Jamaicans in Florida urged to look out for each other as Hurricane Dorian approaches


Saturday, August 31, 2019

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Jamaicans in Florida are being encouraged to look out for each other as Hurricane Dorian gathers strength and takes aims at the state.

Thousands of Jamaicans live in Florida, which is under a state of emergency, and the authorities have urged residents to stockpile a week's worth of food and supplies as the less than predictable Dorian barrels towards them.

“We are urging Jamaicans to look out for members of their communities, particularly the vulnerable like the elderly. There might be students who are stranded and we will try to see how best we can help them. We have already made contact with our Jamaican friends in the communities to see how we will be able to respond to any challenges,” Jamaica's Consul General Oliver Mair told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

Mair had earlier issued an appeal to his countrymen in Florida to take all the necessary precautions, as he pointed to the potential for devastation by Hurricane Dorian.

He told the Observer that the responses before and after the hurricane will be critical.

“It is very important that we be our brother's keeper in this time and where persons are in need you could assist them in putting up their shutters or maybe they need some assistance to remove some trees that are around their homes.

“So we are reminding our nationals to be their brother's keepers, which is an innate part for us as a people. We just need to go the extra mile at this time. If you have extra water…you could give some to someone who was unable to purchase, as we stay together at this time of the hurricane threat,” added Mair.

The consul general said he has started making contact with the relevant local government authorities in the areas expected to be hit and has taken to traditional and social media to spread the message that Jamaicans in the state need to take the threat of Dorian seriously.

“Some Jamaican entities have been put on alert as part of a rapid response team being considered by the consulate should such measures be required,” said Mair.

He added that for Jamaicans living in areas deemed susceptible to the effects of the hurricane they will be provided with information such as the zones of evacuation.

A large number of Jamaicans are employed in the hospitality and agricultural sectors in the southern United States under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Overseas Employment Programme. In addition, several Jamaican students are enrolled in tertiary institutions across the state.

“We strongly advise these persons to keep their travel as well as immigration documents to include passport, employment ID, I-20, and any other relevant documentation secured,” Mair urged.

One of the Jamaican students based in central Florida close to Orlando, who gave his name only as Kamby, told our newsroom yesterday morning that he had started preparation for a possible hit by Dorian.

“The supermarkets are all running low on water,” said the 20-year-old Kamby, who is bracing to face his first hurricane away from home with his parents.

According to Kamby, the bread and tin products isles in the supermarkets were empty when he checked yesterday, but other Jamaican students he had spoken to had already gone shopping for the items they believed they would need.

Another Jamaican, Raymond Lawson, who recently migrated to Florida where he lives with his wife and children, including a newborn, said the family is taking the threat seriously.

“Basically we have been shopping at the stores to get supplies and filling up on gas, but the shelves in the supermarket are basically empty,” said Lawson.

He noted that in his circle, people have been communicating by phone to ensure that everyone is prepared.

Yesterday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Dorian, which is expected to make landfall in Florida on Monday or Tuesday, had gone from a Category 2 to a Category 3 storm on the five-level scale.

As of 2:00 pm (1800 GMT), Dorian has become an “extremely dangerous hurricane” packing maximum winds of 115 miles (185 kilometres) per hour, the NHC said, and it is projected to intensify even further.

Dorian was moving in a north-west direction at 10 mph (17 kph), the NHC said.

It said hurricane conditions were expected in the northwestern Bahamas by tomorrow and the islands should prepare for life-threatening storm surge that could raise water levels by as much as 10 to 15 feet (three to 4.5 metres) above normal tide level.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a declaration of emergency for all of the state's 67 counties and urged its millions of residents to make preparations for what he said could be a “major event”.

“We're anticipating a massive amount of flooding,” DeSantis said. “We urge all Floridians to have seven days' worth of food, medicine, and water.”

But the governor said local authorities were holding off on ordering evacuations until weather forecasters had a better picture of the eventual path of the hurricane.

“If you're in an evacuation zone and you're ordered to evacuate, please do so,” DeSantis said.

The Florida National Guard said about 2,000 service members had been mobilised so far and another 2,000 would be today.

— Additional reporting by AFP

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