Emergency response agencies prepared as tropical depression nears Jamaica

JAMAICA is now on a severe weather alert as the remnants of Tropical Storm Isaac are expected to dump heavy rain on the island tomorrow and Monday.

A release from the Meteorological Service yesterday said that Isaac had been downgraded to a tropical depression and is forecast to move south of Jamaica tomorrow, producing significant rainfall activity across the island through to early next week.

“Periods of showers and thunderstorms, which may be heavy and very heavy at times, are forecast to affect most parishes. Rainfall totals of 50-100 mm are possible, as well as isolated amounts up to 150 mm, therefore, flash-flooding is likely over low-lying and flood-prone areas,” the Met office said.

“Fishers and other marine interests are advised to exercise extreme caution as sea conditions will deteriorate in the vicinity of showers, thunderstorms and strong gusty winds while Isaac moves over the waters south of Jamaica,” the release added.

On Thursday, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie said that the country’s emergency response agencies are on alert.

Minister McKenzie said that although the island will not suffer a direct impact from current weather systems in the Atlantic, “precautionary measures must be taken”.

“We are now beginning to see rainfall taking place. It is very critical that we put on alert all the major players right across the country for any expectations as it relates to flooding,” he told a special sitting of the Trelawny Municipal Corporation.

He said that shelters will be activated, if necessary.

“Councillors are urged to pay attention to communities in your respective divisions that are prone to flooding, [those] that are considered to be problem areas, and don’t wait until the last moment,” he cautioned.

In the meantime, Minister McKenzie announced that $115 million will be made available to municipal corporations islandwide to carry out emergency drain cleaning over the next few days.

“This (provision)… is to ensure that we alleviate flooding. We have to look at the critical areas and ensure that drains are cleaned. So, I would urge the councillors to go out there and do what is necessary to ensure that we minimise the flooding,” he said.

Minister McKenzie also encouraged the local authorities to make the necessary provisions for homeless people during the hurricane season.

“Special attention must be paid during this period to persons living on the streets across our respective municipalities.

“I would urge you, in whatever you are doing, to ensure that if and when anything happens, that provisions are made to take these persons off the streets and to get them into shelters or into the infirmaries,” he said.