JAMAICA last night remained under a tropical storm watch and the nation was urged to brace for heavy rain today from Tropical Storm Isaac, which was projected to pass approximately 250 kilometres or 160 miles off the island's northeast coast.
Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 295 km (185 miles), primarily north and east of the centre.
"Residents should prepare for periods of heavy rainfall, amounting to near 150 millimetres (six inches), between Friday night and Saturday. There is, therefore, the potential for flash flooding and landslides, mainly over low-lying and flood-prone areas of the country," the National Meteorological Service said last night.
At the same time, small craft operators, including fishers from the cays and banks, should have returned to the mainland by yesterday afternoon, and have been advised to remain in safe harbour until all warning messages are lifted and wind and sea conditions returned to normal.
The centre of Tropical Storm Isaac which, at late afternoon yesterday, was located near Latitude 17.2 degrees North, Longitude 71.9 degrees West, or about 460 kilometres (285 miles) east-southeast of Morant Point, Jamaica, or 160 kilometres (100 miles) south-southeast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was likely to make landfall in Haiti last night, move near or over eastern and central Cuba today and approach the Florida Keys tomorrow.
Maximum sustained winds yesterday increased to near 100 km/h (65 mph), with higher gusts, and little change in strength was likely before landfall, followed by some weakening as the centre crosses Haiti and southeastern Cuba.
Last night, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller urged all citizens to take the necessary precautions to protect life and property as the island will come under the influence of the storm.
"I urge everyone to prepare for the effects of this storm. Follow all the necessary precautionary guidelines and warnings offered by our emergency services," a Jamaica House release quoted the prime minister.
Simpson Miller also urged her fellow Jamaicans to look out for their families and neighbours, especially the infirmed and the elderly who may need help to prepare for the expected bad weather. She also asked that special care and attention be given to children to ensure that they are safe.
The prime minister reminded her countrymen to store water for drinking and domestic use. That advice was reinforced by the National Water Commission (NWC), which yesterday activated its hurricane preparedness programme as Isaac drew closer.
"While the NWC is taking all appropriate measures to protect its systems and provide continued service to our valued customers, water supply, and wastewater systems are inherently vulnerable to hurricanes, storms and flood conditions," said the company's president Albert Gordon.
"While it is recommended that persons store as much water as is possible, customers should store at least one gallon of water per person, per day, in the household for about seven days. Water should be stored in clean, airtight containers in a cool place. Persons with tanks are being cautioned to fill them and ensure that the no-return valves are working so that the water does not flow back into the public main," the NWC said.
In light of the anticipated bad weather, the National Gallery closed early yesterday, and will remain closed to the public over the weekend.
Several organisations also cancelled activities planned for this weekend because of the possibility of flood rains from Isaac.