Fri | Jul 3, 2020

‘We can’t afford a hurricane hit’ - Clarendon’s Banks ­fearful of disaster

Published:Monday | June 1, 2020 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Virginia Bedward, a resident of Banks in southern Clarendon whose house was destroyed by Hurricane Dean in 2007.
Goats drink from a pool of water in Banks district. Banks is one of several southern Clarendon communities that are prone to flooding.
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Virginia Bedward, who has lived in the low-lying southeast Clarendon community of Banks all her life, remembers like yesterday the 2007 horrors of Hurricane Dean all too well when it passed south of Jamaica, unleashing heavy winds and driving rain.

“I cannot forget Hurricane Dean. It was a Sunday, and I just finished cooking and there watching how the trees were swaying in the breeze,” Bedward said. “Little did we know how bad it would get.”

Dean was the strongest cyclone of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season.

Like other residents in Banks, Bedward dreads the havoc that a hurricane could wreak on their community as has been their collective experience.

The community is also prone to serious flooding.

Located in the sugar cane belt on lands that are flat and dry, Banks is home to approximately 700 people and 174 households, according to data from the Social Development Commission.

VIVID MEMORY

Bedward said that she was startled at the ferocity of the winds and remembers vividly how Hurricane Ivan, three years earlier, demolished homes. She said she is quietly praying that the elements spare Jamaica this season.

“My house got blown over in the night. Mi say, when the breeze wheel up under it and lift it off the foundation, it was just pure screaming.

“Luckily, neighbours help us out, and that helped soften the blow,” said Bedward.

Paula Richards, 57, said she is less worried about flooding than she is about storm-force winds.

“Where I live in Banks, flooding don’t really bother me, but you see the breeze, is that I fear because I remember Gilbert, Ivan, and Dean, where trees danced before snapping like a dry stick,” she said.

“Roofs were sent sailing, fowl coops mash up, goat pen mash down. It was awful. I don’t believe Jamaica can take a storm right now because too many people still living in poverty, and some of our houses too slight,” Richards pointed out.

Denise (real name not used), a bar owner in Four Paths, is also worried. She said that a heavy downpour flooded her establishment last year and that she is not financially prepared for another major hurricane assault.

“If a little rain can cause flooding around here like this, imagine what a hurricane can do if it comes to us. I am fretting because COVID-19 already make this slow. We cannot afford a hurricane hit right now,” she stated.

Denise told The Gleaner that her main concern was the uncleaned drains in the community.

There are very narrow and shallow drains running along the Four Paths main road that, apparently, are unable to channel away quickly any massive build-up of water, causing a spillover into residences and business places.

“Maybe the width of the drains is an issue. I am no engineer, but that, to me, is a big worry, especially with the hurricane season now upon us,” Denise said, recalling also how several of her friends from Portland Cottage were devastated by storm surges.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com