Government to take proactive approach to hurricane season
Notwithstanding the backlash faced last year for issuing a tropical storm warning prior to system classification, the Government intends to exercise the same 'proactive' approach if faced with a similar threat this year, according to Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie.
"Last year when Matthew blew past us, we were once again reminded of the need for advance preparation," said McKenzie at the launch of Disaster Preparedness Month and observance of the start of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season last Thursday at the Office of the Prime Minister.
"We (Government) make no apologies for what we did last year and it is the intention of the administration to be very proactive this year; and if means we have to repeat the things we did last year, we are going to do it because it is in the interest of the people," he added.
Of the seven tropical systems that developed into hurricanes last year, only two were considered a direct threat to Jamaica - Tropical Storm Earl (August 1 and 2) and Hurricane Matthew (September 29-October 4).
Amid their build-up and expectancy to cause widespread damage, neither system did a great deal of destruction.
In adding that there will also be a review of the type and number of shelters across the country, McKenzie implored citizens to take personal responsibility to prevent disasters.
"It is not fair for us to ask our first responders - the Jamaica Fire Brigade, the military, the police - to be going out there risking their own personal lives because persons have some form of stick bruk off in dem ears and they don't want to listen," the minister said.
Stating that meteorological factors point to this year's hurricane season being a normal one (five to nine systems), the director of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, Evan Thompson, said last year's move was met with commendation from the international community.
"As a result of last year, the National Hurricane Centre, for the first time in its history, will be issuing similar warning messages prior to tropical cyclone classification. Also, the World Meteorological Organisation representative in North America, Central America and the Caribbean and the coordinating director of the Caribbean Meteorological Organisation expressed that what we did was the only appropriate action that could have been taken at the time," he said.