Hurricane Grace traveled more than 5000 km across the tropical Atlantic, Caribbean, Yucatan Peninsula, Gulf of Mexico, and central Mexico, where it dissipated last Saturday, August 21, at the same time that we are entering the most active season of tropical cyclones, reaching its peak in mid-September, so the probability of indirect or direct effects of other tropical systems tends to increase.

Currently, a tropical wave is crossing the eastern Caribbean and may develop a low pressure to the south of its axis off the coast of Venezuela, moving in a westerly direction. Upon arriving off Honduras and Nicaragua, this low pressure could become more organized and have a greater than 40% probability of becoming a new tropical cyclone.

While this happens, we will have conditions of heavy rains and storms over southeastern, eastern, central, and southern states as the active tropical wave passes through, with accumulated rainfall of 70-150 mm and probable flooding in the next 24-72 hours.

Friday through Saturday, forecast models predict that a tropical depression or tropical storm will form somewhere off the countries of Honduras, Belize, and Quintana Roo in Mexico and could be named Ida. From Saturday to Sunday it would tend to cross the Yucatan Peninsula and then emerge into the Gulf of Mexico, either to the north of the peninsula or over the Campeche Sound. Until today, uncertainty begins here, as it is not possible to establish a sector where it would exit into the Gulf, which is crucial to estimate effects in Mexico.

High uncertainty is presented in the new possible tropical cyclone, impeding to know the trajectory it could have. By mid-week the outlook will be clearer to warn the population and take preventive measures.

Although the system has a high potential to become a tropical cyclone, a high-pressure system will once again come into play to "control its path", even combining with a trough in the United States. The future of this probable cyclone will depend on this, which unfortunately does not show a clear trend, which prevents us from warning several days in advance. Initially, the states of the Yucatan Peninsula should follow its track very closely.

In Mexico, the tropical cyclone season began on May 15 in the Pacific Ocean and on June 1 in the Atlantic Ocean. In both oceans, the season will end on November 30.

A tropical cyclone in Mexico.
A tropical cyclone in Mexico. Image: National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas)

What is a tropical cyclone?

A tropical cyclone is a warm, moist air mass with strong winds that spiral around a central area. In the northern hemisphere, the winds rotate counterclockwise, while in the southern hemisphere they rotate in the opposite direction. They are formed at sea when the temperature is above 26°C (78.8°F).

Tropical cyclones are classified into three stages, according to the speed of their maximum winds:

The first is called a tropical depression when its winds are less than 63 km/h.

The next stage is a tropical storm, which has winds between 63 km/h and 118 km/h.

It acquires the category of the hurricane when it presents winds with a speed greater than 118 km/h. In this stage, the most destructive effects are generated by strong winds, torrential rains, storm surge, and high waves.

Tropical cyclones are events that benefit ecosystems and the population, as they recharge aquifers, fill dams and provide water for agricultural activities. However, it is also possible that they cause negative impacts on infrastructure, productive activities, health, and ecosystems, so it is necessary to remain alert and prevent any risk of disaster.

How are tropical cyclones detected?

They are detected through meteorological satellites that monitor tropical seas. These instruments send live images to monitoring centers, in this way the images are analyzed and forecasts are made. The National Meteorological Service analyzes several observation networks strategically distributed around the country.

How to prepare for a tropical cyclone during the COVID-19 pandemic?

This year's planning may be different because of the need to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. In the event of an emergency, it is very important to maintain basic hygiene measures and keep a safe distance to avoid the proliferation of contagions. For your safety, it is recommended you follow these actions:

Be informed about the warnings issued by the Early Warning System for Tropical Cyclones (SIAT-CT), the National Meteorological Service, and follow the indications of the National Coordination of Civil Protection.

Know the updated evacuation plans.

Locate temporary shelters and choose the best option for you and your family; their location this year could be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prepare a backpack with important documents (in an airtight plastic bag), canned goods, water, first aid kit, radio, and battery-powered flashlight; don't forget to include hand sanitizer, bar, or liquid soap and mouth covers for the whole family.

Prepare a telephone directory with numbers for emergency services, family, schools, and Civil Protection.

If you have an insurance policy, it is important to check coverage and validity.

Repair/secure roofs, windows, and walls to avoid major damage to your home.

Store fertilizers and insecticides in waterproof places.

Protect your crops to avoid physical damage.

Keep the roof, drains, sewers, and drains of your home clean.

Remove objects that may be an obstacle in the exit routes.

Do not light candles or candlesticks.

Take your livestock/pets to a safe place.

Store your work equipment/tools in the safest place in your home.

Evacuate whenever Civil Protection or your local government tells you to do so.

In case of evacuation, keep a safe distance, wash your hands frequently, cover your nose/mouth with your forearm when coughing/sneezing, and disinfect frequently touched objects.

If possible, avoid sharing food and drink with others.

If you feel sick when you arrive at the shelter or begin to feel sick while at the shelter, report it immediately to the staff in charge.

What to do after a tropical storm?

Continue to use preventive measures, such as keeping a safe distance, washing your hands, and using masks during cleanup or when you return home.

If you evacuated your home, don't forget to return until you are told to do so by local authorities.

Collaborate in the cleaning of roads and public infrastructure, and do the same in your home. This will reduce the risk of disease and facilitate the work to reactivate the connectivity of your community.

Collaborate in the clearing and opening of canals in mangroves and rivers to help restore water flows and facilitate the lowering of water levels in flooded areas. This will also restore and conserve coastal ecosystems and help reestablish productive activities in these areas.

Do not consume unsafe food and only drink potable water.

Chacahua Lakes
Chacahua Lagoons. Image: National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas)

Did you know that natural ecosystems help reduce the impact of extreme weather events? Natural Protected Areas help conserve these ecosystems. Mangroves and coral reefs, for example, cause waves to break before they reach the shore, which decreases the strength and height of the swell and, in the process, reduces the likelihood of the sea reaching land. Remember that the biodiversity of Natural Protected Areas is our ally in reducing the impact of tropical cyclones.

Source: CONANP