Potentially Hazardous Seas To Usher In 2021 Across The Lesser Antilles

Agitated seas affecting Mayaro, Eastern Trinidad on December 21st, 2020 due to strong northeasterly to easterly winds. (Rienzi Gayahpersad)

Low-level winds are forecast to increase across the Southern Windwards beginning Friday night through the weekend causing rough seas across our eastern coastal waters.

In addition, long-period swells are slated to affect T&T’s northern and eastern coastlines between Friday and Monday, coinciding with peak winds.

There are no alerts, watches, or warnings in effect from the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service at this time.

Seas Forecast For Trinidad

Sea state forecast through the next 7 days, as moderate to occasionally rough seas are forecast, with long-period swells affecting the island. Note that sheltered areas include bays, beaches, and generally the Gulf of Paria and western areas of the Columbus Channel. Open waters are the Atlantic Ocean (Eastern Trinidad), the Eastern Columbus Channel (Southern Trinidad), and the Caribbean Sea (north of Trinidad).
Sea state forecast through the next 7 days, as moderate to occasionally rough seas are forecast, with long-period swells affecting the island. Note that sheltered areas include bays, beaches, and generally the Gulf of Paria and western areas of the Columbus Channel. Open waters are the Atlantic Ocean (Eastern Trinidad), the Eastern Columbus Channel (Southern Trinidad), and the Caribbean Sea (north of Trinidad).

In sheltered areas, seas are forecast to remain below 1 meter generally and choppy at times. However, long-period swells will continue to affect mainly northern and eastern coastlines Friday night through Monday, causing larger waves in Trinidad’s nearshore areas.

Peak swells are forecast to occur between Saturday and Sunday, with swell periods between 9 and 18 seconds. Friday night through Monday morning, large, breaking waves may exceed the 1-meter mark along Northern and Eastern coastlines, up to 2.0 meters in nearshore areas.

Winds are forecast to be fresh to strong, with winds up to 25 knots from the northeast, gusting between 25 knots to 30 knots during the weekend, particularly from Friday night through Sunday morning. Outside of this period, wind speeds are forecast to remain between 10 knots to 20 knots generally. Small craft operators may experience difficulty operating this weekend.

In open waters, as winds increase across the region, seas will remain moderate to occasionally rough, with waves generally up to 2.5 meters as indicated above during the weekend. Generally, open waters east and north of Trinidad will be the most agitated.

Seas Forecast For Tobago

Sea state forecast through the next 7 days, as moderate to rough seas are forecast, with long-period swells affecting the island. Note that sheltered areas include bays, beaches, and generally western coasts of Tobago. Open waters are the Atlantic Ocean (Eastern Tobago) and the Caribbean Sea (west of Tobago).
Sea state forecast through the next 7 days, as moderate to rough seas are forecast, with long-period swells affecting the island. Note that sheltered areas include bays, beaches, and generally western coasts of Tobago. Open waters are the Atlantic Ocean (Eastern Tobago) and the Caribbean Sea (west of Tobago).

Similar to the above forecast, northerly to northeasterly swells are forecast to predominantly affect northern and eastern coastlines.

Stronger low-level winds are forecast to affect Tobago this weekend, with seas becoming rough Friday night through Sunday morning, coupled with high-energy long-period swells.

Impacts on T&T’s Shorelines

Impacts possible from rough seas include the following:

  • Loss of life;
  • 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 to begin next week. 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 will likely splash onto low-lying coastal roads. Bays and beaches may become inundated.

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

Addressing The Viral WhatsApp Message

The exaggerated message on our sea state this weekend into next week.

What is actually affecting us: A strong Western Atlantic high-pressure system will be dominant beginning Friday night through the weekend, with a tight pressure gradient across the Lesser Antilles.

How strong will the winds actually be? Trinidad and Tobago will be on the periphery of the strongest winds, with maximum wind gusts up to 60 KM/H possible on Saturday into Sunday, mainly north of Trinidad, and in shower or thunderstorm activity. Across the region, the highest winds will occur across the Leewards, with sustained winds up to 50 KM/H and gusts to 65 KM/H, higher in elevated areas. Tropical-storm-force winds are not expected. Tropical-storm-force wind gusts are possible.

Will we see 17-foot waves? Seas will be agitated, with waves in open waters up to 3.25 meters (10-11 feet), mainly north and east of Tobago, but generally between 2.5 and 3.0 meters in our territorial waters of T&T. Long period swells could produce large, breaking waves in bays, beaches and nearshore areas along northern and eastern coastlines. 17 foot (5+ meter) waves are not expected.

Note that adverse weather is not anticipated, but hazardous seas are.
Note that adverse weather is not anticipated, but hazardous seas are.

Will flights be canceled? No. Because of the agitated seas, inter-island ferry services may be canceled. We’ve already seen this happen here in Trinidad and Tobago. However, winds will not be severe enough to cancel flights.

Will there be extensive impacts? That remains to be determined. This is not forecast to be an apocalyptic event as the message is making it out to be. Those impacts outlined are always possible in any hazardous seas event (rough seas with waves larger than 3.0 meters or long period swells), but they rarely occur.

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