Editorial

Beware, the hurricane season approaches...

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

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Hopefully the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season will not be as active as an earlier forecast we have seen from Colorado State University's Department of Atmospheric Science Tropical Meteorology Project.

According to that forecast, which was issued in April, the region will likely see 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

The forecast, we are told, is traditionally one of the first looks at the upcoming Atlantic Hurricane Season, and going forward more detailed outlooks will be released nearer to the official June 1 start of the season.

Last year the season produced 17 named storms, 10 of which strengthened into hurricanes, including six that became major hurricanes, ie category three, four, or five.

Some of the territories hit by those cyclones — Harvey, Irma and Maria being the most devastating — are still recovering from the destruction. They, therefore, will be extremely nervous as this year's season draws close.

But so are we here in Jamaica. For, even as we give thanks for being spared a direct hit last year, we always face this time of year knowing that we can be affected by any of these storms that come into the Caribbean.

That is why we raised the issue of preparedness in this space last Friday, asking what has been done to reduce our vulnerability to storms for the next hurricane season.

The questions, we believe, are worth asking again — Have building codes been updated and implemented so our infrastructure can survive increasingly stronger storms? Have we made any improvements to drainage? Have we actually enforced zoning by removing informal structures along river paths? Do we know which vital public and private assets must be protected? Do we know the cost of replacing those assets, and do we have a plan to insure them?

As we noted last week, the country's growth aspirations were totally frustrated by sustained rain. Now, while the island has not, so far this year, experienced the volume of rain it did in early 2017, the authorities cannot get comfortable, as the damage from showers, associated with a trough, that affected the island over last weekend into yesterday has indicated that we have a lot of work to do.

Reports of flooding, landslides and infrastructure damage in a number of communities were received by our newsroom. Add to those the National Water Commission reporting that several of its systems in western parishes were out of operation because of “extremely high levels of turbidity brought on by heavy rainfall”.

The National Works Agency also reported that it had to deploy heavy equipment to clear a large deposit of silt from the Bull Bay to Grant's Pen road on the eastern end of the island, while the road from Windsor Forest to Mahogany Vale was badly scoured, making vehicular commute difficult.

If all this can result from last weekend's rain, imagine what would happen during a major hurricane.

We can never be too prepared, because we are all well aware that the rain will come. Let us not become complacent.

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