Flooding in T&T has become this country’s most frequent natural disaster. Trinidad and Tobago is highly vulnerable to several types of flooding.

Flood Types

Flooding occurs when the inflow of water into an area is faster than the outflow.

Although floods may be categorized differently, one category may merge into another. The main types of flooding that affect Trinidad and Tobago are:

Flood Causes

Flooding in T&T occurs in various areas for several reasons, usually a combination of natural and man-made causes.

Flood Frequency

Because of Trinidad and Tobago’s high vulnerability to various types of floods, flooding can occur anytime across the islands once atmospheric conditions support a heavy or prolonged rainfall event or a coastal flood event is unfolding.

Generally, riverine flooding has a higher frequency during the rainy season, which usually runs from June 1st through December 31st. Flash, street/urban, and traditional pluvial types can occur throughout the year once heavy rainfall occurs. Coastal floods can also occur throughout the year but tend to favor periods where seas are rough due to long period swell events.

Flood Monitoring & Forecasting

Water levels in major watercourses across Trinidad and Tobago are monitored by the Water Resources Agency, under the Water and Sewage Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (WASA).

According to WASA, the Water Resources Agency:

The Agency’s data collection system comprises a monitoring network of gauges which measures and reports rainfall, streamflow, groundwater, evaporation and water quality parameters at strategically located sites throughout Trinidad and Tobago.

The data and information derived relates to the trends in the quality and quantity of the surface and groundwater resources required for social and economic development, and the protection of environmental quality.
Within recent times, with the focus of water resources management utilizing the integrated approach, requires collaboration with all stakeholders to allow decision making for the sustainability of the water resource.

Some key stakeholders are: Environmental Management Authority (EMA), Ministry of Works and Transport Drainage Division, Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Resources, Ministry of Public Utilities, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), and the Meteorological Services of Trinidad and Tobago (MET).


Data from the Water Resources Agency is then passed onto the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service, which then issues Riverine Flood alerts, watches, and warnings based on data and water levels within watercourses.

Flood Effects

  • Casualties. People may die as a result of drowning or other by-products of flooding.
  • Health issues. Stagnant floodwaters become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. This leads to a surge in the mosquito population and the epidemics of mosquito-borne diseases. Waterborne diseases such as cholera and leptospirosis may be spread through contaminated floodwaters. Spillage of sewage can also bring another host of water-borne diseases.
  • Loss of livestock and crops. Livestock such as cows, goats, and chicks may drown in floodwater. Crops, which usually have shallow roots, are easily swept away by fast-moving water or may be lost when agricultural land becomes inundated by floodwater. This can incur substantial financial losses for the farmers.
  • Damage to property and infrastructure. Structures like roads and bridges may collapse and limit accessibility, especially in rural areas. Landslides can also occur, blocking roads and destroying anything in their paths, such as houses and agriculture.
  • Disruption to the water supply. Heavy rainfall regularly disrupts the water supply across Trinidad and Tobago due to turbid waters affecting water treatment plants. This can result in a loss of water supply or severe water contamination.
  • Economic hardship. Devastating inundations across a country can lead to a temporary decline in tourism, crippling economies dependent on tourism. Rebuilding costs and food shortages can lead to price increases.
  • Psychological damage. After a devastating flood, individuals may exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.
  • Hydrogeological benefits. Smaller events can contribute to recharging groundwater, making the soil more fertile and increasing nutrients in the soil.
  • Biodiversity. Widespread inundations can spread nutrients to lakes and rivers, improving fisheries for a few years. An inundated flood plain can be a highly suitable location for spawning with few predators and enhanced levels of nutrients or food.

Major Flood Events

Significant flooding in T&T is not unknown. Trinidad and Tobago has experienced several major flood events over the last several decades, with five notable disasters between 2017 and 2018.

  • Tropical Storm Bret (June 19th – June 21st, 2017)
  • 2017 Divali (October 18th – October 21st, 2017)
  • 2017 New Year’s Eve (December 29th – December 31st, 2017)
  • 2018 October Great Floods (October 18th – October 20th, 2018)
  • 2018 November Floods (November 15th – November 19th, 2018)

Flood Safety

Located in a tropical region, flooding in T&T comes with the location. Both islands have several areas with very high flood vulnerabilities regardless of the variety of ways flooding can be mitigated. Hence, it is pertinent that you take steps to become prepared as an individual, a family, or a business/company.

