Tropical Wave 41 Causes Widespread Wind Damage, Power Outages Across T&T

A fast-moving cluster of thunderstorms associated with Tropical Wave 41 produced the strongest wind gusts to sweep across Trinidad and Tobago since Tropical Storm Bret in 2017.

Wind gusts as high as 92.9 KM/H (50 knots) were recorded across parts of Trinidad and Tobago from September 2nd into September 3rd, 2021, producing widespread damage and power outages across the country. As of 6:00 PM September 6th, 2021, there have been at least 436 power outages, 573 reports of roof damage, 227 reports of fallen trees, 119 reports of fallen utility poles or lines, 14 reports of flooding, at least 15 landslides, nine fallen structures, and one oil spill.

These figures are based on a collation of reports from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government (MoRDLG), the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC), and reports submitted and collated by Trinidad and Tobago Weather Center (TTWC).

What caused the gusty winds?

Peak wind gusts associated with Tropical Wave 41. Data is based on publicly reporting weather stations during the adverse weather event. Higher gusts were likely in localized areas, as well as across eastern Trinidad where there is a lack of instrumentation.
Peak wind gusts associated with Tropical Wave 41. Data is based on publicly reporting weather stations during the adverse weather event. Higher gusts were likely in localized areas, as well as across eastern Trinidad, where there is a lack of instrumentation.

A low-level jet, or an area of strong winds at low levels of the atmosphere, was present across the Windward Islands on Thursday into Friday. These stronger winds can make it down to the surface in heavy showers and thunderstorms.

When these strong winds make it to the surface, the winds can hit the ground in a concentrated area and radiate outward like a ripple in a pond. This activity is known as a downburst and causes substantial wind damage across a fairly large area.

Diagram of convective precipitation, the basis of shower and thunderstorm development. When a thunderstorm or shower begins to dissipate, the downdraft overpowers the updraft, effectively “raining itself out.”
Convective precipitation, the basis of shower and thunderstorm development. When a thunderstorm or shower begins to dissipate, the downdraft overpowers the updraft, effectively “raining itself out.” 

While the cluster of thunderstorms that produced severe winds was dissipating as it moved across Trinidad and Tobago, this area of inclement weather raced across the Atlantic Ocean, covering approximately 1,200 kilometers inside 14 hours, averaging an eastward speed of 85 kilometers per hour.

These thunderstorms were organized in what is known as a squall line. A squall line is a group of storms arranged in a line, often accompanied by “squalls” of high wind and heavy rain. Squall lines tend to pass quickly and are less prone to produce tornadoes than are supercells. They can be hundreds of kilometers long but are typically only 16 or 32 kilometers wide.

Satellite loop between 10:15 PM Thursday 2nd September 2021 and 4:45 AM Friday 3rd September 2021 showing the dissipating cluster of thunderstorms approaching T&T. (Weathernerds.org)
Satellite loop between 10:15 PM Thursday 2nd September 2021 and 4:45 AM Friday 3rd September 2021 showing the dissipating cluster of thunderstorms approaching T&T. (Weathernerds.org)

These squalls brought two surges of winds across the country overnight Thursday into Friday, with the first gusts that moved across Tobago at approximately 11:00 PM Thursday, and Trinidad 12:00 AM Friday associated with the system’s forward speed, and the second surge of winds associated with stronger winds higher in the atmosphere making its way to the surface through the system’s cool downdraft.

Though the system was being tracked on satellite imagery for several days and model guidance impressively forecasted the system to produce severe winds across the country from as early as Wednesday evening, a short-notice Adverse Weather Alert (Yellow Level) was issued by Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service at 10:20 PM Thursday, minutes before winds began to move across Tobago. The alert went into effect at 12:00 AM Friday and was in effect until 2:00 PM Friday, but was then extended until 6:00 PM that day and further extended until 8:00 PM Saturday.

Widespread Power Outages

Power outage reports across the country associated with Tropical Wave 41

As of 10:00 AM September 6th, 2021, the Ministry of Public Utilities has confirmed there were 421 small and large outages across the T&TEC’s transmission network where supply has been restored and 15 outages still outstanding.

The Ministry also confirmed the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) had restored operations of the 32 affected water treatment facilities across the country.

Inclement weather on September 3rd and 4th hampered restoration efforts as additional landslides, downed trees, and utility poles/lines occurred.

Which areas were affected?

