Fri | Dec 2, 2022

Not out of the Woods

Losses mount as Clarendon community suffers flooding because drain runs across road

Published:Monday | October 3, 2022 | 12:08 AMOlivia Brown/Gleaner Writer
Nelford Gayle of New Longville stands on a footbridge to his house that spans a near-seven-foot drain. He said the footbridge was submerged during last Friday’s flood.
Nelford Gayle of New Longville stands on a footbridge to his house that spans a near-seven-foot drain. He said the footbridge was submerged during last Friday’s flood.
Winsome Palmer of LAP Blocks says that the Woods flood on Friday caused a breakaway at her property, resulting in the loss of half a million dollars worth of concrete blocks that were swept away.
Winsome Palmer of LAP Blocks says that the Woods flood on Friday caused a breakaway at her property, resulting in the loss of half a million dollars worth of concrete blocks that were swept away.
Motorists drive past a section of the flood-damaged Woods roadway in Clarendon on Saturday.
Motorists drive past a section of the flood-damaged Woods roadway in Clarendon on Saturday.
A breakaway along the Woods main road in Clarendon poses danger to unsuspecting motorists as it is more than five feet deep at its extremity.
A breakaway along the Woods main road in Clarendon poses danger to unsuspecting motorists as it is more than five feet deep at its extremity.
1
2
3
4

Block manufacturer Winsome Palmer is just as shell-shocked as residents of the central Clarendon community of Woods who watched helplessly as the denuded main road and fallen trees bowed to the wrath of raging floodwaters last Friday. Days after...

Block manufacturer Winsome Palmer is just as shell-shocked as residents of the central Clarendon community of Woods who watched helplessly as the denuded main road and fallen trees bowed to the wrath of raging floodwaters last Friday.

Days after the westward-drifting Hurricane Ian drenched the south-central parish, more heavy rain transformed the corridor into a virtual river, rendering it impassable for hours.

Palmer, who owns LAP Blocks factory, was a picture of despondence as she spoke of the loss of more than 4,000 of her blocks which were flushed into a gully after a section of her land collapsed during Friday’s rainfall.

Of some 5,000 blocks made that day, only about 800 were spared, leaving financial losses amounting to almost half a million dollars. Pallets, gas cylinders, and a water tank, among other items, were also washed away.

Palmer, who operates the business with her husband and son, said she has been having sleepless nights since the disaster.

“We’ve been doing business from 2015 and we’ve never seen anything like this ... Never ever! The water come all the way up. Yesterday (Friday), I saw the water coming around the office and I said, ‘No, man!’, and then one of the little youth working say to me, ‘The gas bottle dem a wash weh!’” a distressed Palmer told The Gleaner.

“Mi devastated up to now, cause I don’t like disaster,” she added.

Video footage Friday showed several cars under water.

At least one motorist resolved to using rope to tie his partially damaged vehicle to a tree to prevent it from being carried away by the deluge.

While explaining that the road’s design made it susceptible to flooding, National Works Agency (NWA) Communications Manager Stephen Shaw told The Gleaner that the area was prioritised for repairs.

“We have flagged that area as one that we are giving some attention as it relates to the cleaning and clearing of waterways, but the road itself lends itself to flooding, because you have several points where the storm water crosses the road, because the road is really part of the drainage feature from Bucknor up to Sour Sop Turn. In sections, the drain runs close to the road; in other sections, the drains cross the road,” Shaw said.

Woods is the entrance to the Clarendon North Central constituency, which includes the community of New Longville, where there were similar scenes of havoc.

Palmer explained that the continuous rainfall had affected production at her block factory.

The rain had prevented the business operator from deploying a backhoe to move the pallets bearing the blocks, so she decided to leave them in the yard.

“It nuh easy to watch all that you have toiled for over the years, you watch it going down. Yes, you have to be appreciative because it could have been worse and no life was lost, but coming from scratch and reach here so ... and then you don’t even know if you’re going to get any help because they were supposed to clean that gully years ago,” she lamented.

Palmer’s son, Leighton, said that the livelihood of 15 employees now hangs in the balance as uncertainties surround the resumption of the factory activities.

One resident, Michael Brown, told The Gleaner that he was on his way to a graduation in May Pen, the parish capital, but abandoned the trip because the roadway was impassable.

“The drains don’t hold none of the water, so everything deh pan the road. A whole lot of vehicles mash up ... whole heap. Car all turn over. Wrecker have all three cars one time. A the first me ever see damage like this,” the elderly man said.

Another resident, Nelford Gayle, said the water overflowed a gully some seven feet deep near his home, then subsequently covered a footbridge.

“The motorists them travelling from May Pen to this direction them experience it the worse. The rain fall for about an hour, so if we have more than an hour worth a rainfall, the damage a go worse, so we thank God say a [this amount] a rain fall,” said Gayle.

olivia.brown@gleanerjm.com