TROPICAL Storm Sandy could be near hurricane strength when it makes landfall tomorrow on the southern end of Jamaica, the Meteorological Service is reporting.
Heavy rains accompanied by gale force winds are expected to affect the island today into tomorrow as the 18th named weather system, which formed uncharacteristically south of Jamaica, hits the island.
Yesterday, the Meteorological Service placed Jamaica on a Tropical Storm Watch, as at 5:00 pm Sandy was located near Latitude 12.5 degrees, Longitude 78.5 degrees West, or about 640 kilometres (395 miles) south south-west of Kingston or 490 kilometres (300 miles) south of the Pedro Cays.
“Over the next couple of days, showers and thunderstorms are expected to increase significantly over Jamaica, along with strong, gusty winds,” the Meteorological Service said.
Flash flooding, the Met Service said, is therefore likely between this evening and Thursday, while storm surge of near two metres is possible along the southern coastline from Clarendon to St Thomas.
Meteorological technician at the Met Service Andre Cuthbert told the Jamaica Observer that, while tropical storm conditions are expected to begin today, the system will move over Jamaica tomorrow morning.
“The full impact of the system should be around Wednesday, although we will begin feeling some effects by tomorrow (today),” Cuthbert said.
He explained further that based on the forecast, it is to be expected that Jamaica will definitely be impacted, initially by a lot of rainfall, followed by wind.
The Met Service said Tropical Storm Sandy has remained nearly stationary over the past few hours, but a motion towards the north and northnorth-east is expected during the next couple of days.
On this forecast track, the centre of the tropical storm will begin to move across Jamaica, from south to north, near midday tomorrow.
Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Ronald Jackson said flooding is a distinct possibility for some sections of the island over the next two days.
While the island will also be impacted by wind, Jackson said the major impact will be from flooding.
“We are expecting significant flooding for low-lying areas, with between eight and 12 inches of rainfall expected over that period,” Jackson told the Observer yesterday. As such, the ODPEM boss said parish co-ordinators have already been mobilised, additional resources allocated and the political directorate briefed.
Shelters, he said, have already been identified and a list of such facilities will be made available today.
Meanwhile, the emergency machinery will fully kick in today as Jackson said there will be a further briefing of other emergency agencies and response teams today.
Jackson said while attention will be placed on communities made vulnerable by the recent heavy rains, there are several other areas which will be closely monitored by the agency, as a result of the current weather forecast.
“Because of the nature of the system, it can be much more widespread, and so we are planning for the entire island,” Jackson said.
However, among the communities which will come in for greater scrutiny are Bull Bay, Nine Miles, Ten Miles, Taylor, and Trinityville, as well as others in St Thomas.
“We don’t want to alarm the public, but based on the forecast we will have to look at these vulnerable communities,” Jackson said, adding that the ODPEM already has a fair idea of where there might be some displacements.
Residents in some of these vulnerable communities can also expect to be evacuated.
ODPEM said marine interests will also experience winds, primarily out of the east, and southerly by this evening. They must, therefore, move swiftly to secure themselves.
Fishers on the cays and banks are also urged to evacuate immediately and return to the mainland.
Other small craft operators in coastal waters are advised to return to port and small craft operators who are in port are advised not to venture out.