Flood fear - Rains from Richard expected to pound Ja

Richard expected to develop into hurricane tomorrow

Friday, October 22, 2010

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JAMAICA, already facing a $12-billion repair bill for damage caused by last month’s flood rains from Tropical Storm Nicole, was last night bracing for another battering with the development of Tropical Storm Richard south-west of the island.

By last night rains from Richard — the 17th named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, which is forecast to develop into a hurricane tomorrow — had begun affecting western parishes, inundating roadways and causing huge landslips.

The forecast was for rainfall accumulations of four to eight inches across the island with possible isolated amounts of 12 inches in areas of higher terrain, Jamaica’s National Meteorological Office said.

Yesterday, the National Works Agency (NWA) reported that water levels had begun to rise in sections of Trelawny, with a section of the main road from Falmouth to Springvale inundated.

The roadway was also flooded in the community of Bliss Pastures and was only accessible by large vehicles, while motorists were advised to exercise caution when travelling through the Tilston and Moefield communities.

A section of the Comfort Hall corridor, from Wales Pond to Bogue in St James, was also flooded.

At 4:00 pm yesterday, the centre of Richard was located near latitude 16.0 degrees north and longitude 80.4 degrees west or about 375 kilometres south southeast of Grand Cayman and was drifting toward the south-southeast near six km/h with maximum sustained winds of near 65 km/h, with higher gusts.

According to the Met Office, the storm’s centre is projected to remain southwest of the island until late today, before moving further west away from the island.

“As a result, unstable weather conditions are expected to continue over Jamaica (into today),” the Met Office said in its 5:00 pm bulletin.

“The forecast is for heavy and at times very heavy showers and thunderstorms across the island; flooding and flash flooding of low-lying and floodprone areas is therefore expected,” the Met Office added.

Motorists and pedestrians were warned to avoid attempting to cross flooded roadways or other low-lying areas as strong currents are likely. The Met Office also urged residents in low-lying areas to be on the alert for rising waters and be ready to move quickly to higher ground.

Last night, NWA communications manager, Stephen Shaw, said the works agency had cleared some of the drains that caused the flooding in the western end of the island, but admitted that more work needed to be done.

“We still have some work to do, coupled with the fact that the water table in some areas flooded during Nicole is still high and so flooding is still likely to occur in some parts,” he told the Observer.

Among some of these areas, he said, were the Golf Club in Negril, Toby Hole and Seven Rivers in St James.

He said that as part of the works agency’s standard operating procedure, workers were last night put on standby to effect emergency work to roadways affected by the heavy rains. However, Shaw noted that while the agency was prepared to address issues of land-slippage and fallen trees, there was not much that could be done for flooded roadways.

In the meantime, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), which had its officers across the island on standby, said it had not received any call for assistance.

“We are... monitoring the possibility of rising water levels in Moneague, St Ann and some other areas where we know flooding usually occurs,” ODPEM Director General Ronald Jackson told the Observer.

“All our mechanisms remain on high alert because we have not dropped the alert levels since the heavy rains from Nicole,” he added.

He said that emergency supplies were already dispatched to some parishes for persons who might have to go to shelters.

In the meantime, Jackson said that one family displaced by last month’s rains is still in a shelter in Sandy Park, St Andrew. The ODPEM, he said, was working to come up with a short-term accommodation for the family.

The flood rains from Nicole claimed the lives of more than 12 persons, including a family of six in Sandy Park, whose two-storey house tumbled into the Sandy Gully. The rains also caused severe damage to major roads and private properties and flattened crops on some farms.

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