Tropical Storm Grace slow-marched across Jamaica's northern coast yesterday, dumping more than three inches of rain on mostly eastern and central parishes resulting in flooding and damage to infrastructure which local authorities will likely start assessing today.
“Grace is moving towards the west near 24 kmh (15 mph), and a general westward to west-north-westward motion is expected for the next several days,” the Meteorological Service of Jamaica said in its 5:00 pm bulletin, adding that the island would continue to experience frequent outbreaks of heavy rain, mainly over southern parishes, last night.
The Met Service also forecast that the storm would continue to move near or over north-western Jamaica for a couple of hours then near or over the Cayman Islands late last night and early today.
“Maximum sustained winds remain near 85 kmh (50 mph), with higher gusts,” the Met Service said, adding that Grace was forecast to strengthen into a hurricane today while moving away from Jamaica.
“Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 130 kilometres (80 miles) from the centre,” the weather experts added.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's graphical tropical outlook shows Grace getting to hurricane strength on its approach to Mexico's eastern coast, then weakening to become a storm by the time it gets to that country's west coast, after which it is expected to again become a hurricane when it enters the Gulf of Mexico.
Meanwhile, National Works Agency (NWA) Communications Manager Stephen Shaw told the Jamaica Observer that the parishes of St Thomas, St Catherine, St Andrew, St Mary, Portland, and St James had experienced some level of flooding.
Flooded areas include: Bog Walk Gorge, Brown's Hall, and Troja main road in St Catherine; Irish Town Road, the road beyond Gordon Town breakaway leading to Mavis Bank, Beach Road, Nine Miles Bull Bay, and Harbour View main road in St Andrew; sections of Annotto Bay heading through Broadgate (Junction), and Clonmel to Highgate in St Mary; Port Morant Square, and Hordley in St Thomas; sections of the north coast highway in Portland; and Adelphi in St James.
Last night the NWA said the Sandy Bay to Freetown road at Rasta Corner in Clarendon was impassable due to flooding and advised motorists to use Highway 2000.
Additionally, several roads were blocked by fallen trees and utility poles. They include Molynes Road in St Andrew in the vicinity of Apex; Junction, Broadgate, and Harmony Hall roads in St Mary; the Boundbrook to Rio Grande passage in Portland; and the main road between Barnett Town and Adelphi in St James.
Meanwhile, residents in a number of communities shared their experience with the Observer.
A man living in Hope Bay, Portland, who declined to be named, said although there were no heavy rains in his area, other communities were badly impacted.
“Some areas are worse than others. Many districts have fallen trees, downed utility poles, and debris on the road. There are also roofs blown off from a few homes. As awful as it seems, it's not as serious as we're accustomed to,” he said.
One woman living in Galloway, Bethel Town, Westmoreland, said that she and her family are doing well.
“We are not getting much rain. We are not really affected much. It's like a regular rainy day for us and we are always prepared [for the impact of the storm],” she said.
Another woman living in Portmore, St Catherine, told the Observer: “Things aren't so bad here. Just a little wind, but we are good over here.”
Acting director general of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Richard Thompson told the Observer that two shelters — Lawrence Tavern Primary School in St Andrew and Annotto Bay High School in St Mary — have been activated across the island.
He was unable to say how many people had been staying in the shelter in St Andrew, but noted that two seniors, a woman and a man, were housed at the shelter in St Mary.
He also said COVID-19 prevention measures have already been implemented at the shelters.
“All shelters abide by the COVID-19 protocols that have been established way in advance of the hurricane season. There is an established protocol as it relates to the novel coronavirus that all shelters, guided by the shelter managers, should always employ once they are in the shelters,” he said.
In the meantime, Thompson is urging Jamaicans to avoid flooded waterways and to continue listening to all official advisories from ODPEM and the Met Service.
“If you don't have to go on the road, don't go,” he said. “For persons living in low-lying and flood-prone areas, avoid those areas typically known for flooding. If you have to evacuate and move into shelters, please do so.”