Damaging Severe Weather Grips Tobago

6:30 PM Update: Students, PTSC Bus Driver and other occupants on board were able to break branches from the tree with the assistance of a passerby in order to navigate the roadway to continue their journey to L’Anse Fourmi. The roadway remains partially blocked therefore the relevant agencies would be mobilized to assist in tree cutting exercise.

6:00 PM Update: A PTSC Bus has been marooned between Roxborough and Bloody Bay Road in the Rain Forest Area due to a fallen tree and debris. There are approximately thirty persons including students on board. The TTFS has deployed their Troop Carrier in the case there is a need for extraction.


Original Story

At 11:15 AM, heavy showers and thunderstorms began to move across parts of Tobago. This severe weather produced gusty winds up to 50 KM/H at Crown Point and dumped copious rains across the region, upwards of 60 millimeters of rainfall over 5 hours.

Gusty winds and heavy rainfall at Roxborough, Tobago around 12:00 PM Tuesday 17th September 2019.

The Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) has responded to several calls resulting from blown off roofs, downed trees, and utility poles as damaging severe weather gripped Tobago on Tuesday.

Fallen tree at Battery Street Buccoo earlier today. Photos: TEMA

A tree fell on a house in Battery Street Buccoo at approximately 12.50 PM, the TTFS were contacted and CERT Team conducted a Preliminary Damage Assessment. Reports indicate that there is no structural damage to the home.

A roof was partially blown off at a residential home at Pembroke at approximately 12.50 p.m. The Trinidad and Tobago Fire Services have been informed and CERT has conducted Preliminary Damage Assessments.

A utility pole was downed in the vicinity of Bark Hill between Speyside and Charlottesville, just before Flag Staff, Tobago. The road has now been cleared and the road is accessible. However, motorists are still advised to exercise caution in this area.

There is a fallen tree in the Patience hill area that is currently blocking the roadway. There is also a fallen tree and utility pole partially blocking the roadway at Orange Hill Road, Spring Garden. Motorists are advised to exercise caution in this area.

Photos of damage at Union Village, Tobago resulting from severe weather. Credit: TEMA

Two cars were damaged as a result of a fallen tree at Union Village (after old Graham Garage), blocking the roadway.

Fallen trees were also reported at Concordia Estate, Charlotteville, and a branch of a tree was obstructing traffic at the entrance of the Magdalena Grand Hotel on the Claude Noel Highway.

Several roadways also remain blocked by fallen trees and debris, including

  • Water Wheel Road, Frankly Estate Road, Arnos vale – The roadway is completely blocked.
  • Union Village (after old Graham Garage) – The roadway is completely blocked.
  • Arnos Vale Road coming from Plymouth, (right before the Tablepiece Primary School) – The roadway is partially blocked by debris.

Debris flow at Arnos Vale Road, Plymouth just before Tablepiece Primary School Photos: TEMA

The Division of Quarries and the Environment has been notified of the situation; meanwhile, motorists are advised to use alternate routes until the trees and debris are removed.

 A fallen tree at Orange Hill Road, Spring Garden connecting to Signal Hill blocking traffic.
Motorists are asked to utilize alternate routes. Photo: Tobago Media, Advertising Services & Solutions - TMASS
A fallen tree at Orange Hill Road, Spring Garden connecting to Signal Hill blocking traffic.
Motorists are asked to utilize alternate routes. Photo: Tobago Media, Advertising Services & Solutions – TMASS

Where did this come from?

The Intertropical Convergence Zone remained across Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday, with scattered to widespread showers affecting both islands throughout the day.

11:45 AM Tuesday 17th September 2019 Radar Image as heavy showers and thunderstorms across T&T, with damaging severe weather gripping Tobago. Image: Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service
11:45 AM Tuesday 17th September 2019 Radar Image as heavy showers and thunderstorms across T&T, with damaging severe weather gripping Tobago. Image: Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service

However, the overall winds, storm movement, and Tobago’s topography had quite a bit to play in the enhancement of showers and thunderstorms over the island. Through the mid-morning, winds were generally from the southeast, meaning showers and thunderstorms moved towards the northwest.

By the late morning, through the early afternoon, these winds became primarily from the south. This meant that ongoing showers and thunderstorms were enhanced by a phenomenon called an orographic lift.

Hilly topography affects showers and thunderstorms, creating orographic lift, or lift of winds with height, due to winds being forced upwards.

Orographic lift occurs when an air mass is forced from a low elevation (i.e. sea level in the case of Tobago) to a higher elevation as it moves over rising terrain. As the air mass gains altitude it quickly cools down, which can create showers and thunderstorms, or in this case, enhance already existing convection.

As showers and thunderstorms moved across Tobago from the South, the mountainous terrain of Tobago forced winds at the surface upwards and enhanced the showers and thunderstorms. This mixed stronger winds at height down towards the surface, and also aided in the development of higher rainfall-producing showers and thunderstorms.

Unfortunately, more severe weather is forecast as the ITCZ remains across the region.

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