Message by Deputy government commissioner Claudia Toet at ecumenical service to mark end of 2022 hurricane season.

I thank the reverend Telford Matthew for his kind invitation to this service of thanksgiving to mark the end of the hurricane season. In fact, I can think of no better place for us to gather to give thanks to God for seeing us through the 2022 season reasonably unscathed.

 Except for a slight brush with Tropical Storm Fiona in September, we were largely spared the worst of what forecasters had predicted would have been an active season. We are tremendously thankful also that the season was not nearly as active as 2020 or 2021.

But we cannot afford to be complacent because complacency can be our worst enemy; it can stand in the way of potential, productivity and progress. While we are grateful that Statia was not affected, we cannot ignore the fact that our neighbours in Puerto Rico suffered extensive damage by the very tropical Storm Fiona that spared us. We must not forget that lives were lost in Florida, which, along with Nova Scotia in Canada, also suffered tens of millions of dollars in storm damage during the season. So while we give thanks here today, let us also pray for the families who are still trying to recover from their personal loss.

And, although the most recent sub-tropical storm formed in December was in 2013, and that there are only 33 such late forming systems in recorded history, we have to continue to be vigilant. We must not let our guards down, and we must always be prepared. We have all seen what climate change has done to storm patterns and intensity.   

The truth is that we are better prepared for storms than we’ve ever been. Technology continues to improve, the tools to generate the models are getting better all the time, and the forecast are getting more and more accurate. And so, not only do we have more reliable information, but we also have new and more effective means of disseminating it.

A perfect example of this was Tropical Storm Fiona. We were able to respond in a timely manner with relevant information by utilizing various media. Of course, it helps that our community is experienced and calm in these circumstances.

We are also focusing on making ourselves more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate, which will significantly impact both the pace and intensity of some of these storms. The world's top climate scientists tell us that extreme weather events like hurricanes are likely to become more powerful. When you combine stronger storms with rising seas, it's a recipe for more devastating floods and other disasters.

Our emergency operations centre, which was officially opened on Statia Day, is one example of how we are placing ourselves in the best position to manage and mitigate crises whether hurricanes and storms or major accidents and incidents.

This centre is one of the best equipped such facilities in the Dutch Caribbean and will help us become even more resilient and emerge from crises stronger and more successful.  But it’s only a small step in our continued progress.

We have to keep planning, keep persisting, keep pushing, keep building a more resilient and hurricane-prepared Statia than any of us can possibly imagine.