Mon | Nov 28, 2022

Storm fears

Memories of past disasters linger as Jamaica spared major impact from Ian

Published:Sunday | September 25, 2022 | 12:13 AMCorey Robinson - Senior Staff Reporter
Elaine Nixon from Weise Road in St Andrew off to buy kerosene oil as she prepares for the impact of the weather system affecting the island.
Elaine Nixon from Weise Road in St Andrew off to buy kerosene oil as she prepares for the impact of the weather system affecting the island.

Weise Road residents fear Chalky River’s rage, which destroyed their lives two years ago.
Weise Road residents fear Chalky River’s rage, which destroyed their lives two years ago.
On Friday, while the channel of Chalky River appeared properly cleared for the torrents, garbage was observed heaped along the banks and at sections of the Rae Town fishing beach a few miles away from Weise Road in Bull Bay, St Andrew.
On Friday, while the channel of Chalky River appeared properly cleared for the torrents, garbage was observed heaped along the banks and at sections of the Rae Town fishing beach a few miles away from Weise Road in Bull Bay, St Andrew.
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They may have replaced the broken fences and repainted the muddy walls, but the memories of the treacherous Weise Road flooding in St Andrew two years ago remain etched in residents’ minds and rekindled fears as the threat of Tropical Storm Ian...

They may have replaced the broken fences and repainted the muddy walls, but the memories of the treacherous Weise Road flooding in St Andrew two years ago remain etched in residents’ minds and rekindled fears as the threat of Tropical Storm Ian loomed.

They breathed a sigh of relief yesterday afternoon as the Meteorological Service issued a final bulletin at 4 p.m., advising that the tropical storm watch was discontinued for Jamaica, as Ian drifted away from the island, heading northwest.

However, the Met Service advised, “while the tropical storm remains over the west-central Caribbean, it will continue to produce a large area of showers and thunderstorms that could impact the weather over Jamaica through Monday. Locally, heavy rainfall could produce flash floods mainly over low-lying and flood-prone areas of southern and eastern parishes and residents are urged to remain alert.”

One of the hardest hit in Bull Bay in periodic heavy rains, Weise Road residents intend to remain alert. They are hoping that a towering wall of silt and sand, backed up along their narrow roadway, will hold strong against whatever threat may come from the weather system, including Chalky River’s rage.

And they are not alone.

Along the southeastern coastline, the weekend has been one of stocking up and preparing for many people – kerosene oil and food high on the checklist, according to Elaine Nixon.

Still pressed about the lack of assistance from the authorities following the 2020 flooding, Nixon said she prays God holds the Chalky River bank firmly in the expected downpour. She cannot afford any more repairs.

Clutching a bottle within which she planned to purchase kerosene oil hours late Friday, she recalled the devastation years ago.

“If we even prepare and we flood out, we not getting anything. They (Government) just come and jump around and talk, and then nothing,” she said, adding that she has spent about half a million dollars in repairs.

“Right now, is some kerosene oil I am going to look. See my daughter yard right there!? Her two granddaughters’ cars did sink! And what we get? So I’m just hoping and praying that it doesn’t flood,” she told The Sunday Gleaner.

PERENNIAL PROBLEM

On Friday, while the river channel appeared properly cleared for the torrents, garbage was observed heaped along the banks and at sections of the Rae Town fishing beach a few miles away. These are perpetual challenges for directors at the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), who spent the last few days directing limited resources in preparation for the impact from the weather system.

“Guided by experience, we had to focus the limited resources we have in the areas that are problematic, especially for flooding: the Rocky Point, Toll Gate, the Bull Bay areas,” said Audley Gordon, executive director of the NSWMA, noting that the team has been following the bulletins on the storm to direct resources where necessary.

“But we have a perennial problem with people not containerising their garbage. People just discard things at will once no one is looking. So there are those kinds of challenges, where floating garbage will always make its way into the culvert,” he said, confessing, however, that a shortage of trucks and other resources continues to hinder collections in some areas.

Weise Road residents, for instance, said that their garbage collection is irregular, an issue Gordon said the NSWMA is trying hardest to rectify.

In Nine Mile, Bull Bay, contractor Pavel Price, who lives on the coastline, said he is unperturbed.

So, too, was ‘Pablo’, a resident of Caribbean Terrace, where abandoned and dilapidated houses paint grim pictures of previous flooding.

“My place is safe for now. We not going to say the storm not going to come, but if it comes, we have to just prepare and know that in the aftermath, we just clean up,” offered Price.

“Is four a dem (storm) I ride out here, so I don’t have any fear,” noted Pablo from Caribbean Terrace. “I am just watching what a go on. If I need to take higher shelter little from this, I will take it. But right now too early,” he said behind a proud grin.

JPS PREPARED

Yesterday afternoon, the Jamaica Public Service told The Sunday Gleaner that it had no plans of shutting down the electricity grid, but that Tropical Storm Ian would be monitored closely as it passed south of the island, drifting away at about 45 mph, up to press time.

“However, if weather conditions are impacting the grid in such a way that it impacts the safety of the public, then there could be a decision to do so,” explained Audrey Williams, JPS media and public relations manager.

“We will be focused on the storm’s effect on the entire country, with particular emphasis on those areas likely to bear the brunt of the system,” she continued. “The company will make every effort to return power as quickly as possible and within the bounds of safety, the highest priority, if we have to make a decision to shut down.”

Williams said that even before the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, the JPS conducted simulation exercises, ensuring the integrity of the pole infrastructure and had escalated vegetation management. It had also been stockpiling materials.

The Met Service is urging small craft operators, including fishers from the cays and banks, to remain in safe harbour until wind and sea conditions have returned to normal.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com