THREAT FIZ­ZLES

Hur­ri­cane warn­ing down­graded though heavy rains still ex­pected

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Neville Gra­ham Staff Re­porter

LO­CAL GOV­ERN­MENT Min­is­ter Des­mond McKen­zie is stand­ing by Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to main­tain the Jamaica’s state of pre­pared­ness to its high­est level, even as the Met Ser­vice down­graded the hur­ri­cane threat to a trop­i­cal storm warn­ing and the Cat­e­gory Four sys­tem Matthew me­an­dered its way into the Cen­tral Caribbean.

“De­spite the down­grad­ing from a hur­ri­cane warn­ing to a trop­i­cal storm [warn­ing], the Gov­ern­ment will main­tain the Level Three, the one which we have been for the last two days,” McKen­zie said as he up­dated the na­tion dur­ing a press brief­ing at the Of­fice of Dis­as­ter Pre­pared­ness and Emer­gency Man­age­ment (ODPEM) yes­ter­day evening.

“This will al­low us to con­duct any search and res­cue that may be nec­es­sary af­ter the pas­sage of the storm.”

On Matthew’s cur­rent pro­jected path, Jamaica was likely to face trop­i­cal storm winds and in­creased rain­fall start­ing at 2 this morn­ing.

McKen­zie said the Gov­ern­ment was not pre­pared to re­lax, de­spite the down­grade, and re­ported that up to late Mon­day, 158 hur­ri­cane shel­ters were opened across Jamaica ca­ter­ing to about 3,500 per­sons.

The parishes with the largest num­bers of per­sons in shel­ters con­tinue to be St Thomas, Port­land and Kingston. The shel­ters are, for the most part, schools in the af­fected ar­eas.

McKen­zie said this would

mean that schools will con­tinue to be closed pend­ing an as­sess­ment af­ter the pas­sage of the hur­ri­cane.

McKen­zie said he was pre­pared for the likely back­lash if Jamaica is spared the full brunt of Hur­ri­cane Matthew.

“I know that af­ter the dust has set­tled, we will get ques­tions and some level of crit­i­cisms, but this is Jamaica, and we have to ap­pre­ci­ate and ac­cept that what we were do­ing was not just be­ing done lo­cally but it was a sys­tem that was be­ing mon­i­tored in­ter­na­tion­ally,” McKen­zie said, not­ing that all those who are knowl­edge­able had Jamaica as one of the places likely to be af­fected by the hur­ri­cane.

McKen­zie’s com­ments come two months af­ter lo­cal au­thor­i­ties faced crit­i­cism for ap­pear­ing to have over­re­acted to the threat of Trop­i­cal Storm Earl in Au­gust.

McKen­zie said while it was early, the rel­e­vant agen­cies were al­ready look­ing to­wards re­cov­ery af­ter the pas­sage of Hur­ri­cane Matthew. He re­ported that al­ready the Na­tional Works Agency and con­trac­tors China Har­bour Engi­neer­ing Com­pany have cut a tem­po­rary chan­nel across the Mar­cus Gar­vey Drive.

He said this would mean that some sec­tions of the ma­jor thor­ough­fare will re­main closed, al­low­ing for wastew­a­ter from the Shoe­maker Gully to flow freely while con­struc­tion of a new bridge con­tin­ues.

In the mean­time, Jamaica Ur­ban Tran­sit Com­pany buses could be back on the road to­day if ODPEM gives the okay.

“We are pre­pared to get back to work

to­mor­row (Tues­day), but as a pub­lic en­tity we are ex­pected and obliged to ad­here to the na­tional dis­as­ter man­age­ment stip­u­la­tions. So un­til we get clear­ance from ODPEM, we won’t ar­bi­trar­ily be just reen­gag­ing the ser­vice, be­cause the ques­tion of pub­lic safety is para­mount,” Regi­nald Allen, JUTC com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager, told The Gleaner last night.

The JUTC had pulled its buses from reg­u­lar ser­vice in light of the threat from Hur­ri­cane Matthew.

“Al­though we are hear­ing now of a trop­i­cal storm warn­ing, we are not hear­ing that we are out of dan­ger,” Allen de­clared, ex­plain­ing the com­pany’s de­ci­sion to await clear­ance from ODPEM.

JER­MAINE BARN­ABY/FREE­LANCE PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Per­sons pre­pared to ride out the im­pact of Hur­ri­cane Matthew at a shel­ter in Port An­to­nio, Port­land.

This graphic shows an ap­prox­i­mate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of coastal ar­eas un­der a hur­ri­cane warn­ing (red), hur­ri­cane watch (pink), trop­i­cal storm warn­ing (blue) and trop­i­cal storm watch (yel­low). The or­ange cir­cle in­di­cates the po­si­tion of the cen­tre of the trop­i­cal cy­clone as at 8 p.m. Mon­day. The black line, when se­lected, and dots show the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter fore­cast track of the cen­tre at the times in­di­cated.

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