Sunday, 12 September 2010

12 September 1988 - Eve of Destruction

In 1988 it was widely reported that the Category 3 Hurricane Gilbert would make landfall in Jamaica. Jamaica was battered by the storm and a million dollars (US not Jamaican) worth of damage was left in Gilbert's wake, but it could have been so much worse. Suppose the eye had actually made landfall on September 12.

No doubt there would have been deaths and orders of magnitude more damage, leaving the Jamaican economy shattered. Of course, that would have changed the course of the hurricane and, with open sea along its path, perhaps Gilbert would have grown bigger and stronger, becoming category five before reaching Mexico. We were fortunate that day.

Of course, even though Gilbert missed Jamaica on that September day, it could still have been a major disaster. The eye passed between Cuba and Hispaniola, damaging the US Army base at Guantanamo Bay before passing through the Windward Passage then destroying the coral reeves at Mouchoir Bank in the Turks and Caicos Islands. It seems that any deviation from Gilbert's actual path could have led to much greater destruction.

We were fortunate.

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