When Paul Rinta, his wife and two children (who are five and three) set out in a kayak equipped with a sail near Isla Penca, in Santa Cruz, they expected to enjoy the area’s natural beauty. They did not expect the weather that was approaching.
During their expedition, strong winds began to rock the kayak until it swamped. The American family was forced to swim 200 meters to the island, where they were rescued by members of Flamingo’s coast guard station.
According to the coast guard, this event – which happened this past Wednesday, April 19th – didn’t get out of hand. However, without safety devices, the rains that have surprised Guanacaste could have had fatal consequences.
The National Meteorological Institute (in Spanish, IMN) explained in a press release that the country is influenced by an area called the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) since this past April 17th. This means that we are in transition to the rainy season, which usually happens in May.
This creates conditions for strong downpours and gusts of wind that Guanacastecans have experienced lately. Experts ask for caution if you’re going to a river, beach, or any place prone to flooding.
Is “Winter” Here?
According to Gabriela Chinchilla, meteorologist at the IMN, this phenomenon occurs because the country is passing through a tropical system near latitude 10 called the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).
When the planet revolves, Costa Rica passes through this area and is inflenced by its atmospheric characteristics. Around this time of the year, the area causes more downpours, lightning storms, and gusts of wind.
In our country, this event marks the beginning of the rainy season, which gains strength in May.
“Starting in November it starts moving south, which is when precipitation will decrease,” said the meteorologist.
This event gained strength in recent days, particularly between Monday the 17th and Wednesday the 19th of April. It lost strength in the following days, and once again strengthened this week.
The ITCZ has been “especially active recently, and due to other atmospheric factors it has become disorganized,” explained Chinchilla. She added that she expects it to grow stronger this week (April 23-28).
Will El Niño Arrive?
Early rains will not save Guanacaste from El Niño, which is predicted to arrive in the second semester of this year, according to meteorologist Rebeca Morera.
“Right now, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a strong El Niño. We expect normal or dry conditions on the Pacific slope and, on the contrary, rains in the Caribbean and Northern Zone,” said the specialist.
“It’s important that people who know that they’re in high-risk areas that are prone to landslides, floods or overflowing rivers are always informed, that they’re not caught off guard by the rain,” said Chinchilla.
Rodolfo Coto, captain at the Flamingo Coast Guard Station, being informed about weather conditions and a vessel’s safety can make a significant difference in an emergency.
“When people vacation at these beaches they should take the IMN’s recommendations into account: be aware of the ocean’s state, sea currents, the type of vessel, and that they have life vests in good shape,” said Coto.
In this kind of climate, and due to the possibility of strong downpours and lightening, IMN’s experts recommend being cautious of fallen trees or electrical poles due to wind gusts.
Strong gusts have caused issues in the electrical grid and blown trees over in Las Pailas, Santa Maria, Santa Rosa, Murciélago, Junquillal, and Horizontes.