General Precautions

  • Before moving into an area, or constructing a structure, check the surroundings for a history of flooding – whether that be street/urban, flash, riverine, or coastal flooding. This will be important if constructing to know what flooding mitigation can be implemented, such as building your home higher or on stilts. If you are moving into a flood-prone area, consider purchasing a flood insurance policy.
  • Locate structures away from flood-prone areas like river banks, flood plains, or major drains.
  • Do not improperly dispose of waste such as furniture, appliances, and other garbage into watercourses. Utilize proper waste disposal through your respective city, borough, or regional corporation.
  • Maintain all drainage systems. Clear watercourses on your property to facilitate the unhindered flow of water within the channel. Keep gutters and downpipes clear of waste and debris as any waste or debris will enter watercourses during rainfall.
  • If living in a flood-prone area, construct or purchase flood barriers where necessary to prevent water from entering homes or businesses.

Before A Flood

Except for coastal and riverine flooding, street/urban and flash flooding occur with little or no warning. This is due to a myriad of factors, including over-urbanization, blocked/improper drainage, and precipitation intensity. Here are several tips compiled from the ODPM and FEMA:

  • Create a Communications Plan – It is important to be able to communicate with your family and friends in the event of a disaster. Whether it is having a specific person identified to contact for status updates or a safe location to meet up with family members, having a plan in place will give you peace of mind if disaster does strike.
  • Assemble an Emergency Kit – It is good practice to have enough food, water, and medicine on hand at all times to last you at least three days in the case of an emergency. You should also have batteries, blankets, flashlights, a first aid kit, rubber boots, rubber gloves, and a battery-operated radio readily available. Water service may be interrupted or unsafe to drink, and food requiring little cooking and no refrigeration may be needed if electric power is interrupted.
  • Know Your Risk – Is your home, business, or school in a floodplain? Where is water likely to collect on the roadways you most often travel? What is the fastest way to get to higher ground? Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time can save your life.
  • Sign up for notifications – This can be done through social media channels for many social media pages from your local media, local meteorological offices, and disaster preparedness or management offices. They may also offer other means of notifying, such as mobile applications or emails.
  • Prepare Your Home – Sometimes floods develop slowly, and forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen days before it occurs. Often flash floods can occur within minutes and sometimes without any sign of rain. Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind.
    • If you have access to sandbags or other materials, use them to protect your home from floodwaters if you have sufficient time to do so. Filling sandbags can take more time than you may think.
    • Secure your documents such as birth certificates, passports, and similar documents in waterproof bags or sealed containers.
    • Secure valuables and park vehicles in places that will not be flooded
    • Have a professional install check-valves in plumbing to prevent floodwaters from backing up into the drains of your home. Make sure your sump pump is working and consider having a backup. Make sure your electric circuit breakers, or fuses, are clearly marked for each area of your home.
    • Since standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding, ensure coverage by contacting your insurance company or agent to purchase flood insurance. This must be done before there is even a threat of flooding, as insurance companies stop issuing policies if flooding is a threat. (i.e., an approaching hurricane). Many flood insurance policies take at least 30 days to go into effect, so even if you can buy them as a storm is approaching, it may not protect your investment.
  • Prepare your Family/Pets – You may be evacuated, so pack in advance. Don’t wait until the last moment to gather the essentials for yourself, your family, and pets. If you live in a flood-prone area, with the threat of additional rainfall and river levels are already at threshold levels – it may be a good idea to self evacuate before conditions worsen. Sometimes, state agencies may take far too long to issue evacuation notices, so use your discretion.
  • Charge Your Essential Electronics –  Make sure your cell phone and portable radios are all charged if you lose power or need to evacuate. Also, make sure you have backup batteries on hand. During the floods of October 2018, this was an issue where several stranded Greenvale residents on roofs had to switch phones off to conserve charge, awaiting rescue.
  • Leave – If your home will likely flood, don’t wait to be ordered to leave; evacuate yourself! Make alternative plans for a place to stay. If you have pets, take them with you or arrange to board them at a facility well away from the flooding danger.

