Long Period Swells Affecting T&T As Hazardous Seas Alert Remains In Effect

Over the next five days, long-period swells are now impacting T&T. These swells have originated from powerful low-pressure systems in the North Atlantic that have propagated to the Lesser Antilles. Low-level winds are forecast to increase on Friday and remain elevated through the weekend, agitating seas in open waters.

The Hazardous Seas Alert

The Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service has updated their Hazardous Seas Alert (Yellow Level) for our coastal waters at 6:23 PM Thursday, which went into effect from 2:00 PM Thursday 6th January 2022 through 2:00 PM Saturday 8th January 2022. Model guidance shows swells will continue past the end of the initial alert period, with two peaks: late Thursday into Friday and mid-Monday through mid-Tuesday.

This alert is in effect for nearshore areas of Tobago, excluding southern coastlines between Crown Point and Mount Saint George. The alert is also in effect for Trinidad’s northern, eastern, and western coastlines.

Trinidad and Tobago is NOT under any tropical storm threat, watch, or warning.

Information from the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service concerning the Hazardous Seas Alert from 2:00 PM Thursday through 2:00 PM Saturday.
Information from the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service concerning the Hazardous Seas Alert from 2:00 PM Thursday through 2:00 PM Saturday.

Information from the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service concerning the Hazardous Seas Alert from 2:00 PM Thursday through 2:00 PM Saturday.

“Northerly high-energy, long-period swells are currently affecting near-shore areas around Tobago and the Northern coastal areas of Trinidad. These swells can eventually filter into the Gulf of Paria and affect the Western and sheltered coastlines of Trinidad. They can result in battering waves at these coastal regions which are exacerbated during high tides. These conditions are expected to persist until Saturday (8th).” according to the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service. This “alert” status takes into account the possibility of the event occurring. This hazardous seas event has been observed.

The color of the alert indicates the severity of the event and the probability of the event occurring. Currently, the alert level is at Yellow. This means that the hazard has been observed, but the severity of impacts is moderate for this particular alert. You should be aware of the dangers in your area associated with large, battering waves.

For a moderate Hazardous Seas Alert, there is the potential for possible injuries, where behavioral changes are required to ensure safety. There may be minor property damage, with income-earning temporarily disrupted, and a couple of communities are affected.

The Met Office advises the public to monitor sea conditions and exercise caution in nearshore areas, be on the alert for large waves in the area of interest, and follow lifeguards’ instructions.

Seas Forecast For Trinidad and Tobago

Sea state forecast through the next seven days, as moderate seas are forecast. Open waters are the Atlantic Ocean (Eastern Trinidad and Tobago), the Eastern Columbus Channel (Southern Trinidad), and the Caribbean Sea (north of Trinidad, west of Tobago). Note that sheltered areas include bays, beaches, and generally the Gulf of Paria and western areas of the Columbus Channel in Trinidad and the western coasts of Tobago.

Seas are forecast to be near or below 1.0 meters in sheltered areas through the next seven days, mainly due to increased winds and swells.

Over the next four days, the long period swell event will have two peaks—the first from late Thursday through Friday, with swell periods peaking between 14 and 17 seconds. The second peak is forecast from mid-Monday through mid-Tuesday, with swell periods between 13.5 and 17 seconds. The longer the swell period, the higher the wave energy, resulting in larger, battering waves at nearshore bays and beaches. Because of these swells, waves in nearshore areas along northern and eastern coasts could exceed 1.0 meters, particularly during these peaks.

Winds are forecast to be moderate to fresh, with sustained winds up to 20 knots from the east to northeast and gusts as high as 25 knots. These strong winds are forecast to agitate seas, with waves in open waters between 1.5 meters and 2.0 meters through the forecast period and up to 2.5 meters in eastern coastal waters, particularly on Friday into Monday when peak winds occur.

By Thursday, winds are forecast to decrease with swells returning to a normal state.

Tidal forecast for Port of Spain, Trinidad and Scarborough, Tobago courtesy Tide-Forecast.com
Tidal forecast for Port of Spain, Trinidad and Scarborough, Tobago courtesy Tide-Forecast.com
Tidal forecast for Port of Spain, Trinidad and Scarborough, Tobago courtesy Tide-Forecast.com

Impacts on T&T’s Shorelines

Impacts possible from agitated seas include the following:

  • Loss of life or injuries;
  • Sea search and rescue disruptions;
  • Disruptions to sea transportation;
  • Scarcity of seafood;
  • Damage or loss of boats and fishing equipment;
  • Disruptions to marine recreation and businesses
  • Economic losses.

Other impacts from the high winds, apart from hazardous seas, include:

  • Injuries;
  • Coastal erosion;
  • Localized disruptions of businesses;
  • Disruption to outdoor and sporting activities;
  • Disruption of transportation (air and especially sea) and

Winds could make some outdoor activities uncomfortable, if not outright dangerous. High winds can create dangerous fallen or blowing objects.

The strongest winds and the highest and most dangerous seas are forecast on Friday into Monday. The highest seas will take place in the Atlantic waters of the islands.

There is also the potential for loss of life. There is a high risk of rip currents, strong currents that can carry even the strongest swimmers out to sea.

Rip currents are powerful channels of water flowing quickly away from the shore, which occur most often at low spots or breaks in the sandbar and near structures such as groins, jetties, and piers. If caught in a rip current, relax and float. Don’t swim against the current. If able, swim in a direction following the shoreline. If unable to escape, face the shore and call or wave for help.

There is also the potential for injuries to beachgoers; beach closures; localized disruptions to marine recreation and businesses, and financial losses.

High tides combined with onshore wind and swell actions could result in localized coastal flooding and beach erosion.

High surfs can knock spectators off exposed rocks and jetties. Breaking waves may occasionally impact harbors making navigating the harbor channel dangerous.

Saltwater could splash onto low-lying coastal roads.

Coral reefs may experience increased stress and damages, in addition to localized beach erosion, particularly in areas where battering waves focus.

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