Touched by Tomas
Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter
After dithering and dawdling over the Caribbean Sea for almost one week, Tropical Storm Tomas struck Jamaica yesterday dumping several inches of rain in some areas, as it drifted slowly past the north-east coast and headed towards Haiti and Cuba.
Forecasters had projected that Jamaica would experience the worst of the winds and rains associated with Tomas between 7 yesterday evening and 7 this morning, but for many residents of Portland, St Thomas and St Mary the problems started much earlier.
By 5 p.m. yesterday the Meteorological Service was reporting that moderate showers associated with Tomas had been reported over sections of St Mary, Portland, St Thomas, Kingston and St Andrew and St Catherine.
Up to three inches of rainfall had been recorded in Portland.
But for persons in many other sections of the island, the expected deluge from Tomas did not come as only moderate to light rainfall was reported.
That was explained by weather forecasters who noted that the worst of the rains associated with Tomas was on the eastern side of the system and away from Jamaica.
However, the forecasters, including the local Met Service, warned that flash-flooding was possible in areas of mainly eastern parishes.
Above-average wave heights were also reported over coastal areas of north-eastern parishes.
That caused local disaster preparedness experts to remain on full alert last night with an appeal to Jamaicans not to let down their guard.
The appeal was led by Prime Minister Bruce Golding who returned to the island yesterday from Barbados and immediately assumed control of the preparations.
After a meeting at the National Emergency Operations Centre and a tour of the Medical Emergency Operations Centre, Golding flew to Portland and St Thomas for a first-hand look at the preparations.
He later called on Jamaicans to be alert but calm.
"We cannot control the storm, the path it takes or the fury it unleashes but we can do much to protect ourselves, avoid the loss of lives and minimise the damage to our property," Golding said.
The prime minister also announced that schools in the eastern end of the island will remain closed today while emergency shelters stocked with food and water will remain open.
He said the emergency teams would remain on alert throughout last night to respond to any eventualities.
At 4 p.m. yesterday, the centre of Tropical Storm Tomas was located about 140 kilometres or 85 miles south of Morant Point.
Tomas was moving towards the north near seven kilometres or five miles per hour (mph) with a gradual turn towards the north-east and an increase in forward speed expected.
Maximum sustained winds were near 85km/h (50mph), with higher gusts reported.