Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Mark Wignall | Raging floods and sweet dreams

Published:Thursday | May 18, 2017 | 5:00 AM

For those who drew solace, sleep and sweet dreams from the gentle roar of rain on their rooftops, they were more than too many who awoke during the night to the hell of two feet of water rising by their bedsides.

All through Monday, the rain came down with a steady purr. Then at about 2 a.m., it dropped the gentle roar and threatened with ferocity for about four hours. As is my habit during all inclement weather, I peeped outside, but all I could see was a dark-grey sheet as the rain pelted all that it hid from view.

I had seen heavier rain in my time, but I knew there would be considerable damage nevertheless. I cloaked up and ventured out at 6 a.m., taking to the streets by foot. I had no idea what the state of the roads were so I left the car safe at home.

The social-media site Facebook was already confirming some of our fears. The perennial problem during the rainy season, the Bogwalk gorge, was impassable. In the hills above and below Guy's Hill from where much of the Rio Cobre springs, roads and bridges were cut away and some people were marooned.

Sections of Ensom City were flooded out because of blocked drains and poor drainage. St Mary, St Thomas, Portland, land slips and the constant rush of water. As the constant downpour soaked into the hills in sections of Clarendon, it found its way out and down towards the plains where it settled. Close to burying some people's homes. Almost every parish was blanketed.

 

DO NOT JUDGE

 

It is difficult at this time to determine what percentage of households were flooded out mostly as a result of poor drainage or just nature doing what it will and must. Those who are fortunate to have built or bought houses on solid granite on the hillsides would do well not to conclude that those who live in rural areas close to rivers or hard-bottomed basins 'should not complain' when flooded out.

Most Jamaicans' biggest dream is to own a house and settle in. Many are not fortunate to use wealth to increase the option pool. So they settle by riversides because they are on family land and the space must be shared by more than just a few.

Some developers rip off those first-time buyers in the 'working class'. Poor sewage systems, horrible drainage, poor public infrastructure to support the development.

Farming will automatically take a blow, not because huge acreage of produce have been blown down. Much of the damage to plant life has come by the rain simply overwhelming the field as the ground becomes saturated.

This time is as good as any to re-examine those who bid for road repair contracts and win. It does appear that some of those contractors try to meet even the required minimum quality standard, but others have been flouting the rules for many years.

A key question is, why do they get away with doing substandard work, year after repeated year, and still win bids for road repairs? Or is it that there is a substandard contract issued but hidden from the unsuspecting motorist?

 

WORST BEFORE THE STORM

 

What I saw as I gathered with some 'early birds' Tuesday morning were rocks of seven, eight inches brought down the hill by the overnight deluge. It was only at a pitter-patter at that hour, but one huge section of the Sandy Gully bridge had about two feet of rushing water heading fast to sea.

Someone told me that earlier on, there were trees and parts of them. That was indicative of land breaches further up and probably damage to sections of the solidly constructed gully.

One person on Facebook pointed out that less than one month before the official hurricane season begins is simply the worst time for the ground to be saturated. "In such a situation, even a category one hurricane can do significant damage."

And, of course, there were many who chose to see raw politics in the water rising at the doorway and taking over the house. The People's National Party messed up in the past. The Jamaica Labour Party must own the damage. They push orange and see green.

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