A natural hazard is when extreme events which cause great loss of life and or property and create severe disruption to human lives, such as a hurricane. Editor Philip Whitefield brings up an important point in â€˜ Our Mysterious Planetâ€™ when he comments;
â€˜At a time when we know how to aim a space probe directly at Mars and trigger the gigantic forces of nuclear power, we are still at the mercy of hurricanes and volcanoes.â€™
It seems peculiar how we can be at such an advanced stage technologically yet we are unable to completely stop a natural hazard from causing loss of life and damage to existing constructed resources and infrastructures.
Hurricane Gilbert, September 1998 was described by meteorologists at the US National Center in Miami, as the most intense western-hemisphere tropical cyclone on record. Large areas of Jamaica were devastated and the countryâ€™s Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, pronounce it the worst natural disaster ever to strike his country. Greatest loss of life however, occurred in Mexico where Gilbert hit twice, first of all traversing the Yucatan Peninsula and two days later making landfall some 150 km south of the border with the USA, finally dissipating near the city of Monterrey.
During its most intense phase at the western end of the Caribbean Sea, Gilbert was estimated to have central pressure of 885mbar, and maximum sustained winds in its circulation over 150kt (knots) with highest gusts in excess of 175 kt. The central pressure outrivalled the 899 mbar of the Florida Keys hurricane of 1935. Gilbert, at that stage an un-named tropical depression with maximum sustained winds around 30kt, was first spotted on Thursday 8 September some 300km east of Barbados. It brushed past Barbados and St Lucia the following day with limited wind-damage and some flooding, and was upgraded to â€˜tropical stormâ€™ status (means winds 34kt or more).