MATTHEW THE MEN­ACE

Dan­ger­ous hur­ri­cane could blow Ja­maica’s econ­omy off course

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jodi-Ann Gillpin Gleaner Writer jodi-ann.gilpin@glean­erjm.com

WITH THE dan­ger­ous Hur­ri­cane Matthew con­tin­u­ing to drift to­wards Ja­maica’s east­ern coast, Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness has ex­pressed fear that the sys­tem, which is fluc­tu­at­ing be­tween the max­i­mum Cat­e­gory Five and Cat­e­gory Four, could blow the econ­omy off course.

Hol­ness’ fears are shared by Dr Par­ris Lyew-Ayee, chair­man of the Na­tional Works Agency (NWA), who has warned that Matthew has the po­ten­tial to be the most deadly nat­u­ral dis­as­ter to hit the is­land.

“The big­gest con­cern is the im­pact on the econ­omy,” Hol­ness told jour­nal­ists yes­ter­day dur­ing the first leg of a tour of sec­tions of the is­land which could be most im­pacted by Matthew.

With a hur­ri­cane warn­ing still in ef­fect for Ja­maica, Hol­ness added that: “This weather event could de­rail our eco­nomic pro­gramme, but we are de­ter­mined not to let that hap­pen by the speed of re­cov­ery. We are en­sur­ing that all gov­ern­ment agen­cies un­der­stand that they have a role in the speedy re­cov­ery. That speedy re­cov­ery will en­sure that our econ­omy does not suf­fer un­nec­es­sar­ily.

“Of course, on a lo­cal level, com­mu­nity level, we ex­pect that we will see sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to prop­erty and dis­lo­ca­tion and hu­man suf­fer­ing that will come from such an event if we do not pre­pare. It could be sig­nif­i­cant.”

Hur­ri­cane con­di­tions are ex­pected to reach Ja­maica by to­mor­row, but trop­i­cal storm con­di­tions could hit the is­land by late this af­ter­noon into tonight, mak­ing out­side prepa­ra­tions dif­fi­cult or dan­ger­ous.

Matthew is ex­pected to pro­duce two to four inches of rain over western Ja­maica to­day into to­mor­row, with pos­si­ble iso­lated max­i­mum amounts of six inches.

How­ever, east­ern Ja­maica will be hit harder, with Matthew ex­pected to pro­duce to­tal rain ac­cu­mu­la­tion of 10 to 20 inches with pos­si­ble iso­lated max­i­mum amounts of 25 inches.

This rain­fall will likely pro­duce lifethreat­en­ing flash floods and mud­slides.

The com­bi­na­tion of a dan­ger­ous storm surge and large and de­struc­tive waves could raise wa­ter lev­els by as much as three to five feet in Ja­maica’s coastal ar­eas, putting res­i­dents of th­ese low-ly­ing com­mu­ni­ties at risk.

STORM SURGES

Swells gen­er­ated by Matthew are ex­pected to af­fect por­tions of the coasts of Ja­maica, and th­ese are likely to cause life-threat­en­ing surf and rip cur­rent con­di­tions.

This has prompted Lyew-Ayee to stress that places such as An­notto Bay, Port An­to­nio and Man­chioneal in Port­land could see some se­ri­ous storm surges and wind.

“What hap­pens is that th­ese are coastal com­mu­ni­ties that are al­ready ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a lot of land loss due to cli­mate change. With Matthew, you are go­ing to have coun­ter­clock­wise winds com­ing from the north east; that’s go­ing to stare those com­mu­ni­ties right in the face. So we are ex­pect­ing some se­ri­ous storm surge,” Lyew-Ayee told The Sun­day Gleaner.

“This is un­prece­dented. We have not had a storm of this in­ten­sity ap­proach­ing Ja­maica. This is stronger than Gil­bert (1988), stronger than Ivan (2004), so we have to take it se­ri­ous,” added Lyew-Ayee.

It is with this in mind that the prime min­is­ter has urged Ja­maicans to make it their pri­or­ity to pre­pare and keep abreast of the up­dates from the var­i­ous agen­cies.

He ap­pealed to res­i­dents in low-ly­ing ar­eas to take the pro­jec­tions se­ri­ously and take the nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions.

“We have not yet is­sued any evac­u­a­tion warn­ings, (but) I’m urg­ing all Ja­maicans to pay close at­ten­tion to the warn­ings that will be given from the po­lice, the dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness units, the NWA, and gen­er­ally from the Gov­ern­ment.

“They are all in your best in­ter­est, but even out­side of the Gov­ern­ment reach­ing the point of is­su­ing an evac­u­a­tion or­der, I’m en­cour­ag­ing Ja­maicans to take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for their safety and se­cu­rity,” said Hol­ness.

The prime min­is­ter ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion at the cur­rent state of readi­ness by the rel­e­vant agen­cies and said he is hop­ing that there will be min­i­mal loss of lives or dam­age.

“I am very sat­is­fied with what I have seen. They are pre­pared, they have sys­tems to gather in­for­ma­tion, they are able to direct re­sources and they have as­sured us that they have prepo­si­tioned equip­ment and man­power just in case of any even­tu­al­i­ties,” said Hol­ness.

“We can’t pre­dict what the storm will do. What we know is that we will be im­pacted by the storm. All the mod­els show that Ja­maica will be in the 90 per cent ef­fect band of the storm. What we have con­trol over is our abil­ity to pre­pare, and we hold firmly to the view that our prepa­ra­tion can re­duce loss of life and dam­age to prop­erty and trea­sure,” added Hol­ness.

We can’t pre­dict what the storm will do. What we know is that we will be im­pacte d by the storm.

GLAD­STONE TAY­LOR/ PHO­TOG­RA­PHER Ja­maicans do­ing last­minute shop­ping at a su­per­mar­ket in Port­more, St Cather­ine.

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