MONTEGO BAY, St James — Several emergency drain cleaning exercises were being undertaken across western Jamaica up to late yesterday, as citizens braced for Tropical Storm Sandy, which has been forecast to gain hurricane strength before it moves across the island later today.
Mayor of Falmouth Councillor Garth Wilkinson told the Jamaica Observer late yesterday that the National Works Agency (NWA) has given a commitment to clear "priority drains" identified across the parish.
"We are moving to clean all the drains we possibly can in the flood-prone areas across the parish," Wilkinson told the Observer during a telephone interview, adding that the parish is "reasonably prepared" form the inclement weather.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar, Bertel Moore.
"The level of preparedness in the parish so far is fairly good. But we would have liked to clean a few more drains in the Savanna-la-Mar area. We are still trying to do as much as we can this (yesterday) evening," said Moore.
Chairman of the St James Parish Council Glendon Harris also noted that efforts were being made to clean several drains, particularly in the resort town of Montego Bay.
Harris has urged persons living in low-lying, flood-prone areas to consider early evacuation in light of the impending weather conditions.
He said that persons living in sections of Anchovy, Montpelier, Cambridge, Maroon Town and the Greater Montego Bay area — locations that are prone to flooding and land-slippage — should make preparations and to "evacuate if necessary".
"Experience has taught us that these communities have a history of weather-related problems and are areas in which people must be ready to evacuate before the onset of heavy rains... the possibilities of vacating these areas during and prior to flooding and water damage is sometimes quite challenging," he said.
In the neighbouring Hanover, Mayor of Lucea Shernet Haughton said that the parish is prepared for Tropical Storm Sandy.
She said that all the 54 shelters in the parish were in a state of readiness, adding that shelter managers were also in place.
She however expressed concern about the flood-prone community of Chigwell and the poor state of the Lucea Infirmary, which houses a number of residents.
Meanwhile, community relations officer of the National Works Agency (NWA's) western region Janel Ricketts said that the agency was monitoring Tropical Storm Sandy, adding that contractors were on standby with their equipment to move quickly to assist, should the need arise.
Up to late yesterday, there was a heavy flow of customers streaming into supermarkets in the Montego Bay area.
Many of them were stocking up on baked items, bottled spring water, candles, canned foods, and other non-perishable food items.
Some supermarket operators said that they were considering extending their opening hours.
— Additional reporting by Anthony Lewis