The Living World
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Managing the Impact of Tropical Storms

Tropical storms can be devastating. However, the severity of their impact can be managed through effective monitoring, prediction and strategic planning.

The success of these efforts often depends on understanding the vulnerabilities of the area, which can be influenced by a combination of physical, economic and social factors.

Understanding Vulnerabilities

Physical Vulnerability

Mountainous areas with steep slopes and low-lying coastlines present unique physical vulnerabilities.

The steep slopes increase the risk of landslides, especially during a tropical storm. Similarly, low-lying coastlines are more prone to hazards such as storm surges, flooding and high winds.

Economic Vulnerability

The economic impact of tropical storms can be significant. Developing countries often grapple with limited financial resources, making them particularly vulnerable to the costs associated with storm damage repairs and recovery efforts.

In contrast, developed countries, with their complex infrastructure, may face even higher costs due to intense damage.

Social Vulnerability

The quality of infrastructure and availability of post-storm support often highlight a country’s social vulnerability.

In many developing countries, buildings of poorer quality are more likely to sustain damage. These countries may also struggle to provide adequate healthcare and other necessary support in the aftermath of a tropical storm.

Monitoring Systems and Prediction Techniques

Highly industrialised countries (HICs) and less economically developed countries (LEDCs) or newly emerging economies (NEEs) use different methods to monitor and predict tropical storms. This is due to varying resources and capabilities.

Monitoring in HICs

In HICs, monitoring is facilitated by advanced tracking tools such as weather charts, computer software, radar and satellites.

Organisations, such as the National Hurricane Center in the USA, monitor all hurricane activity over the eastern Pacific and Atlantic oceans. They provide early warnings, such as hurricane watches, to alert the public and give them enough time to prepare.

Monitoring in LEDCs/NEEs

Conversely, many LEDCs/NEEs have limited resources to monitor tropical storms effectively. With less access to resources, these countries may struggle with the high cost of equipment and issues related to communication.

However, even with these constraints, tools like the Saffir-Simpson 5-point scale offer a practical way to measure wind speed and gauge the storm’s intensity.

Planning Strategies for Tropical Storms

Efforts to plan for tropical storms aim to reduce their impacts and protect vulnerable communities.

  • Evacuation Routes – Government-led planning of evacuation routes ensures a quicker and safer evacuation process.
  • Resource Stockpiling – Preparedness measures include stockpiling essential supplies, such as food and water, for several days.
  • Public Awareness Campaigns – Education and informational campaigns play an important role in raising public awareness about the potential impacts of tropical storms and the appropriate response measures.
  • Building Reinforcement – Precautionary measures such as reinforcing buildings, boarding up windows and strengthening infrastructure can significantly reduce the damage caused by flying debris.
  • Training and Drills – Regular training and practice drills enable emergency services to respond more effectively to disasters.
  • Early Warning Systems – The implementation of early warning systems, such as loudspeaker announcements and designated emergency shelters, can help reduce casualties.

Protection Measures Against Tropical Storms

Protection measures focus on designing buildings and infrastructure that can withstand the forces of tropical storms.

  • Construction on stilts can help protect buildings from floodwaters
  • Buildings made from reinforced concrete generally increase structural resilience
  • Fixed roofs are preferred over tiles to minimise wind damage
  • Covering windows with metal shutters or wooden planks can prevent breakage and reduce hazards

Implementing these protection measures can be costly. However, they are seen as a long-term investment that can save money in the long run by reducing the need for extensive rebuilding efforts after a tropical storm.

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