Hope and pray, but let's prepare for the worst
Satellite imagery of Hurricane Fiona which became a monster Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds (Photo: CMC)

As was always expected, Atlantic storm activity picked up in September after an unexpectedly slow start in June, July, and August.

Indeed, at the end of August there were only three named storms in the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which started on June 1.

The tempo changed in September however with four storms being named, one of which, Fiona, churned through the north-eastern Caribbean over recent days causing death and considerable destruction. Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos Islands, have all been hit hard. And, the storm, which had strengthened to Category Four on Thursday, was expected to pass close to the North Atlantic island of Bermuda Friday, on its way to eastern Canada.

For Jamaicans, the major concern is a poorly defined, but extremely dangerous weather system carrying thunderstorms and heavy rain which formed in the south-eastern Caribbean close to Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.

The tropical wave is expected to gain strength over coming days. On its current path it seems likely to pass south over Jamaica's coastal waters. It could trigger extensive wind and rain over the fish-rich Pedro Cays as well as southern parts of the Jamaican mainland before affecting the Cayman Islands, western Cuba, and southern USA.

We note the appeals from Jamaica's Meteorological Service for fisher folk on the Pedro Cays and Banks "to evacuate immediately and start returning to the mainland. Other small craft operators in Jamaican waters are advised to return to port. Operators already in port are being advised against returning" until the storm threat passes.

While the early indicators suggest the system will not hit the island directly in the way that Hurricane Gilbert did in 1988, moving through the centre of the island east to west, or even as Hurricane Sandy struck the east in 2012 people should, under no circumstances, relax or become complacent.

Indeed, among the more devastating impacts on Jamaica in living memory came with hurricanes Ivan and Dean which passed south of the island in 2004 and 2007, respectively.

Slow-moving but fearsome, Hurricane Ivan was closest, according to weather experts, with its eye coming to within 30 kilometres of the Clarendon coastline. That storm on September 10 and 11, 2004 caused 14 deaths and damage estimated at $35.9 billion.

The fast-moving Hurricane Dean of August 19, 2007 also caused several deaths as well as damage to agriculture and infrastructure estimated at $26 billion. Such was the impact of Dean that the 2007 parliamentary election scheduled for August 27 was delayed by a week.

We expect that as the current weather system south of Jamaica gathers strength and momentum, the authorities will be crossing 'T's' and dotting 'I's', not least in securing and providing designated shelters.

By now, as part of seasonal preparations, drains across the island should have been sufficiently cleaned and cleared to minimise flooding.

Also, citizens should take responsibility by seeking to avert perceived danger in and around their homes, including clearing blocked drains that may have been missed by officialdom, pruning trees that may pose a danger, securing roofs and stocking up on necessary non-perishables, including drinking water.

We should all prepare for the worst, even as we hope and pray for the best.

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