The Damage from Hurricane Matthew

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, I received numerous calls, texts and FB messages from family and friends inquiring about my safety. So I thought I would take the time to inform you all that my school (Eckerd College) is located in St. Petersburg FL, which is on the WEST side of FL. Meaning we were basically untouched by Hurricane Matthew, except for the rain and wind (which I enjoyed). 

PRAY4HAITI

Although the memes regarding Hurricane Matthew, were HILARIOUS! I was still extremely devastated by the damage to numerous islands in the Caribbean, specifically Haiti. As some of you know, I went to Haiti back in 2014 for a spring break mission trip with my church. That was 4 years after the 2010 earthquake (7.0 magnitude) that killed between 46,000 and 316,000 Haitians. When I went to Haiti in 2014, I recall be astonished that 4 year after the earthquake I could still see the damage it had caused. It was apparent that the people of Haiti were still suffering from the damage caused by the earthquake. I remember thinking it would take a decade to rebuild the country, but I NEVER considered what would happen if another natural disaster took place before they could rebuild. That was until last week. 

The videos & pictures are of Port-au-Princ, the capital of Haiti, in 2014. 

I literally cringed (& almost cried) when I heard that a category 4 hurricane was headed straight towards Haiti. I couldn't even fathom the damage it would cause to the people of Haiti. I've spent the last two weeks reading articles about Haiti and the damaged caused by Hurricane Matthew. Each day I watched as the various articles reported the death toll, which steadily rose each day. As of October 10th, it is being reported that at least 1,000 people lost their lives during hurricane Matthew. Unfortunately, this number is projected to continue to rise within the next few weeks or months.  

I know most of you have probably read some of the same articles that I have, so instead of continuing to discuss the damage done to Haiti, I thought I'd bring some science into this article (because SCIENCE IS AWESOME) and discuss why Haiti is so vulnerable to these types of natural disasters (i.e. hurricanes and earthquakes). 

History of Haiti:

Throughout Haiti's history, it has been susceptible to hurricanes, earthquakes, tropical storms, floods and more. Since 2000, there have been 10 tropical storm, 9 hurricane, and 2 earthquakes to strike the beautiful caribbean island. It's vulnerability to natural disasters is a combination of Haiti's geographic location as well as the poor infrastructure of the country. For the purpose of this article we will focus on one specific type of natural disaster, hurricanes. 

Geographic Location:

Haiti's geographic location is the principal reason for it's susceptibility to natural disasters. As you can see on the image below, Haiti is an island in between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Some scientist have reported Haiti's lowest elevation to be at sea level, while others have reported it to be below sea level (THIS IS REALLY BAD!). With this being so, it makes Haiti extremely vulnerable to many natural disaster, especially those that create surges (a storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm) that are 10-15 ft tall (i.e. Hurricanes). Being extremely close to (or below) sea level makes the island susceptible to extensive flooding during such hurricanes. In addition to the strong and deadly winds that hurricanes produce. Hurricanes form regularly in the ocean, yet we usually aren't aware/informed of them until they begin to approach land. In addition, the closer a hurricane comes to land the slower it becomes. Land removes the hurricane's heat source (heat enables the hurricane to move faster), as well as it's source of moisture (i.e. the ocean). With Haiti being a small island, surrounded by water & unattached to a continent or any large land mass, it makes it easier for hurricanes to move directly over the island without dismantling (slowing down or dissipating). This inevitably causes sever damage to the island. 

 

Haiti's location:

Haiti's location:

Here is what happens during a storm surge.

Here is what happens during a storm surge.

Anjali Boyd