West ready for hurricane season – NWA
Despite projections that 2016 hurricane season will be one of the most active in recent years, with above-normal rainfall and flash-flooding expected over the next six months, the National Works Agency (NWA) has said Western Jamaica is ready.
The hurricane season, which officially began June 1 and will end November 30, has always been a source of heightened concern for residents of the west, based on the region's long history of flooding, especially Chigwell, Hanover; and New Market, St Elizabeth.
However, according to Janel Ricketts, NWA community-relations officer for the western region, in recent months, the agency has been involved in clean-up programmes, targeting critical drains and gullies, which have been flooded in the past.
"This is between the Zika virus clean-up effort and the 'Spruce Up Jamaica,' which is sponsored by TPDCo (Tourism Product Development Company), which has spent in excess of $25 million over the last couple of months," Ricketts told The Gleaner.
"We are just winding up the Negril to Sheffield road- improvement project. There were sections of that corridor that periodically had flooding, like, by Red Ground and in the vicinity of the Negril Hills Golf Club," stated Ricketts. "We improved the drainage and raised those sections to reduce flooding so, come this hurricane season, these areas we would normally associate with flooding will not have that situation."
Ricketts also noted that more than $544 million was spent on projects in Hanover, which included resurfacing and improvement of drainage features.
Nevertheless, despite the long history of flooding along Seaview Drive, the main road leading through Lucea, the repair of that thoroughfare is yet to be tackled by the NWA. According to Ricketts, NWA does not have a programme in place to deal with that long-standing problem.
Seaview Drive, a crucial link between the resort towns of Montego Bay and Negril, has always been prone to flooding whenever there is a heavy downpour, often leading to a disruption of traffic and the slowing down of commercial activities.
"The road is below sea level so we are going to need a significant intervention there to curb the problem, but it is an area we are seriously looking at. We realise the challenge that is along that section of the roadway," said Ricketts.
In the meantime, Ricketts said the flooding of sections of St James Street and Creek Street, in Montego Bay, which has been a long-standing matter, is now a thing of the past.
"The flooding by Creek Street was normally associated with the overflow of South Gully. We have been getting those sections clean over a couple of months and we will continue to do so," said Ricketts.
"We have ensured the clean-up of silt wherever it becomes blocked by debris that come down, and St. James Street had received the same treatment."