The last few days were a reminder that the annual hurricane season is not just about superstorms like record-strength Hurricane Irma that basically blow away much of what is in their path, but also minor inclement weather often accompanying tropical waves. Even without any cyclone formation these sometimes bring huge amounts of heavy rainfall along with gusty conditions that can also create quite some problems.
While pre-Irma the benchmark in terms of destructive winds had been Hurricane Luis of September 1995, when it comes to flooding Hurricane Lenny of November 1999 stands out, leaving the greater part of Philipsburg under water for days. A lot has been done since then to improve the runoff and catchment systems, while the floodgates were renewed, but there is only so much water all this infrastructure can handle in a very short period, with flash-flooded streets and the occasional mud-/rockslide as a result.
Particularly the various areas surrounded by hills produce so much runoff the normal rainwater management facilities simply can’t handle it. Trying to address this issue is also part of the “building back better” strategy, because there is no denying the island’s continued vulnerability to massive precipitation.
Investments have been made in, for example, the pumping capacity from Great Salt Pond to keep its level down and allow drainage from Fresh Pond via the floodgates without having to open the Great Bay Beach channel. However, water pumped out of the Salt Pond via Rolandus Channel ends up in the sea at the other end of the same beach.
Nature Foundation took samples and did tests to determine the water quality, which is important because many people, including cruise passengers and other visitors, bathe and swim there, as was the case again on Tuesday. In the long run, another solution may be necessary to protect the environment and particularly marine life, as well as guests and the local tourism economy in general.
Perhaps that could be another worthwhile project for the Dutch-sponsored Recovery Trust Fund managed by the World Bank.