Fri | Feb 23, 2018

Letter of the Day | Storm warnings: when will we learn?

Published:Saturday | August 6, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I would like to commend Major Clive Davis and his team at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and allied agencies engaged in the preparation for Tropical Storm Earl which later evolved into a hurricane.

ODPEM made the right call in issuing a tropical storm warning as a strengthening weather system approached the island on Monday. They should not have to defend that decision. This is not the first time ODPEM has come under attack for issuing weather advisories, and I don't think it will be the last time. ODPEM is an agency that continues to give sterling service to this country.

Why don't we in this country respect knowledge, research and persons who know what they are doing?

I remember Hurricane Gilbert very well on September 12, 1988. I learnt of its arrival the Saturday evening before. I made sure to get the Sunday Gleaner early to see the path of the hurricane. I had never experienced the full brunt of a hurricane, but I had the gut feeling that this one was going to hit us (Jamaica had not received a direct hit since Charlie on August 17,1951).

As I walked on French Street in Spanish Town the afternoon before, men were playing dominoes. People were walking about with not a care in the world. That night, a lady called RJR and said: "Jamaica is a God-blessed country and He will not allow this hurricane to hit us." I will never forget this.

The host was left speechless: "Listeners, what am I to say to this lady?"

The following morning when Gilbert was almost at Morant Point, parents were calling to find out if they should send their children to school!

The complaint then was that the population did not know early enough about the impending hurricane. Fortunately, Gilbert was only a Category Three hurricane when it hit us. It nevertheless showed up deficiencies in the construction of our roofs.

We know of a mother and two children and a would-be rescuer losing their lives in Myersville, St Elizabeth, after the passage of a hurricane.

We know of people who refused to leave the cays sending out an SOS to the JDF Coastguard during Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

Let us follow the instructions of the experts. As ODPEM says, "We have to protect lives." Far fewer lives would be lost on our roads if we were more cautious.

Instead of upbraiding ODPEM, we should take that attitude towards the agencies responsible for cleaning the drains and at the people who dump garbage in the gullies. We all know of roadways in our communities that are usually flooded after heavy showers. For example, the section near to Bishop Gibson High School should never have been flooded.

Fortunately, Earl didn't hit us. We still have three and a half months to go.


Department of Humanities

Northern Caribbean University