That is what the view usually looks like – for 20th December it’s pretty good!
This photo was forwarded to me from a friend, entitled “Hot Pursuit”
The news stated that an internal enquiry was under way – it looks pretty clear what they should conclude: police cars don’t float.
Yes, it has been raining – lots. September in fact had over 9 inches of rain, about 4 more than the expected average monthly precipitation. Maybe to compensate, we have had far fewer hurricanes and tropical storms than usual. Since I have spoken about the weather in a recent post (see Hurricanes) I have concentrated on water in this one.
Bermuda has no rivers, streams or lakes – no sources for surface freshwater. In UK the water industry draws from 650 reservoirs and 600 river abstraction points and to supplement that, about one third of the domestic water supply comes from boreholes and ground water.
The aeolian (wind blown) limestones that form the island of Bermuda are loosely cemented and extremely permeable and the soil cover is only 6 inches thick, so water does not collect on the surface. In addition the maximum elevation above sea level is about 30 metres so not designed for streams (or creaks if you are from USA). There are 5 groundwater lenses of brackish water, which are tapped to provide “non potable” water piped to about 15% homes and properties in the central parishes.
That leaves the rest of the island dependent on harvested rainwater. It is compulsory for every house to collect rainwater from the roof, mandated by the 1951 Public Health Regulations. This is the reason for the design of the white roof.
Carter House is thought to be the first building to have such a roof, built in 1640.
Limestone slates, 18 by 12 inches and about 1.5 inches thick are overlapped on a gently sloping frame and gutters are created across the roof from triangular stones, creating channels or “glides” that divert the water into vertical “leader” pipes down into a tank usually beneath the house. The whole roof is sealed and painted with a lime whitewash that helps keep water clean.
In most Bermuda homes the tank is in an excavation below the house, waterproofed concrete abutting the rock wall.
The size of the tank is an important selling point for properties, advertised prominently. Our home has a 41,000 gallon tank.
In UK we might be attracted by a double garage (pointless here where permitted only one car per household), in Bermuda it is the size of your water tank that matters!
The importance of the tank is reflected in the description given to heavy downpours: tank rain
One person on Bermuda uses approximately 30 gallons water per day
This is low compared to US where it is about 42 gallons and UK where it is 39 gallons.
It is probably down to historical need for conserving water. In the book I read when we first arrived, Tea with Tracey, she describes using washing up water in the garden and water collected from dehumidifiers to flush toilets – I confess I managed only one week of this, not a habit I found easy.
Is it safe to drink?
Well, it’s rainwater, but generated from marine air masses (the clouds form over the sea, in plain English)
This means it might have less organic nitrates in it compared with rain over larger land masses. In 2010 the Bermuda Government commissioned a survey into harvesting of rainwater but this did not cover the composition of the water – merely concluded that it was “safe”, seemingly on the basis that it had been done this way for over 350 years! (http://gov.bm ). On the government web pages about water conservation they do say it is “common practice” to disinfect the water with 1/4 cup of bleach for every 1000 gallons of water:
So in our case the tank would need over 200 bottles of bleach …. Surely not?
I think I will leave that to the landlord!
All the tourist sites state it is safe to drink – but they probably would.
I will filter it for you when you come to stay, just ask.
What happens if you run out or it doesn’t rain?
You won’t need to think about this in UK a this year, but here we are encouraged to conserve water:
Showers, not baths (my home has an enormous bath yet to be christened)
Buckets not hoses to clean the car (Offered in central car park for $30 – I hate washing cars)
Wash full laundry loads (that’s a bit hard when there are only two of you – so the sheets and towels are very clean)
If by any chance you do run out then for $180 you can have a tanker deliver 2000 gallons
And they do drive up the narrowest of lanes.
The environmentally aware reader will be asking “why not desalination”
This does happen on the island using a reverse osmosis process. The government licenses private water companies to produce about 3 million gallons of water daily in this way. Half of this comes from the brackish water lenses and the rest from shoreline wells. This is where the trucked water comes from. One friend has told me they need about 8 trucks of supplemental water each year – this is something to consider when renting, an older home may have a smaller tank or smaller catchment area on the roof and so you would need to pay for extra, perhaps amounting to over $1000. Forgive me if I smile like a Cheshire Cat as I think about our enormous tank 🙂
I shall conclude:
Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where! Nor any drop to drink.
The Rime of The Ancient Mariner
(From which I learnt “don’t shoot the albatross”)
I have collated my hurricane survival pack, but is it all just hype and a waste of $ and time?
What are the facts?
I excitedly downloaded some apps for hurricane watching, my enthusiasm a little dampened to find my husband already had them on his iPad (grudgingly I accept that his job in insurance makes them more than a passing interest). I spent a few happy hours watching Tropical Storm Erin, almost sad to see it fizzle out in the mid Atlantic.
