Strong Thunderstorms Bring Gusty Winds, Hail & Funnel Clouds

Flash flooding is ongoing along the Caparo Valley Brasso Road, in the vicinity of Breeding Unit, Central Trinidad following strong thunderstorms across Western Trinidad.

Afternoon strong thunderstorms brought street and flash flooding, funnel clouds, and even reports of hail across the Western and Southern halves of Trinidad on Tuesday afternoon.

What caused the severe weather?

Visible satellite loop from the GOES-16 showing the strong thunderstorms developing across Western Trinidad on Tuesday afternoon (Weathernerds)
Visible satellite loop from the GOES-16 showing the strong thunderstorms developing across Western Trinidad on Tuesday afternoon (Weathernerds)

Over the last few days, our dominant wind regime (winds from the east to west) has been light to non-existent and mostly sunny skies. In addition, abundant atmospheric moisture has been present across Trinidad and Tobago.

With sunny skies, strong daytime heating and sea breeze convergence have acted as triggering mechanisms for showers and thunderstorm development, particularly across the Western half of Trinidad.

This is not unusual for this time of year as these heat-driven showers and thunderstorm activity can become quite intense, typically producing localized street/flash flooding and gusty winds. (Note that through the remainder of the week, this weather pattern will remain mostly unchanged.)

When calm to light winds are ongoing, funnel clouds can develop, as we have seen over the last week or so. However, hail is a much more rare occurrence. A funnel cloud, hail, flooding, and gusty winds on one day though, a very uncommon occurrence.

The Hail

Infrared satellite loop from the GOES-16 showing the strong thunderstorms developing across Western Trinidad on Tuesday afternoon which produced hail and funnel clouds (Weathernerds)
Infrared satellite loop from the GOES-16 showing the strong thunderstorms developing across Western Trinidad on Tuesday afternoon which produced hail and funnel clouds (Weathernerds)

Between 2:30 PM and 3:15 PM, residents of Central Trinidad reported pea-sized hail falling. Note that in these areas, temperatures near the surface were between 33°C and 36.7°C based on weather stations in the area. With temperatures this high, no accumulation was anticipated.

Given how short-lived this hail event was during the most intense part of the thunderstorm, it would have been quite difficult to capture or record the small hailstones.

Speaking to a Carlsen Field resident, Veer Narine, he explained that the event was short and began at 2:30 PM. When asked if he was able to collect any hailstones or photograph the event, “I tried, but the fragments were rather small. They melted quickly.”

Other Central Trinidad residents explained they experienced a similar afternoon, with both Vish Maha (Arena, Freeport) and Aaron Latchman (Enterprise) heard “stones falling on the roof.”

One Chaguanas resident, Hadassah Chevon Lewis, recalled, “that sounded strange. I looked around, and then the rains came, so I dismissed it as rain. But it could be possible. The sound was like peas being thrown on the roof. Really odd.”

Hail in Trinidad is rare but not unprecedented. The last reported occurrence of hail in the country was on March 4th, 2018 but the most notable hailstorm was on August 12th, 1996 across Southern Trinidad.

The Gusty Winds

With strong thunderstorms, gusty winds are typical. In thunderstorms that support hail, this requires even stronger winds. Gusty winds moved across parts of Caroni, St. Helena, and Kelly Village this afternoon.

Generally, winds this afternoon gusted up to 50 KM/H across parts of Central Trinidad, with most areas reporting wind gusts generally below 30 KM/H over the last 18 hours.

Peak winds across Trinidad and Tobago over the last 18 hours as strong thunderstorms affected parts of Trinidad.
Peak winds across Trinidad and Tobago over the last 18 hours as strong thunderstorms affected parts of Trinidad.

According to the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government, “the Disaster Management Unit of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation has received several reports of blown off roofs throughout the municipality. Field officers are currently in the process of conducting assessments.”

We’ve received one report of a tree fallen on a roof at Kelly Village, Caroni this afternoon. Thankfully, there were no injuries.

A number of trees fell across along the Southern Main Road, from Caroni to Piarco.

The Funnel Clouds

Two funnel clouds were spotted across Trinidad on Tuesday, one just east of Piarco and one in the Freeport area.

Funnel clouds are not unusual for Trinidad when light winds are present across the island. These clouds appear year-round and rarely touch down.

In fact, between August 20th and September 8th, T&T has recorded six funnel cloud events. This includes the two above, one on August 20th between Tunapuna and St. Joseph, another on August 21st in Valencia, one more on August 22nd in Lange Park, Chaguanas and the last on September 1st, across the Penal/Debe area.

The Flooding

Rainfall accumulations across Trinidad and Tobago over the last 18 hours as strong thunderstorms affected parts of Trinidad.

Between 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM, parts of Central Trinidad saw torrential rainfall, with 2 hour totals between 25 and 45 millimeters. This triggered street flooding across parts of Caparo, Cunupia and St. Kelly Village, Caroni.

Flash flooding was also reported along the Caparo Valley Brasso Road, in the vicinity of Breeding Unit, Central Trinidad.

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