Private Island Hurricanes
Climate is often the number one reason we want to escape to a private island. Whether you’re a retired snowbird migrating south from icy winters in the north or a young family looking for a summer sailing retreat in Maine, weather will choose your geography for you.
If you’re searching for a warm tropical island, you have a great variety to choose from. From the Caribbean to the South Pacific and everywhere in between, the sun shines almost year round. Islands with moderate climates also see the best growth as far as investment value goes. Warm weather islands make for great year round retreats, whereas private islands in the northern U.S. and Canada are more seasonal in their enjoyment. Research the yearly weather stats online for island locales of interest – check out the annual rainfall and hours of sunshine. If you visit the island of your dreams during the worst weather month, it’s unlikely you’ll be surprised or disappointed when you take up residence.
Whether you call it a typhoon, hurricane, or a cock eyed bob (Australian slang), severe storms in tropical climates are a fact of life. With increasingly severe weather conditions around the world, the possibility exists that your private island home might one day be in the path of hurricane. However, hurricanes should not deter a buyer; after all, it may never happen. Hurricane preparation starts when an island home is built. If you don’t build properly, you risk severe damage to your property if it does ever happen. If you’re going to build a home on a tropical island, build a home that can withstand extreme weather conditions.
Hurricanes and tropical storms form almost exclusively in tropical regions of the world; they need warm tropical oceans, moisture and light winds above them in order to start. If the right conditions converge to create the perfect storm, a hurricane can produce violent winds, incredible waves, and torrential rains and floods. Tropical storms and hurricanes normally form during certain times of the year. The tropical storms and hurricanes that affect eastern North America, the Caribbean, and Central America usually form from June to November. Most occur in August, September, and October when the ocean’s waters are at their warmest. In other parts of the world, such as the western Pacific, hurricanes can occur year round.
On land, strong winds can damage or destroy buildings, trees, turning loose debris into deadly flying projectiles. Out at sea, where islands sit, storms can cause large waves and high winds. Between the wind and the waves, buildings and land can disappear altogether. Storm surges are one of the most dangerous elements of a hurricane for island dwellers. As a hurricane’s winds spiral around the storm, they push water into a mound at the storm’s centre. The water piles up as the storm carries it. This mound of water becomes dangerous when the storm reaches land out at sea, because it can wash right over an island. A hurricane will cause more storm surge in areas where the ocean floor slopes gradually. With a shallow water coastline, like those on many private islands, this is most dangerous. The lower the elevation of your island, the more danger. A private island home should be built on the highest possible elevation.
Calm before the Storm
Preparation is the very best defense against hurricanes. In order to avoid being surprised, island dwellers need to monitor weather forecasts during hurricane season. A radio will do the trick, but if you have no form of communication with the outside world, you had better get a barometer. Any changes in the glass should be taken seriously. With modern weather forecasting, you should know about a hurricane at least three days in advance, probably more. But that’s no reason to be complacent. If hurricane winds reach 150 miles per hour, the storm might only travel at 15 miles per hour. But, that adds up to 360 miles per 24 hours. If you hear about the storm when it’s 1000 miles away, it will only be a couple of days before you’re under the influence of its surrounding winds. You want plenty of warning to batten down the hatches or head for the mainland.
Building a solid home is the best defence against angry Mother Nature, but other defences are necessary in case you ever find yourself in the path of a hurricane. Include shutters on your house if building in a tropical zone. Doors and windows should be boarded up to keep the elements out. All spouts leading to your cistern (or water supply) should be disconnected and sealed, so salt can’t contaminate the water. Objects that may be picked up by the wind should be secured – ANYTHING movable can become lethal. Never go outside during a hurricane. Flying debris can kill you. If trees can be uprooted and carried away, so can you. If there is a lull in the storm, you might be in the centre of it. The other side will be back. If you have a boat, it’s better to get it off the dock. The boat could beat itself to a pulp against the dock in a hurricane. It’s better to haul your boat out, if possible. If not, the boat should be anchored securely, with lines tied to coconut trees or mangrove roots if possible.
Anyone residing in a tropical storm zone should also have emergency equipment and supplies on hand. You can find more extensive lists online, but at the very least you’ll need a first aid kit, plenty of water, flashlights, canned food (and an opener!), hurricane lamps with wicks and kerosene, matches in a waterproof can or jar, duct tape and a portable radio with batteries.