Met Office: People take yellow-level alerts too lightly

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Meteorologist Gary Benjamin at Wednesday’s news conference at the Ministry of Public Utilities, St Clair. – Angelo Marcelle

METEOROLOGIST Gary Benjamin says very often people in this country do not take yellow-level adverse weather alerts as seriously as they should, and believes the Met Office must improve efforts to educate the public on the different tiers.

He was speaking at a news conference at the Ministry of Public Utilities’ office in Port of Spain on Wednesday morning.

There are three main tiers of adverse-weather alerts: Yellow level, which means there is a moderate risk to public safety, livelihoods and property, orange – high risk to public safety, livelihoods and property and red – very high or extreme risk to public safety, livelihoods and property.

Reminding the public that during this wet season, there has been above-average rainfall which is likely to continue in the early part of the dry season, he said TT has had “more of its fair share” of heavy rain, street and flash-flooding, winds gusts to the level of storm force, landslips and riverine flooding.

Acting climatologist Kaidar Kissoon said that for December, areas likely to get the “highest rainfall totals” fall within the northeast areas of Trinidad and central Tobago.

“Most areas in TT are favoured to observe rainfall totals above 200mm, with some areas in northeast Trinidad likely to exceed 300mm.

“Tobago is likely to get rainfall totals lower than 170mm across most areas.”

But he said the period with the most observable dryness within the upcoming dry season will be April-May 2023, and there is a 70 per cent probability for three-five seven-day dry spells and one-three ten-day dry spells.

He added that the Met Office will also raise awareness of dry season agriculture, pest control and bush fires.

But when it comes to the expected above-average rainfall in December, Benjamin added that the Met Office will also try to educate the public more when it comes to the tiers of adverse-weather alerts.

“People tend to take yellow-level alerts lightly…but they are in a scope.”

He said there can be low yellow-level alerts as well as high ones and that a few events can “push it into orange or red.”

He added that while he is aware there has been negative feedback concerning the times of its alerts, it updates the public as best and as swiftly as it can once the information becomes available to it.

“We cannot dictate when a weather system will begin or end.”

He said sometimes alerts are sent out at an “inconvenient time” because weather itself is “very inconvenient with its development.”

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales says he pays close attention to all weather alerts, but the general public may only begin paying attention when it reaches yellow or orange levels.

He added that there tends to be a lot of fake news going around concerning weather alerts, which creates problems for the Met Office.

Because of this, he said, they are looking into also doing video recordings to go along with the written alerts.