The colors of cyclone vigilance

The disasters of recent years have shown this to us: climate change is not a figment of the imagination, and hurricanes are more and more aggressive. Climatologists predicted “an increasingly contrasting climate” and “increasingly intense meteorological episodes”. The euphemism has fizzled out and it is now a matter of drawing conclusions for the future. In the French West Indies, where the culture of risk has been well anchored since the origins of their settlement. However, the damage caused by Irma exceeded the forecasts of the worst scenarios imagined by the forecasters. The only solution remains to be informed and to prepare as well as possible for the occurrence of the cyclone. This is the only course of action, even if it remains derisory in the face of certain extreme climatic manifestations. Indeed when the effects of cyclones are felt, it is already too late.

Cyclone Vigilance

  • " Be careful ! »
  • " Prepare yourselves ! »/« Stay mobilized! »
  • " Protect yourself ! »
  • "Confine yourself! »
  • “Stay careful! »

The Vigilance system, which symbolizes the different levels of danger with colors, is the keystone of information provided by Météo-France to security players and the population. It allows real-time management of hurricane risk in the French West Indies. Since green is the color of the normal situation, vigilance in the literal sense starts from the color yellow. Beyond that, the colors change depending on the proximity, the intensity of the danger and the probability of the impact.
The meteorological vigilance system goes hand in hand with the alerts decided by Civil Security under the authority of the prefect, which currently result in the decision of collective measures, adapted to each specific situation.

Yellow level – “Be careful! »

The danger is still unclear and the cyclone will be two or even three days away and/or with limited impact and consequences. This leaves time for preparations, necessary checks and last-minute repairs. It is advisable to postpone outings and hikes for several days, whether on land or at sea. On campsites, this is the time to pack up the tent. In the event of an announced cyclone, boat owners should approach the Department of Maritime Affairs to be informed of the specific provisions. Owners of sailboats and large units consider sheltering in the "cyclone holes" protected from the strong swell where they can moor their boat. The owners of small motorized boats check that they are ready to take them out of the water to moor them to the ground on their trolley after having lowered their awning.

Orange level – “Get ready! »/« Stay mobilized! »

Indicates a probable danger with moderate effects and therefore a more serious threat within twenty-four to thirty-six hours. This level of vigilance may only signal the danger of the sea at the coast or heavy rain. In orange vigilance, it is advisable to remain attentive to information bulletins: among other things, it is at this stage that instructions are given. on the closing times of workplaces and shops so that everyone can get home on time. This is the time to make the last purchases with a view to a few days of autonomy (frozen products are not recommended, because power cuts are more than likely), refuel vehicles, and check the reserves of fuel for generators. A little cash can be welcome because, after the crisis, it is not uncommon for vending machines to be temporarily unavailable. For the rest, it is a question of finalizing the preparation of the dwelling or the shelter. All openings must be able to be secured and the appropriate devices in good condition to be installed: anticyclonic shutters, wooden planks to be firmly fixed, etc. It is also useful to consolidate the wide portals of the properties, which often offer significant wind resistance for a relatively low weight. Objects and foodstuffs likely to be affected by floods and mudslides are put out of reach and protection installed to limit the entry of water. The power of this is often underestimated. Sailors ensure the safety of their boats and maritime equipment: it is time to land the boats or reinforce the moorings, preventing the risk of collision with d other boats. Animal owners work to protect their livestock. This level of vigilance also applies when the danger recedes after the passage of the cyclone. In this case, the instruction is to remain mobilized.

Red level – “Protect yourself! »

Corresponds to a significant probability of passage of a strong storm or hurricane within six to eighteen hours. Everyone goes home and takes the necessary measures. If the accommodation is vulnerable, it is better to go to one of the safe shelters provided by the community. Any movement, on foot or by vehicle, is now to be avoided, except in cases of force majeure. sheltered company, all the openings are secured and the exits closed.

Purple level – “Lock yourself in! »

It is that of extreme urgency: the danger is imminent and the first effects are beginning to be felt. The paroxysm is expected within three to six hours and its effects are potentially catastrophic: confine yourself, do not go out under any circumstances! It is now forbidden to circulate, under penalty of sanctions. Objects start flying everywhere, trees or poles can fall at any time, flash floods, mudslides or landslides can suddenly start. The best thing is to stay quietly in the safest room of the house, away from any glass projections or objects if the protections were to give way. The radio – and/or TV, if it works – is the best way to stay informed of the evolution of the weather situation and the measures taken by the authorities. It is better to avoid unnecessarily cluttering the telephone and internet networks.

Gray level – “Stay careful! »

The hurricane moves away but all danger is not ruled out. This is the damage recognition and emergency response phase. This is the signal of a gradual return to normal life, but it is recommended to remain cautious: all the dangers on the ground have not yet necessarily been identified. The purple and gray levels are specific to the West Indies, for the management of hurricanes passing over or in the immediate vicinity of the islands, with a strong impact, and above all allow the authorities to better control communication and collective warning measures.

Excerpt from Cyclones des Antilles , Jean-Noël Degrace , Scitep Éditions

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