Mon | Aug 20, 2018

ODPEM says preparation for hurricane season fair

Published:Wednesday | June 1, 2016 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

With projections showing that at least three storms could become major hurricanes this season, Richard Thompson, deputy director at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), is reassuring the public that the agency is working assiduously to respond to any major disaster that might occur.

The hurricane season begins today and ends on November 30.

Lawrence Brown, acting head of the Weather Branch at the Meteorological Offices of Jamaica, made reference to an updated projection released from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday. It predicts a 70 per cent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

It further stated that while a near-normal season is most likely, with a 45 per cent chance, there is also a 30 per cent chance of an above-normal season and a 25 per cent chance of a below-normal season. Included in the outlook is Hurricane Alex, a pre-season storm that formed over the far eastern Atlantic in January.

Thompson asserted that it is important that persons be vigilant, especially citizens living in vulnerable communities.

"There are still issues especially for persons who live in what we call collection points for water. Here we are talking about the river banks, gullies in addition to other vulnerable areas, which are always hotspots for us," he said.

"The issue of squatting is very dynamic and has been a long-standing discussion for years. As an organisation, we are focused on coping mechanisms because relocation will take time, and there is a lot of work that will have to be employed for us to improve in this area," he said.




The deputy director also urged persons to keep abreast with the parish councils and the ODPEM as to designated shelters. He further pointed out that the agency is doing all it can to ensure that the country builds resilience.

"We are not where we want to be, especially as it relates to resources and the demand. We are constantly doing the work. The resources might be limited, but we are writing projects, we are keeping in touch with donor groups and non-governmental organisations so that we can try to meet the demand," he said.

Brown in his comments noted that with the emerging effects of climate change, it is imperative that persons be extra careful.

"All it takes is a storm surge to cause severe damage. This is also compounded by the rising effects of climate change, things are no longer predictable, and so we have to be on our guard," Brown said.

"As an agency, we promise that we will ensure that our communication efforts are efficient and easy to access so that persons can be reliably informed and make the necessary preparations," he continued.