TROPICAL Storm Nicole, the 14th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, has weakened, the Met office has said, but it will continue to pound the island with more showers and thunderstorms today.
Yesterday the storm, which developed from Tropical Depression #16, dumped buckets of rain on the island, swelling rivers, blocking and/or eroding roads; forcing the closure of schools, banks, and other businesses; and cutting power from an estimated 170,000 households across the island.
The Ministry of Education ordered all schools closed until further notice, and the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology reported that classes were suspended on account of the inclement weather.
Yesterday, light and power company Jamaica Public Service said it had activated its emergency operation centres (EOCs) islandwide to facilitate damage assessment and restoration of power to affected areas.
"However, while restoration efforts are continuing in some communities, the prevailing weather conditions have significantly compromised the company's efforts to restore power in some areas," the company said in a release, urging customers to exercise patience as it seeks to make the necessary repairs.
The JPS closed its customer service offices early, as did several government agencies, including the National Environment and Planning Agency, the Registrar General's Department, the Tax Administration Department and the National Blood Transfusion Service.
Also, some public hospitals only offered emergency services and a number of events were either postponed or cancelled.
Early in the day, the Ministry of Health advised that all public hospitals were only prepared to take emergency cases, but later said institutions in the North East Regional Health Authority — including St Ann's Bay Regional, Port Antonio, Port Maria and Annotto Bay hospitals — were offering full service.
All other public hospitals, as well as the University Hospital of the West Indies, continued to operate in emergency mode. The ministry's head office on King Street was also closed and those wishing to donate blood were urged to do so at the National Chest Hospital. All other collection centres across the island remained open.
The Jamaica Urban Transit Company announced that it would withdraw its commuter services as early as 8:30 pm as a result of flooding and other hindrances on the roadways.
"Should the existing pattern of rainfall continue, the service hours will be reduced from the normal 11:00 pm winding down time to a 9:30 pm curtailment. However, if the weather intensifies significantly, the service is likely to be curtailed at 8:30 pm," the company said.
It said normal services would resume today once the weather conditions improve.
Both international airports remained open yesterday but some flights were either cancelled or delayed.
Among the postponed events were the Ministry of Agriculture's tour of a cocoa post-harvest handling facility in St Catherine; the official opening of its export complex at the Norman Manley International Airport; Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's parish review in St James; a press conference on the findings of the DPP in the Tufton vs Christie matter; and Barita Money Market's luncheon on financing education.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Golding and Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller urged people to stay indoors and to observe the advisories of the emergency management personnel.
The system has been soaking the island since the weekend and has also affected Cuba, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and south Florida.
A flash flood warning remains in effect until 5:00 pm today.