Bracing for a battering
Jamaicans urged to be on alert as system threatens heavy rain today into Saturday
Vehicles manoeuvre flood waters on Ward Avenue in Mandeville on Thursday. (Photos: Kasey Williams)

MANDEVILLE, Manchester - As the island braces for torrential rain today, several communities have already begun experiencing flooding, landslides and disruptions with more expected as Jamaica faces a tropical storm watch.

Among the communities flooded on Thursday was Mandeville as rain pelted the south-central town affecting businesses and schools.

The flooded roads included Ward Avenue, deCarteret Road, Villa Road, Newleigh Road, Grove Road, and Manchester Road.

President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce Simone Spence-Johnson told the Jamaica Observer that flooding on Ward Avenue has become a sore point whenever there is heavy rain.

A car manoeuvres a section of flooded Ward Avenue in Mandeville on Thursday while a National Works Agency (NWA) vehicle is parked along the road.

"We did have some impact. The weather affected businesses throughout the day. Persons along Ward Avenue were more affected. This is an ongoing sore point for us, but I know they did significant work on Ward Avenue; it seems there has been some new development why we are getting this flooding again," said Spence-Johnson as she appealed to the authorities to remedy drainage issues on Ward Avenue.

"If it is that we cannot traverse the roads to do our business, then we need the roadway to be clear. There are pedestrians to move along the roadway as well, and if we continue to have flooding then it is going to slow down everything and have a domino effect in slowing production," added Spence-Johnson.

Several schools in Manchester were forced to send home students and suspend classes as the downpour continued Thursday evening, with indications being that classes will be suspended today.

Late Thursday evening, the Ministry of Education told the Observer that it has decided not to issue a blanket instruction for schools to close today.

Motorists making their way through flood waters on Ward Avenue in Mandeville on Thursday.

According to the ministry, principals and board chairs have been instructed to monitor their local situation and determine if there will be any classes based on the forecast from the Meteorological (Met) Service which issued the tropical storm watch.

The Met Service noted that there is an area of low pressure over the west central Caribbean Sea which was becoming better organised on Thursday while moving closer to Jamaica with the potential to develop into a tropical cyclone overnight.

"This means that tropical storm conditions pose a possible threat to Jamaica within 48 hours. The flash flood watch for low-lying and flood-prone areas of the island has also been upgraded to a flash flood warning for southern and eastern parishes of Westmoreland, St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St Catherine, Kingston, St Andrew, St Thomas, Portland, and St Mary, and remains in effect elsewhere," the Met Service said.

"On the forecast track, the centre of the system is expected to continue moving towards Jamaica tonight (Thursday) and across the island late on Friday, before moving towards south-eastern Cuba and the Turks and Caicos Islands on Saturday.

A truck crossing a flooded section of Newleigh Road in Mandeville on Thursday.

"While the potential tropical cyclone is in the vicinity of Jamaica, it is expected to produce locally heavy rainfall and strong, gusty winds, primarily over eastern and southern parishes... Flooding has already been reported in the south-east of the island and will spread over southern and eastern parishes in the next 12 to 24 hours. Landslides should also be anticipated in vulnerable sections of the island," added the Met Service as it warned that flooding could occur in most low-lying and flood-prone areas of the island.

In the meantime, communications manager at the National Works Agency (NWA) Stephen Shaw told the Observer late Thursday that roads in several parishes were affected by flooding.

"We have received reports from Manchester, St Andrew, St Catherine, and St Thomas being impacted by different things to include fallen trees, rock slides, and blocked culverts. We are advising persons to exercise caution in using all of our corridors as the rainfall is impacting every parish at different levels," Shaw said.

He said the Sligoville main road from Spanish Town, and the St Jago Hills Road were reduced to single-lane traffic because of flooding and landslides on Thursday.

This woman tries to find a pedestrian crossing in the vicinity of the Mandeville Regional Hospital on Thursday.

"These corridors are being impacted by rocks and trees, caution is being advised in using these roads at this time," said Shaw as he indicated that NWA teams have been mobilised to respond to clear blocked roads.

BY KASEY WILLIAMS Observer staff reporter

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