Hurricane Gilbert Essay
During the year of 1988, several events changed the lives of hundreds of people.
The summer Olympics, a presidential election, and Hurricane Gilbert which torethrough Jamaica, part of Mexico and the United States. Hurricane Gilbertoccurred between September 10th and the 17th. Hurricane Gilbert was one of themost wretched storms of the century. What had started out as a tropical storm,grew into a terrible nightmare for those that lived in Jamaica. “The onsetof the storm was first seen by satellite on September 3rd 1988. This wascategorized as a tropical storm; a wrinkle in the uniformly eastern flow”(Sheets 1). Gilbert was not only infamous for its’ category rating, but for thebarometric pressure which was the lowest recorded for an Atlantic storm. Causesthat contributed to the strength of Hurricane Gilbert include: atmosphericconditions, the category rating, and the proximity of its’ eye. The effects ofthe hurricane consisted of property damage, economic losses, casualties and somesolutions such as insurance and funds. Atmospheric conditions were some of thefactors that contributed to Hurricane Gilbert’s intensity. Hurricane Gilbert hadextremely powerful winds that reached 160 knots which is about 175 mph and gustsup to 121 mph (Stengel 18). At 10, 000 feet, Gilbert’s counterclockwise windsreached up to 200 miles per hour, and at ground level the winds were around 175mph (Stengel 17). With winds that strong, almost nothing could stop that storm.
When the winds began to spread out over a large area, they stirred the Atlanticwaters and brought cool water underneath the earth’s surface; therefore, causinga reduction in the amount of rapid showers and thunderstorms (Sheets 1). Waterwas another contributing factor in the destruction caused by Hurricane Gilbert.
Hurricane Gilbert formed in the same manner as most tropical storms do. “Areason for Gilbert’s strength was the warm air placed itself in contact with thewater, the air became wet and was then moistened by evaporation” (Sheets2). Hurricane conditions can only happen during warm months and over warmwaters. Storm surges only occur when the storm meets the land. Gilbert’s systemof low pressure and high winds created a dome of high and intense water that wasforced ashore. The water flow then caused storm surges which flooded many lowlying areas, such as, beaches and coastlines. The waves of the waters reached ashigh as 30 feet. Floods were another cause of destruction. Torrential rainscreated sudden flooding as Hurricane Gilbert moved inland. As Gilbert’s windsdiminished, rainfall floods became Jamaica’s greatest threat. (Sheets 2). Airmass was a third cause of destruction. During the summer of 1988, both Jamaicaand the United States were hot and humid. A drought in the Midwestern UnitedStates caused forest fires and harvesters had a hard season with the crops (Stengel17). Since the air was relatively warm around the Caribbean and the Northeasternpart of South America, the humidity was significantly higher, and the seatemperature was somewhat warm consequently causing the formation of HurricaneGilbert. Hurricane Gilbert’s barometric pressure reading was a very importantfactor in it’s destructive force. A barometric pressure reading is the measureof the storm’s strength. Hurricane Gilbert received the lowest sea levelpressure reading for a storm in the Western Hemisphere. Gilbert’s pressurereading was recorded at 888 MB. or 26.23 inches. Since Gilbert had a lowpressure reading, it was more likely to cause extreme damage. Hurricane Gilbertreceived a rating or category of five on the Saffir/Simpson scale, which reads astorms strength (Sheets 3). Category five is the highest level that a hurricanecan be rated at. This denotes that Gilbert was proficient enough to cause”catastrophic damage” (“Hurricane Gilbert” 689). Anotherhurricane to reach level five was Camille, a hurricane that occurred in 1969 (Trippet18). When a hurricane such as Gilbert, that is rated a Category five, wind andwater damage are extremely dynamic. Windows can be blown out, trees up rootedand mall buildings can be destroyed during a hurricane (“HurricaneInfo” 3). Hurricanes that are large in size, will usually have smallereyes, like Hurricane Gilbert. Hurricane Gilbert had an eye less than 10 miles indiameter, but the hurricane covered the entire western half of the Caribbean aswell as southeastern parts of the Gulf of Mexico (Sheets 3). The vortex ofGilbert was 450 miles in width (Stengel 17). Even though the eye of HurricaneGilbert looked almost invisible, it still was readily visible. As the eye ofGilbert turned and moved in different directions, the storm continued to spiralaround it. Thus, giving the storm more power. (“Hurricane Info” 2).
The eye wall (the outside part of the eye) is important because this is wherethe most violent activity takes place. When the cool air was pushed into theeye, it sank and became warm by compression. When the air became heated, Gilbertwas liable to hold more moisture making the eye look clear and cloud free.
(Sheets 2). Extensive property damage was a major result of Hurricane Gilbert.
