The west and devastating flood rains
The history of western Jamaica is chock-full of stories about natural disasters to include numerous cases of flooding in communities such as Newmarket, in St Elizabeth; Chigwell, in Hanover; and McNeil Lands, in Westmoreland.
The year 2010 will long be remembered by residents of both New Market and Chigwell, who were severely affected by flooding in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Nicole. Both communities were cut off by road for several weeks, and had to resort to bamboo rafts and boats to get in and out of the communities.
While St James has never had the kind of devastation witnessed in New Market and Chigwell, the parish had a horrifying experience last year when nine-year-old twin brothers, Brandon and Brayden Jones, who were students at the Green Pond Primary School, drowned after being washed away by flood waters in Cornwall Courts.
The death of the boys sparked a major public-education campaign in the parish, which saw schools being visited and teachers and students being lectured on important safety and security measures in the event of natural disasters.
"We visited the Green Pond Primary School and held sensitisation sessions with the teachers and students," said Tamoy Sinclair, disaster coordinator for St James.
"We also visited other schools, spreading the message of safety and the need for the children to heed safety warnings and precautions."
Despite the horrible experiences that communities such as New Market, Parottee, Treasure Beach, Greenfield, New River and New Holland have had over the years on account of flooding, residents have flatly rejected relocation as the solution to the recurring situation.
"Most of the residents do not want to move. Even during the times of disaster (flooding), they refuse to be evacuated, fearing that their homes would be looted," said Claudine Forbes, the disaster coordinator for St Elizabeth.
Following the passage of Tropical Storm Nicole in 2010, the vast majority of Newmarket was left under water. Numerous homes, business places and farms were flooded out, resulting in massive dislocation. Rafts and boats replaced car and trucks as primary sources of transportation in some sections of the town.
Like Newmarket, the town of Chigwell has a long history of flooding and, as a consequence, it is not unusual for residents to start getting ready for the rainy season by constructing bamboo rafts for transportation, should there be flooding.
"Nicole (Tropical Storm Nicole) caused severe flooding ... displacing more than 650
persons in Chigwell," recalled Olga Faye Headley, who was the disaster coordinator for Hanover in 2010. "The rising waters forced residents wishing to leave the districts to do so by rafts built by community persons."
While Trelawny and Westmoreland have not had many frightening experiences in regards to flooding, they, too, have flood-prone areas.
In Trelawny, the flood-prone areas are Warsop, Troy, Wait-A-Bit, Martha Brae, Wakefield, Zion, Granville, Falmouth, Holland, Hyde, Clark's Town and Jackson Town. McNeil Lands, Ricketts River, Little London and Grange Hill are the flood-prone areas in Westmoreland.