (elevated) recorded a wind gust of 69.2 KM/H at 1:24 AM.

By 1:30 AM, the reports of flooding along the East-West Corridor begin. Initial flood reports came in at Emancipation Park, Bon Air West; Orange Grove Road in St. Augustine, and several areas across Arouca. Flash flooding was noted at Henry Street, Arouca.

Severe flash flooding occurred in the Five Rivers community of Arouca, with the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service having to conduct water rescues in Sunset Lane. Flooding was also reported in Millenium Park, Trincity, and Tunapuna Road, Tunapuna.

Further east was not spared, with severe flash flooding inundating homes along the Arima Old Road. Several videos appeared on social media showing household appliances like refrigerators and other smaller possessions floating in the floodwaters. Flooding was also reported along several areas of the Churchill Roosevelt Highway, at Pasea; Savannah Drive, Trincity, and Macoya on both the westbound and eastbound lanes.

As showers and thunderstorms began to subside gradually, reports of flooding also originated from Oropune Gardens, Piarco, though floodwaters remained confined to the roadways. Heavy showers continued to affect parts of Northern Trinidad, with showers and thunderstorms inching closer to Tobago by the early morning. However, flooding persisted across parts of the East-West Corridor, namely St. Augustine and Arouca, from Surrey Village to the Eastern Main Road.

What’s forecast next?

A southerly to southeasterly wind flow is forecast continue across T&T, bringing moisture and instability across T&T, with localized climatic effects enhancing activity through Tuesday. Elevated moisture levels enhanced by a favorable mid to upper-level environment will also support showers and thunderstorms by the late morning through the afternoon across both islands, with heavier activity favoring Trinidad and along the southern-facing slopes of the Northern Range. Conditions are forecast to become initially settled by the evening.

However, late evening thunderstorms across coastal Venezuela may drift towards Southern Trinidad, producing frequent lightning, heavy rainfall, and gusty winds. This activity will predominantly affect southern and southwestern areas of Trinidad, gradually moving north to northwestward.

Through 2:00 AM Wednesday, additional rainfall totals between 15-30 millimeters are possible, with isolated areas recording up to 50 millimeters. Most of this additional rainfall accumulation is anticipated on Monday and Tuesday’s late morning through afternoon showers and isolated thunderstorms.

Showers and thunderstorms may reduce visibility and produce gusty winds up to and in excess of 55 KM/H. Street or flash flooding will be possible in slow-moving showers and thunderstorms. In thunderstorm activity, frequent lightning is also possible. Gusty winds may cause power dips/outages, downed trees, and localized wind damage.

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