Flooding in T&T has become this country’s most frequent natural disaster. Trinidad and Tobago is highly vulnerable to several types of flooding.
Flooding occurs when the inflow of water into an area is faster than the outflow. The following types of flooding in T&T may occur.
Although floods may be categorized differently, one category may merge into another. The main types of flooding that affect Trinidad and Tobago are:
- Pluvial Flooding
- Fluvial Flooding
- Coastal Flooding
- Groundwater Flooding – An uncommon flood type in Trinidad and Tobago, but has been observed as recently as the October 2018 floods.
Flooding in T&T occurs in various areas for several reasons, usually a combination of both natural and man-made causes.
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 flooding can occur at any time 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 who then issues Riverine Flood alerts, watches, and warnings based on data and water levels within watercourses.
- Casualties. People may die as a result of drowning or from 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 flood-borne diseases.
- Loss of livestock and agricultural crops. Livestock such as cows, goats chicks may drown in floodwater. Agricultural 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 huge financial losses to the farmers.
- Damage to property and infrastructure. Structures such as roads and bridges may collapse can limit accessibility especially to rural areas. Landslides can also take place, blocking roads and destroying anything its path such as houses and agriculture.
- Disruption to the water supply. Heavy rainfall regularly disrupts 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 flooding across a country can lead to a temporary decline in tourism, crippling economies that are 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 floods can contribute to recharging groundwater, making the soil more fertile and increasing nutrients in the soil.
- Biodiversity. Flooding can spread nutrients to lakes and rivers, which can improve 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 flooding in T&T is not unknown. Trinidad and Tobago has experienced several major flood events over the last several decades, with 5 notable disasters between 2017 and 2018.
- Tropical Storm Bret (June 19th – June 21st, 2017)
- 2017 Divali Floods (October 18th – October 21st, 2017)
- 2017 New Year Eve Floods (December 29th – December 31st, 2017)
- 2018 October Floods (October 18th – October 20th, 2018)
- 2018 November Floods (November 15th – November 19th, 2018)
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 as an individual, a family or as a business/company, you take steps to become prepared.
- 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 such as 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.
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, as well as governmental channels for updates on which shelter may be opened near you in the event of a disaster.