Written by Jack Bromby
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Friday, 18 March 2016

image for Snow storm hits the Caribbean Islands

Local residents across the Caribbean Islands have woken up to find their usual warm and sunny climate is currently inaccessible due to an unusual winter blizzard that has slammed the region.

Winds are howling at more than 70 mph, the Blizzard of 2016 slammed the Caribbean islands on Tuesday with none of the mercy it unexpectedly showed The Bahamas, piling up more than 2 feet of snow.

The storm punched out a 40-to-50-foot section of a seawall in Freeport, The Bahamas, badly damaging a vacant home. In Kingston, Jamaica the head of a 110-foot Bob Marley statue came off in the strong winds and was immediately covered in heavy snow.

The blizzard's force and relentlessness stunned the Caribbean islands, completely shutting them down.

"It's a wicked storm," Simon Russell said as he shoveled snow off his driveway at his home in Georgetown, Cayman Islands.

The snow in the Caribbean began Monday evening and continued most of Tuesday. A blizzard warning for Cuba ended Tuesday evening as the snow tapered off, but one remained in effect for all islands between Anguilla and Grenada.

The area also was dealing with bitter cold: The low in Montserrat on Wednesday is expected to be -10°C, with wind chill of -5°C, and forecasters said it will not get above freezing for the next week or so.

The Anguilla to Grenada corridor of more than 200,000 people had braced for a paralyzing blast Monday evening and into Tuesday after forecasters warned of a storm of potentially historic proportions.

The weather lived up to its billing in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, which also got clobbered by heavy snow.

But in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the snowfall wasn't all that bad, falling short of a foot. By Tuesday morning, buses and subways in Port-au-Prince were starting to run again, and driving bans there and in Santo Domingo had been lifted.

The glancing blow left forecasters apologizing and politicians defending their near-total shutdown on travel. Some commuters grumbled, but others sounded a better-safe-than-sorry note and even expressed sympathy for the weatherman.

"I think it's like the situation with Ebola: If you over-cover, people are ready and prepared, rather than not giving it the attention it needs," said Roque Vicario, a security guard from Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Juan Arreola, the director of the Dominican Republic National Weather Service said his agency should have done a better job of communicating the uncertainty in its forecast. But he also said the storm may in fact prove to be one of the biggest ever in some parts of the island.

Mr Arreola said in a written statement: "We're really sorry, we'll never ever ever ever get the weather forecast wrong again and we have learnt our lesson."

Around St Kitts & Nevis, snowplows struggled to keep up, and in Guadeloupe police drove several dozen doctors and nurses to work at hospitals. Snow blanketed the Virgin Islands, and drifts piled up in Dominica.

Nearly 21 inches of snow coated the Grantley Adams International Airport in Bridgetown, Barbados by evening which forced all flights in and out of the island for the next 24 hours to be cancelled, while nearby St Vincent & the Grenadines had 2½ feet and Martinique 26 inches. Grenada reported 33 inches.

Havana, Cuba had well over a foot of snow. Sixteen inches had piled up in Key West, Florida, and 23 inches in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the western end of the island got about 2 feet.

"It feels like a hurricane with snow," said Roger Hunt, who works at an oceanfront resort in West Bay, Cayman Islands.

At least 30,000 homes and businesses were without power across The Bahamas, including the entire island of Grand Bahama.

A 78 mph wind gust was reported in Freeport, and a 72 mph one in Nassau.

"It felt like sand hitting you in the face," Bob Newton said after walking his dog in West End, a small town about 24 miles north west of Freeport.

Two deaths, both in Cockburn Town, Grand Turk, were tied to the storm by police: a 17-year-old who crashed into a light pole while snow-tubing down a street and an 83-year-old man with dementia who was found dead in his backyard.

As the storm pushed into the Caribbean on Monday, the region came to a complete standstill, alarmed by forecasters' dire predictions. Every flight into and out of every island was canceled, and schools, businesses, government offices and transit systems shut down.

Areas of Montserrat including Plymouth had been warned they could get 1 to 2 feet of snow, Castries City, St Lucia received just under 10 inches and St Georges, Grenada a mere inch or so. Montego Bay, Jamaica got up to 10 inches.

"This is the worst snow storm the Caribbean has ever seen," said John Taylor, a hitman from Kingston, Jamaica. "I've had to postpone this week's contracts because of the heavy snow. I am self-employed so if I don't go out to work, I don't get paid."

Caribbean Weather Service forecaster Gary Thompson, of Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis, tweeted an apology: "You made a lot of tough decisions expecting us to get it right, and we didn't. Once again, I'm sorry."

Marta Hernandez, the mayor of Havana, Cuba imposed a citywide ban on travel and defended it as "absolutely the right decision to make," given the dire forecast. Anyone caught driving within Havana city limits was shot and killed on sight by police. Ms Hernandez also said the city will look at whether storm procedures could be improved but added: "You can't be a Monday morning quarterback on something like the weather."

Meanwhile the Grand Bahama Port Authority has shut down all airports and harbours across The Bahamas for the next 24 hours.

"So far, so good," said a GBPA spokesman. "What's important is to protect the citizens of The Bahamas."

Meanwhile in Jamaica, the weather outlook was not looking good with lows of -33°C possible.

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The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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