Clarendon, St Catherine worst hit as floods ravage roads
A day after being spared the rainy wrath of Hurricane Ian when it was a less-powerful tropical storm, the weather system drenched southern Jamaica with near-relentless rain for much of Monday, ravaging roads and triggering landslides as it barrelled towards Florida.
While moderate to heavy rainfall was recorded in St Elizabeth to the west and Kingston and St Thomas to the east, Ian’s outer bands exacted the greatest damage in the south-central parishes of Clarendon and St Catherine. Much of the island’s drain infrastructure was tested – and failed.
Commuters who traverse the Colonel’s Ridge to Brandon Hill route in Clarendon will face even more hardship as the road deteriorated after taking a battering from the storm rains.
Principal of Mount Carmel Primary, Juliet Edwin-Williams, said the erosion of the thoroughfare presents grave danger.
It has also heightened her fears of being trapped on the road during heavy rainfall.
“Even today, there were several land slippages on the road. I can’t really leave out unless I am sure, so sometimes I have to call persons on the road to find out if the passage is clear before I can actually leave out,” she told The Gleaner on Monday.
Lamenting at least a decade of flood woes in the community, Edwin-Williams said that the deplorable drainage infrastructure chronically causes displacement for school operations as teachers are often allowed to leave early once it starts raining.
Stephen Shaw, the communications point man at the National Works Agency, gave a laundry list of affected areas in Clarendon, including May Pen, Mineral Heights, Free Town to Rasta Gully, Aenon Town, May Pen to Sour Sop Turn, Douglas Castle, and McNie.
Flooding was also reported in Bottom Halse Hall and at the Alley Bridge.
A yawning breakaway at Suttons Square has also worsened.
In St Catherine, several areas suffered knee-to-waist-high flooding, among them Job Lane, Hampton Green, St John’s Road, Johnson Pen main road, Walks Road, and Strathmore Gardens.
And despite expanding its intake capacity and expenditure of more than $20 million, Big Pond in Bannister, St Catherine, continues to be a virtual swimming pool during heavy rains.
“I was called to pick up a passenger in Bullet Tree, but when I reach here, the Big Pond take over the road. I am not prepare to put my vehicle through this water,” Marvin Douglas, a taxi driver, told The Gleaner on Monday.
Douglas said that the Pond, which links Old Harbour, Spanish Town, Bullet Tree, and other areas, has been a source of distress for commuters.
Mark Wright, who lives on Sylvester Drive, believes that the problem can be addressed if the corridor is elevated.
“I have being living here for 45 years and continue to suffer from the flooding. I have recommended that the authorities lift the road about three feet,” Wright said.
“Once the road lift and culverts are clean, the work is done.”
Bullet Tree resident Deborah Jones said that her household has looked on with dread whenever dark clouds hover. She has endured flood ordeals for decades.
“When I came here 24 years ago, I did not know there was a pond in the area, until I started to build the house,” Jones said.
“Each time it rains, there is a wave of anxiety. This pond is a real threat to development and growth.”
Back in Clarendon, Edwin-Williams is fearful that more showers could saturate Colonel’s Ridge, carving deeper potholes and trenches and softening the embankment where motorists currently drive.
“The drains are already blocked, and with the volume of water it is going to be more hazardous to navigate,” she told The Gleaner.
Transport operators are lamenting the wear and tear of deplorable roads, citing costly maintenance budgets because of damaged suspension and front-end parts.
Taxi rides from Pennants, said Edwin-Williams, take as long as 90 minutes because of the uneven surface.
“The other day they were going down and the taxi bottom began to scratch,” she said of the rubbing of the vehicle’s undercarriage against the road surface.
“They had to get out of the taxi and walk a part of the journey.”