During a flood

During a flood, water levels and the rate the water is flowing can quickly change. Remain aware and monitor local radio and television outlets. Avoid floodwaters at all costs and evacuate immediately when water starts to rise. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

  • Stay Informed & Remain Calm: Listen to radio and television if possible, and check the Internet and social media for information and updates.
  • Get to Higher Ground: If you live in a flood-prone area or are camping in a low-lying area, get to higher ground immediately. Move to the upper levels of your home if the lower levels are threatened by flooding.
  • Obey Evacuation Orders: If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Lock your home when you leave. If you have time, disconnect utilities and appliances.
  • Practice Electrical Safety: Don’t go into a basement, or any room if water covers the electrical outlets or if cords are submerged. Get out if you see sparks or hear buzzing, crackling, snapping, or popping noises! Stay out of water that may have electricity in it!
  • Avoid Flood Waters: Don’t walk through floodwaters. It only takes 6 inches of moving water to knock you off your feet. If you are trapped by moving water, move to the highest possible point and call 990 (Fire Service) or 999 (Police Service) if possible.

Do NOT drive into flooded roadways or around a barricade; Turn Around, Don’t Drown! Water may be deeper than it appears and can hide hazards such as sharp objects, washed-out road surfaces, electrical wires, chemicals, etc. A vehicle caught in swiftly moving water can be swept away in seconds 12 inches of water can float a car or small SUV, and 18 inches of water can carry away large vehicles.

Don’t underestimate the power of water! Credit: NOAA
Don’t underestimate the power of water! Credit: NOAA

After a flood

  • When floodwaters recede, the damage left behind can be devastating and present many dangers. Images of flood destruction depict destroyed homes and buildings, damaged possessions, and decimated roadways. However, what you can’t see can be just as dangerous. Floodwaters often become contaminated with sewage or chemicals. Gas leaks and live power lines can be deadly but are not obvious at first glance.
  • Stay Informed: Stay tuned to your local news for updated information on road conditions. Ensure water is safe to drink, cook or clean with after a flood. Authorities may ask you to boil water for a while after a flood. Never use a portable generator inside your home or garage. Report broken utilities or utility lines to the respective public utility company: WASA, T&TEC, or TSTT.
  • Avoid Flood Waters: Standing water hides many dangers, including toxins and chemicals. There may be sharp objects under the water, or the road could have collapsed. If it is likely your home will flood, don’t wait for an evacuation order; get out! Talk to friends and family about emergency visits. If you have pets, take them with you or get them somewhere safe.
  • Avoid Disaster Areas: Do not visit disaster areas. Your presence may hamper rescue and other emergency operations.
  • Heed Road Closed and Cautionary Signs: Road closure and other cautionary signs are put in place for your safety. Pay attention to them!
  • Wait for the All Clear: Do not enter a flood-damaged home or building until authorities give you the All Clear. If you enter a flood-damaged building, be extremely careful. Make sure the electrical system has been turned off. Have the power company or a qualified electrician fix wires. If you have a generator, follow proper safety procedures. Contact your insurance agent to discuss property damage.
  • Contact Your Family and Loved Ones: Let your family and close friends know that you’re okay, so they can help spread the word.
  • Post Flood Clean-up: Bury all dead animals as soon as possible or contact the Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (CEPEP) Dead Animal Removal Team (DART) at 800-DART (3278). Clear all debris from drains and channels near your residence as soon as it is safe and adequately dispose of the waste by contacting your respective city, borough, or regional corporation.

Emergency Shelters Across Trinidad

While these buildings are designated as emergency shelters, only particular locations will be opened in the event of a high-impact natural disaster. Keep checking our social media, website, and governmental channels for updates on which shelter may be opened near you in the event of a disaster.

Emergency Shelters Across Trinidad.  Click for a full resolution image from the ODPM.
Emergency Shelters Across Trinidad. Click for a full resolution image from the ODPM.