Many homes, buildings, and statues were destroyed. According to Time, “thedamage costs were estimated to be at 10 billion dollars and the property losswas estimated to be about 500 million dollars. There were no previous records inJamaica for a hurricane to have damage costs of that amount.” Of the twoand a half million people that lived in Jamaica, 500,000 were left withouthomes. About four fifth’s of Jamaica’s homes were damaged or destroyed (Trippett18). Jamaica wasn’t the only country with damages. “According to theInsurance Information Institute, the United States had estimated damage costs atabout $40 million. Damages include beach front homes and boats on the Texascoast line” (Schachrer 73). Hurricane Gilbert also caught a 300 foot Cubanfreighter 5 miles out to sea; massive waves smashed its structure and pushing itashore Cancu’n Beach (Stengel 17). Hurricane Gilbert’s strong winds greatlydamaged many resorts and hotels. The Mexican resorts were hit the hardest. Thesehotels had extensive water damage after their windows were blown out (Schachrer73). Around the city of Cozumel, many resorts took months to restore thebuildings damaged by hurricane Gilbert (Wilder 68). In Northern Jamaica, where alarge number of the luxury resorts are located, Hurricane Gilbert blew calmerwinds rather than the harsh winds where cities were located, such as Kingston.
Luckily, the Cayman Islands were unhurt by Gilbert’s force. The coral reefs thatare located around that area were almost untouched by the hurricane. Economiclosses were other results of Hurricane Gilbert’s destructive force. In 1988, thebanana, a prized crop, was expected to produce a 50,000 ton harvest. Thisharvest projected amount was up from the 10,000 tons of banana produced in 1984.
This was unable to happen because most of Jamaica’s farms were destroyed.
Tourism and bauxite kept Jamaica’s economy rising for the second straight yearin a row by 5% from 1987 (Stengel 17). This average was calculated the yearbefore the hurricane struck. The banana crop was ruined along with poultry, astaple of the economy. Coconut, coffee, and the winter vegetable staples werealso destroyed. A large productive crop the “ganja” or the marijuanacrop, was destroyed as well (Trippett 18). Jamaica’s sugar crop and the prizedbauxite were virtually untouched by Gilbert’s harsh winds. The death toll ofHurricane Gilbert was estimated to be at 260. (“Notable Hurricanes”302). These deaths include drowning, houses collapsing on people, and those thatwere caught in the storm and disappeared. More deaths were caused by drowningthan anything else. For instance, four busses became trapped under water in thecity of Monterrey. The busses were overturned by the rising Santa CatarinaRiver. About 200 passengers escaped, although six policemen died in the rescueeffort. (Stengel 18). Those that lived along the Texas coastline were luckyenough to not have been hit that badly by the storm. These people were evacuatedout of the area at the last minute (Schachrer 3). One solution for the problemscaused by Hurricane Gilbert was insurance. (Schachrer 3). Some of the insurancecompanies were thought to be stuck with claims up to 3 billion dollars. Twoinsurance companies ITT Corporation Hartford Insurance Group and ContinentalCorporation had figured its estimates lower than what was expected. HartfordInsurance Group configured its estimates to be at 5 million dollars andContinental Corporation figured its estimates to be at 10 million dollars (Schachrer73). Some other insurance companies such as State Farm, covered 16% of theautomobiles that were damaged. Most of the insurance claims that they receivedwere only for minor damage. (Engardio 23) The Mexican Insurance company hadplaced their losses at only 120 million while the damage for Jamaica wasestimated to be about 725 million dollars (Schachrer 3). The need for aid afterHurricane Gilbert struck was extremely crucial. The Prime Minister of Jamaica,Edward Seaga, had appealed for international aid to help those that lost theirhomes. (Findlayson 18). Jamaica was fortunate that many other counties andpeople were willing to help. Canada, the United States, and Great Britain werethree of the most giving countries. They did more than just help rebuild thelives of the people that lived in Jamaica, they had given them hope for a newfuture. Ontario charted a plane which brought supplies and also sent $100,000for aid relief. The External Relations Minister Landry, “pledged 7.6million dollars plus another million which was to have been raised by privatehumanitarian organizations” (Finlayson 18). Several other Canadian citiesbrought clothing, food and money to those whose communities that were destroyed(Finlayson 18). Hurricane Gilbert has educated us about the causes of hurricanesand their destruction. We now know more information about how hurricanes form,increase in strength, and information about the eye of the hurricane. We knowhow much damage a category five hurricane will cause and the effects that itwill on us. “Advances in computer models, satellite pictures and aerialmeasurements made Gilbert as closely monitored as a shuttle launch” (Stengel19).
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