Inclement weather reports across the country associated with Tropical Wave 41

All14 municipal corporations across Trinidad, and Tobago, reported damage of varying levels following the severe thunderstorms. In addition to widespread power outages, there were several internet and phone outages across the country, with Tobago experiencing a total loss of connection from Digicel’s fiber line.

Based on the count by TTWC, the hardest-hit areas include the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation and the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, both with over 150 adverse weather impact reports.

As the strongest winds moved in from the northeast, the damage was widespread across the eastern half of Trinidad.

Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation (CTTRC)

Inclement weather reports within the CTTRC associated with Tropical Wave 41
Inclement weather reports within the CTTRC associated with Tropical Wave 41

The Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo area was the hardest hit, with at least 147 homes suffering roof damage, at least 32 reports of fallen trees, at least 10 reports of fallen poles or utility lines, and heavy rainfall triggered street/flash floods in the Claxton Bay, Pointe-a-Pierre and Brasso areas. There were also reports of oil within the Couva River at Carli Bay.

Several trees blocked roads at Talparo, Tamana, Mundo Nuevo and Todd’s Road, Las Lomas #1, Brickfield Road, Waterloo, Deokie Street, Carapichaima. Flying debris also damaged a vehicle at Welcome Road, Cunupia. Galvanized sheets were seen wrapped into utility lines at Claxton Bay and California. High winds also ripped off six roofs at Windsor Park, California. A car reportedly caught fire after a lightning strike in Couva.

24 schools across Trinidad and Tobago sustained some form of wind damage, according to the Ministry of Education, with the Carapichaima East Secondary School suffering significant roof damage.

Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation (CTTRC) Chairman Henry Awong said the hardest-hit area was Las Lomas, with more than 20 reports of roofs being damaged.

Winds between 40 KM/H to 55 KM/H were recorded in this region, with likely higher gusts in localized areas.

Sangre Grande Regional Corporation (SGRC)

Inclement weather reports within the SGRC associated with Tropical Wave 41
Inclement weather reports within the SGRC associated with Tropical Wave 41

Eastern Trinidad bore the brunt of the first round of strong winds. Within the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, all 45 communities suffered power outages.

There were 154 adverse weather reports in this area, with 109 homes suffering roof damage, at least 17 fallen trees, and at least 26 reports of fallen utility poles or lines. Two structures have been reported completely destroyed.

Flying galvanized sheets were caught on camera in Fishing Pond, North Oropuche, becoming entangled in power lines, as well as an entire roof blowing off, rendering the roadway impassable. Several trees were reported down along the Valencia Old Road, the Eastern Main Road, and downed utility lines as well at La Platta Circular.

Danny Guerra, managing director of DG Homes of North Oropouche, Sangre Grande, has assured five of his fellow villagers who lost their roofs during Friday’s thunderstorm that he will assist them with replacement.

Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation (TPRC)

Inclement weather reports within the TPRC associated with Tropical Wave 41

Damaging gusty winds spread east, with 107 inclement weather reports across the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation. There were 50 reports of roof damage, at least 35 reports of fallen trees, at least 10 reports of fallen utility poles and lines, and at least 10 landslides.

Most of the fallen trees and landslides occurred along the Blanchisseuse Road, mainly cleared by the Ministry of Works and Transport.

Street flooding was also reported along the Eastern Main Road in Tunapuna. Sparking electricity lines were also observed in La Horquetta.

Gusts across this region ranged from 30 KM/H to as high as 81 KM/H at the Piarco International Airport. A majority of the 81 communities within this corporation reported outages.

At the Frankie Boodram Wallerfield International Raceway, where the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) held its drive-through vaccination drive, five tents were blown away, bringing a halt to the vaccination drive for the day. NWRHA chief executive Davlin Thomas confirmed that no vaccines were damaged when the storm hit.

Tobago (TEMA)

Inclement weather reports across Tobago associated with Tropical Wave 41

Tobago was first affected, with gusty winds sweeping across the island after 11:00 PM Thursday. Wind gusts up to 62.9 KM/H were recorded at the A. N. R. Robinson International Airport, formerly the Crown Point International Airport. Sustained winds of 48 KM/H were also recorded. According to the TEMA director Allan Stewart, sustained winds of 51.5 KM/H and gusts to 64 KM/H occurred across the island, lasting approximately one hour.

