If Tropical Storm Gonzalo hits us…


If Tropical Storm Gonzalo hits us…

Friday, July 24, 2020

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If the projection of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) holds, Jamaica could be affected by what is now Tropical Storm Gonzalo early next week.

The thought of any country being hit by a severe weather system, particularly a tropical storm, at this time is unsettling as most jurisdictions are still struggling to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Last month we reported the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) saying that the hurricane season should start occupying the minds of the region's disaster risk management apparatus.

The agency noted that, while this may seem daunting in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, which is already stretching resources, the region must move quickly to put plans in place.

CDEMA pointed to a forecast by Colorado State University of above-normal activity for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season and advised that the region should start planning for the very real possibility of managing two major events concurrently.

Yesterday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami reported that Gonzalo had strengthened as it made its way towards the southern Windward Islands. As such, Barbados was under a hurricane watch. The centre of Gonzalo is forecast to approach Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines late today into tomorrow.

At press time the storm was moving west at 12 miles per hour. The weather experts also said they expect that a general westward motion at a faster forward speed will be followed by a turn towards the west-northwest tomorrow.

If Gonzalo stays on that path and maintains its current speed Jamaica, as we said, should start feeling its effects by next Tuesday afternoon. The big question now is: Are we ready for that event?

Last month Dr Marcia Campbell, the chief medical officer of health for St James, told this newspaper that while concerns have been raised about the potential impact of an above-normal hurricane season and the COVID-19 on the island, authorities are actively putting plans in place to prevent a catastrophe. She said the health authorities and the municipal corporations had been going through emergency shelters and identifying areas to accommodate people who, based on screening or assessment, have respiratory symptoms or any other symptom that suggest they may be COVID-19 positive.

The plan, Dr Campbell said, was for those people to be accommodated in that space until further assessment and relocation could take place.

That is commendable, as are the shelter management fora and training exercises conducted in St Elizabeth recently. We were also told that those shelter managers have been stockpiling resources in preparation for the hurricane season.

We are aware that preparations are being made by other municipal corporations, but as we all know, the country's resources are limited. It is against that background that we urge the authorities to make the best use of what is available.

Now is the time for the people who have control of State resources to divest themselves of the urge to apportion those resources to themselves, their families, friends, and individuals who are genetically linked to their political parties.

There is no place for selfishness and greed in this climate.

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