July 5, 2021
Jamaica was yesterday spared the worst effects of Tropical Storm Elsa with only a few parishes experiencing hours of heavy rains, something of a disappointment for some Jamaicans, and a relief for others, who had braced for severe weather conditions based on the forecast for Sunday.
Stalled cars and some amount of flooding in the corridors often affected constituted the extent of the impact in the Corporate Area, with some residents venturing out on foot in-between intermittent showers, which by late afternoon had subsided, notwithstanding ominously overcast conditions.
The heavy rainfall expected for St Thomas, Portland, and parts of St Mary did not materialise and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) reported that, up to late afternoon, the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, Clarendon, and St Thomas had experienced some level of flooding, but that not all parishes had been impacted by Elsa.
The flooded areas included: Passagefort Drive, Waterford, Gregory Park, in Portmore St Catherine; Seaforth, Yallahs, Grant’s Pen main road in St Thomas; Nine Miles, Bull Bay, Marcus Garvey Dive, Church Street, Waltham Park Road, sections of Trafalgar Road, Drewsland, Half-Way-Tree, Deanery Road, and York Street, in St Andrew; Old Harbour Bay, Claremont housing scheme, and Buckfield in St Catherine; Longville Park, Sandy Bay, May Pen, Lionel Town, Bushy Park, Moneymusk housing scheme in Clarendon.
At the same time, Jamaicans are being warned that, with the island having had a close call so early in the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, this is a warning sign climate change.
Acting director general of the ODPEM Richard Thompson said the Elsa threat should be used as an impetus to bolster preparation for the rest of the season.
“You do have persons that still say Jamaica is ‘God-blessed’, so this and that won’t happen — but it is getting way better. This is early in the hurricane season, an unusual situation where you have a system forming in the Caribbean at such an early point in the hurricane season.
“We normally have this kind of formation August to September. It’s a bit out of character, showing that climate change is real. It gives us an area of concern that it’s so early and a system would have tracked so close to us. The season is shaping up to be a very active one, [and] hopefully, we will not see something similar to last year where we had close to 30 systems,” Thompson told the Observer.
He underscored that Jamaicans should remain alert, despite the impact of Elsa being less than initially anticipated, bearing in mind that forecasts are made with the best information available at the time of tracking a storm.
“Weather-related events are not an exact science, a lot of what is given is forecast, but the direction which Elsa was taking was the correct one in terms of it tracking north-east of Jamaica. What was expected, based on the forecasting Thursday-Friday, was that it would have tracked a little bit closer to us. So the system would have drifted when it came into the Windward Passage, a little further east away from us, so that would have meant the kind of rainfall activity that we would have been expecting for St Thomas, Portland, parts of St Mary did not really happen,” said Thompson.
He declared that Elsa presented an opportunity for individuals to ramp up preparation for the hurricane season.
“It’s for persons now to continue their preparations. If persons had not done their preparation activities at home, a lot of persons would find out now that they have leakage. Get your homes retrofitted with hurricane straps and, depending on your economic situation, ensure that you have non-perishables in stock,” he advised.
Individuals with chronic illnesses are also being urged to stock up on medication now, if they have not yet done so, instead of awaiting the threat of another system.
According to Thompson, Elsa was also a drill of sorts for the emergency measures implemented by the State to respond to adverse weather systems in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.
“This now is like a live simulation drill for us, so it’s now to have a re-look, if needs be, going deeper into the hurricane season,” he remarked.
Thompson said that the ODPEM had done its checks on the more than 860 emergency shelters across the island, outfitting the facilities with the necessary sanitisation and COVID-19 prevention measures.
Elsa is expected to continue to move north-west near 22km/14mph throughout today, away from the island, approaching central Cuba early this morning, the Meteorological Service Division said yesterday afternoon.
A tropical storm warning is now in effect for the Florida Keys as the weakened system leaves behind a battered Barbados, Dominican Republic, and Haiti, with at least three deaths in the region.