Across Tobago, according to the Tobago Emergency Management Agency, as of 6:00 PM September 6th, 2021, there were 30 reports of roof damage, 21 fallen trees, multiple fallen utility poles, and lines, at least two reports of street flooding, and at least one report of a landslide. TEMA also partially activated the Tobago Emergency Operations Center.

Some of the reports include fallen trees and signs along the Claude Noel Highway, damaged roofs at Mt. St. George, Goodwood, and Pembroke, fallen trees and utility lines at Windward Road, Speyside and at Big River, Mason Hall, a fallen trees at Bacolet Point, Concordia, and Argyle, a landslide that damaged a home at King Peter’s Bay Road, Moriah

51 of the 67 communities across Tobago reported power outages due to fallen trees bringing down power lines.

Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation (MRCRC)

Inclement weather reports within the MRCRC associated with Tropical Wave 41
Inclement weather reports within the MRCRC associated with Tropical Wave 41

Wind gusts as high as 92.9 K/H (50 knots) were recorded at Galeota Point, the highest across the country. Across the Mayaro/Rio Claro region, there were 34 reports of damaged roofs, 34 reports of fallen trees, and at least 10 reports of fallen utility poles.

According to Member of Parliament for Mayaro, Rushton Paray, over 40 homes were left without roofs, and dozens of trees fell following gusty winds. Several homes within the Cocal/Mafeking and Miche/Charuma region were also left without roofs and power as damaging winds swept through the area, downing several trees. Eight roofs were destroyed at Sandsucker Road, La Savanne, New Lands, Eccles Road, Grand Lagoon, Pierreville, and Kernahan Village.

Based on our tracking, all 27 communities reported power outages across the region following gusty winds.

Chaguanas Borough Corporation (CBC)

Inclement weather reports within the CBC associated with Tropical Wave 41
Inclement weather reports within the CBC associated with Tropical Wave 41

As strong winds, up to 71 KM/H recorded in Longdenville, swept across Chaguanas and environs, at least 52 roofs have been reported partially or completely blown off. There were also two reports of fallen utility poles or lines and 16 reports of fallen trees across the region, totaling 70 inclement weather reports.

Fallen trees blocked several major roadways, including the Solomon Hochoy Highway and Orchard Gardens. Damaged roofs were reported in Cunupia, various areas of Chaguanas, and Felicity/Endeavour. At Maha Sabha Street, Felicity, the roof on one house was blown onto a nearby vehicle. Roofs were also blown off at Jerningham Junction, Charlieville, a fallen tree at the John Peter Walkover, and a fallen utility pole at Marchin Recreation Ground.

Point Fortin Borough Corporation (PFBC)

Inclement weather reports within the PFBC associated with Tropical Wave 41
Inclement weather reports within the PFBC associated with Tropical Wave 41

Outside of the Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation, this was one of the worst affected areas in Southern Trinidad, with 40 reports of roof damage, eight reports of fallen trees, and at least four reports of fallen utility poles or lines totaling 52 adverse weather reports. Fallen utility lines were reported at Guapo.

One of the hardest-hit houses was located at E Street, Fanny Village. The entire roof blew off and landed in the middle of the road. At Hawk Avenue off Warden Road, at least four wooden houses were damaged. The MP for Point Fortin, Kennedy Richards Jr., said at least 30 homes were affected in his constituency, including Cap-de-Ville and Chatham.

San Juan/Lavantille Regional Corporation (SJLRC)

Inclement weather reports within the SJLRC associated with Tropical Wave 41
Inclement weather reports within the SJLRC associated with Tropical Wave 41

Strong winds and heavy rainfall rendered the North Coast Road impassable. Officially, only four reports of landslides and four reports of fallen poles or lines have been submitted by the SJLRC. However, the Ministry of Works and Transport has been attending to the situation across the North Coast Road. There were also 14 reports of fallen trees, 18 reports of roof damage, and three structures have collapsed within this region.

Abraham Lane off Upper Pashley Street in Laventille is impassable after land slippage caused a major crack along the road with retaining walls on the side of the road and even a tree collapsing in the process.

Diego Martin Regional Corporation (DMRC)

Inclement weather reports within the DMRC associated with Tropical Wave 41
Inclement weather reports within the DMRC associated with Tropical Wave 41

Wind gusts in excess of 50 KM/H were recorded across northwestern Trinidad, bringing down several trees and causing widespread damage across the region. Assessments indicate 13 reports of roof damage, 12 reports of fallen trees, and at least ten reports of fallen utility poles and lines.