Quote from Bermuda online (a really useful website if you ever consider moving here):
” Studies conducted by the Bermuda Weather Service found that from 1609 to the present day devastating storms affect the island every six to seven years. Our tropical cyclone or hurricane season is from May through to November, with an average of one storm passing within 180 nautical miles of the island every year”
It doesn’t take much research to discover that the last really big hurricane here was Fabian in 2003 – the library has numerous islander accounts of the event and 4 people died. Windspeed was over 105 knots with gusts at 145 knots, waves reached heights of 35 feet and the storm surge was over 11 feet.
1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour = 1.15miles per hour = 1.82km per hour
(wind is considered a navigational fluid and hence measured in knots by meteorologists, but translated into miles per hour for most of us)
A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds of 74mph (64 knots) or higher. The name is thought to come from the Mayan God of Wind, Huracan. In the Pacific they are called typhoons. As it develops it grows from a tropical disturbance to tropical depression to tropical storm then hurricane.
I absolute love the topic of weather and clouds and climates, it probably came from a really good geography teacher, but to save me boring you I will distill it into a few sentences:
- Sun warms the sea and warm moist air rises, leaving a low pressure area underneath ( a depression)
- Winds spiral inwards, due to the low pressure and the Coriolis Effect (spin of the earth)
- The system gains energy from water vapour condensing into cloud.
- The winds blow counter-clockwise in Northern hemisphere forming a closed spiral of storms
- Categories are determined by wind speed, 1-5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (1973) (Robert Simpson experienced his first hurricane aged 6, went on to become a storm-chasing meteorologist and is now 100)
- A storm surge is a wall of ocean that the hurricane brings as it breaches land.
http://www.nasa.com (this website is amazing – has problem based learning modules and fun stuff)
The University of Florida actually has a hurricane simulator.
Now, where was I?
I guess the basic question I am trying to answer is whether (ha) I am likely to experience a hurricane while on Bermuda.
Back in April, Dr Jeff Masters (http://wunderground.com) predicted 18 named storms and 9 hurricanes in the Atlantic.
Names, by the way, are selected in order from six lists of alternating male/female and a name is retired if there are fatalities.
I was initially sceptical, but it turns out that Jeff Masters is a meteorologist, lectures at university level, runs the Weather Underground website and writes a really intelligent blog. You can find them on Facebook where they post some really beautiful photographs of weather.
Erin was the fifth named tropical storm in the Atlantic this year in a season that extends from June to November.
The risk rises as the seas get warmer
Current sea temperature around Bermuda is 85 (really good swimming) and average windspeed yesterday across the island was 10 knots. There are no alerts or warnings on any of the five apps I downloaded (I did say I get excited by weather).
So my survival pack sits by the door “in case”
What’s in it?
- Torch x2 (a super light LED one that floats and has a secret compartment + a bike headlamp)
- Wind-up radio
- Spare clothes x2 sets
- Toothbrush etc
- Food – pilchards, beans, sweetcorn, cereal bars and nuts
- Water (in non-BPA bottles)
- Can opener (overkill I expect as the cans all have easy open tops)
- Knife, Spoon, Bowl, Cup
- Waterproof document holder with passport, residency permit and cash,
- Notebook, pen, book, batteries,
- First aid kit, ibuprofen, sunscreen
Anything else you can think of?
Whenever we go on holiday I am greeted with a sigh of inevitability as I emerge from the house with “just one more thing” to fit in the car – it could be wellingtons, towels, washing up bowl (we camped a lot) or just a map book, but I always had something extra and thus I am still teased that it will be the same if we have to leave the house for a hurricane …. I can’t think what it will be, but I wouldn’t want to disappoint!
I haven’t really answered my question, and have probably scared everyone away from visiting.
To put it into context, before Fabian most storms veered off before reaching Bermuda; Arlene in 1963 caused some damage but nobody died, then further back the only really damaging one was one in 1926 (the naming system wasn’t in place at that time) which did result in 88 deaths, but all were from the Valerian British warship anchored close to Bermuda. Since Fabian there have been two tropical storms passing close by – Florence in 2006 and Igor in 2010.
Bermudian buildings are built to withstand strong winds – the older ones are limestone and the newer ones concrete, with limestone roofs and hurricane shutters on windows so I don’t envisage being homeless. It is likely that the power will go and as good as Belco are, we may not have power for water pumps, toilets or cooking. I have candles and lots of books to replace the TV, but am sure I will miss the internet most!
Will the kit find its way back to UK with me when we relocate? A few years ago our children gave my husband for his birthday a “survival kit” – one they had pulled together including fire-starting kit, compass, knife, space blanket, food packs etc. along with books on how to survive in various wilderness settings. He still has it. So, probably, yes I will take it back to UK just as it is – assuming we haven’t used it!
- Tropical Storms (updated links) (blogs.woodtv.com)
- Tropical Storm Season: Updates From the Ocean (latinospost.com)
- NASA measures moderate rainfall in newborn Tropical Storm Ivo (eurekalert.org)
- Erin Moving West As A Tropical Storm In Atlantic (miami.cbslocal.com)