Editorial

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey...

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

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You can't avoid being moved by the devastation unleashed on Texas by Hurricane Harvey over the past few days.

Up to yesterday the authorities had confirmed only three deaths, but there is great fear that the toll will rise, as is the case with these kinds of natural disasters. That fear will be heightened by the fact that the hurricane was yesterday basically hovering over the Gulf Coast and, according to meteorologists, is expected to dump two more feet of rain on top of the more than 30 inches already affecting some areas in the state.

Wire service reports tell us that early yesterday the storm continued to drench Houston, America's fourth largest city, with the rain falling at a pace of about half-an-inch per hour over Harris County, where Houston sits, and up to two inches per hour to the east.

The Associated Press reports Mr Edmond Russo, a deputy district engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers, as saying that Harvey is generating an amount of rain that would normally be seen only once in more than 1,000 years. That has raised concerns that flood water would spill around a pair of 70-year-old reservoir dams that protect downtown Houston.

We are also told that forecasters are projecting that Harvey will slow-march eastward, as far as Mississippi, by tomorrow, which means that New Orleans, the city that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is in Harvey's path.

Harvey slammed into the Texas coast line at category four strength, the second-highest classification on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Storms of that intensity pack maximum sustained winds of 130 to 156 mph.

We well recall that on September 12, 1988 when Hurricane Gilbert hit Jamaica it was at category three strength with sustained winds of about 130 mph.

Official data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that Gilbert claimed 45 lives in Jamaica, destroyed hundreds of homes and infrastructure, downed electricity poles, and wiped out crops and livestock.

Extensive flooding was also reported across the island as Gilbert produced storm surges up to 19-feet high and dumped more than 32 inches of rain on the country.

The damage was so devastating that then Prime Minister Edward Seaga, after an aerial tour of the island, said that the country looked like Hiroshima after the atom bomb was dropped on that Japanese city in World War II.

Total damage was estimated at US$4 billion.

Since then, Jamaica has experienced other powerful storms, resulting in loss of life and extensive damage to property and infrastructure.

We should not lose sight of the fact that due to the effects of global warming these storms are growing more powerful each year, and Jamaica, given our geographic location, is always prone to being affected. In fact, just this week another system that could develop into a hurricane was formed off the east coast of Africa. Hopefully it will swerve north into the open Atlantic and dissipate. But we can never be sure with these weather systems. As such, it is our duty to ensure that we all are prepared.

We extend our sympathies to the people of the United States affected by Hurricane Harvey and hope that they will be able to recover quickly from this tragedy.

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