Significant damage occurred at the Crystal Stream intersection of the Diego Martin Highway. According to Diego Martin Regional Corporation Chairman Sigler Jack, there was damage in Paramin, Santa Cruz, and Diego Martin. Fallen trees were reported on the Diego Martin Highway and in Bagatelle, while roofs were blown off in Paramin, Santa Cruz, and Diego Martin.

In Factory Road, Diego Martin, Njemile Webb, a single mother of five, said when the branches from a tree above her house started falling, all she could have done was grab her baby and go under the bed. At Rich Plain Road, Diego Martin, one family lost two roofs during the storm.

Princes Town Regional Corporation (PTRC)

Inclement weather reports within the PTRC associated with Tropical Wave 41
Inclement weather reports within the PTRC associated with Tropical Wave 41

Within the Princes Town region, there were at least 33 reports of adverse weather impacts.

Roof damage occurred at Kumar Village Williamsville, Piparo Main Road, and Manahambre Road, Princes Town. There were also reports of at least three fallen trees and at least five reports of fallen poles and downed power lines.

Arima Borough Corporation (ABC)

Inclement weather reports within the ABC associated with Tropical Wave 41
Inclement weather reports within the ABC associated with Tropical Wave 41

Within the borough of Arima, there were 27 reports of adverse weather impacts, including 13 damaged roofs, at least nine fallen trees, and at least five fallen utility poles and lines.

There were multiple reports of fallen trees in the Arima region, in areas such as Tumpuna Road, Cleaver Road, Pinto Road, Calvary, and Malabar. There were also reports of blown roofs in Malabar. Wind damage was also reported in Arouca.

Penal/Debe Regional Corporation (PDRC)

Inclement weather reports within the PDRC associated with Tropical Wave 41
Inclement weather reports within the PDRC associated with Tropical Wave 41

Within the Penal/Debe region, there were seven reports of roof damage and 15 reports of fallen trees, with at least two reports of flooding totaling 24 adverse weather impact reports. Several power outages were also reported.

San Fernando City Corporation (SFCC)

Inclement weather reports within the SFCC associated with Tropical Wave 41
Inclement weather reports within the SFCC associated with Tropical Wave 41

Within the city of San Fernando, there were three reports of roof damage, six reports of fallen trees, multiple reports of fallen utility poles, one collapsed structure, and at least two reports of flooding totaling 13 adverse weather impact reports.

In San Fernando, several trees fell in Pleasantville, but the San Fernando City Corporation’s Engineering Unit quickly removed them.

Siparia Regional Corporation (SRC)

Inclement weather reports within the SRC associated with Tropical Wave 41

While gusty winds did make it to the extreme southwestern Trinidad, the damage was sporadic. There were twelve adverse weather impact reports with five damaged roofs, two fallen trees, and at least five fallen utility poles and lines.

Port of Spain City Corporation (POSCC)

Inclement weather reports within the POSCC associated with Tropical Wave 41

Remarkably, the least affected area within the country was the city of Port of Spain, recording a mere six adverse weather impact reports. There was one report of roof damage, three reports of fallen trees, one report of a fallen utility pole, and one collapsed structure.

Can this happen again?

Downbursts happen in Trinidad and Tobago regularly, particularly during the Wet Season. However, widespread severe wind gusts observed between September 2nd and September 3rd are slightly more uncommon. As mentioned above, the last time widespread strong winds swept across the country occurred during Tropical Storm Bret, where sustained winds of 42 knots (77 KM/H) and gusts to 62 knots (115 KM/H) were recorded at Guayguayare, Trinidad. In Tobago, during Tropical Storm Bret, a wind gust of 43 knots (79.6 KM/H) was recorded at Crown Point.

Outside of tropical storms, several downburst events have occurred in the last two years, as recently as July 2021 and June 2020. These events are not unprecedented and will likely occur again. This severe weather event should serve as a stark reminder that with tropical-storm-force gusts, not sustained winds that could last hours, damage can and will be severe.

Take the necessary steps to retrofit your home using hurricane straps on roof beams, roofing screws to secure galvanize to beams, and particularly from May through December, during the Wet and Hurricane Season, secure lightweight objects outdoors that could become projectiles during severe weather.

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