Good day to one and all.
Many of us may be breathing a little easier now that the Atlantic Hurricane Season has officially ended. While I share in the sense of relief that this season spared the Territory from any major landfalls, unfortunately, the same is not true for those who received the brunt of systems from Arthur back in May to Iota just two weeks ago. Nearly 500 people lost their lives around the Americas due to flooding and other Atlantic storm-related dangers, and overall damages this season could top $41 billion. Our hearts go out to all those who were affected by the storms in the neighboring Caribbean islands, Central America and the United States.
This season brought a record-breaking 30 named storms to the region (a record previously held by the 2005 season, when there were 28 named storms). Of the 30 storms, 13 developed into hurricanes with winds of 79 miles per hour or greater. While an average season typically brings two or three major hurricanes, this season brought five.
As we look back on and consider what was by all accounts a historic season; we should recognise that while we have no influence on where storms and hurricanes go, we should all continue to do our part to Be Ready.
I would like to acknowledge the people of this Territory who did exactly that this season: from preparing their emergency plans to restocking their supply kits; from doing what they could to protect their homes and businesses to checking in on those who may have needed additional assistance, and always staying on top of the latest information to stay informed. It takes effort to carry out these measures, and amidst all the other requirements brought on by COVID-19, it took even more effort this season. Furthermore, many of our well-practiced plans and protocols had to be reconsidered through a COVID-19 lens. I admire what you have all done to help us all be a resilient and prepared Territory.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank the many essential workers, public officers, volunteers and others who have helped us to be ready this season. You were called to duty several times as we awaited the possible arrival of several systems this season. In some cases you were required to respond quickly or even be out in unfavourable conditions. You kept the roads clear. You kept the lights on and the water running. You cared for the sick and infirm. You safeguarded the Territory’s assets and natural resources. I am grateful and I believe the entire Territory is grateful for the work you’ve done this season.
Particular thanks go out to our coordinators at the Department of Disaster Management, who help ensure that the Territory’s Disaster Risk Management Programme stays up to date, and who maintain strong partnerships with regional forecasters, international groups like the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, and the local community based organisations that help support our preparedness and response efforts.
Despite all this, we also know that the end of the season does not mean an end to risk. The year 2020 was an extremely active season, but it was also the sixth consecutive season to bring above average storm activity levels. Climate experts warn us that as global climate change progresses; we are likely to continue to see heightened storm activity. And we know that beyond hurricanes, we as a Territory are vulnerable to health hazards, seismic hazards such as earthquakes, and other hazards.
I urge every one of us to continue to do their part to be ready all year long.
Thank you, and be safe.