Latest Weather System Caught Many Unprepared Despite Calls to Heed Warnings — Analysts

On the heels of a call by Ocho Rios businessman and philanthropist Joe Issa for citizens to heed warnings by the authorities of an approaching weather system, many people got caught by the latest trough unprepared, despite warnings by the Metrological Office.

Joseph “Joey” Issa

Amid the thunder, lightning and heavy rains which caused widespread flooding and landslides across Jamaica this week, comes news that the met office had sent out some four days earlier, repeated warnings of the presence of a trough over the island that would bring showers and thunderstorms, and for people who live in low-lying areas to take the necessary precaution.

But once again, analysts believe the met office warnings went on death ears, and apparently, so did Issa’s, as the latest assessment in the aftermath of this week’s trough points to severe damage to infrastructure, which made it impossible other than by boat and helicopter, to reach some communities marooned by flood waters and in particular, those who were trapped at home.

Only days before this latest weather system, Issa warned citizens in a blog that the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season was just two weeks away and that despite the below-average activity forecasted, the need to commence preparations was paramount, reminding them of the importance of heeding warnings by the met office and the disaster agency ODPEM.

In the blog titled “Civic Leader Sounds Customary Warning Despite Inactive 2017 Hurricane Season Forecast” Issa said: “We must start preparations now that the season is upon us and act upon the recommendations of the authorities,” calling on in particular, people living in flood-prone areas, river banks and hilly areas susceptible to landslides.

Issa, who is a member of the past presidents advisory committee of the St. Ann Chamber of Commerce, also stated in the blog that all incoming weather systems must be treated with respect without exception, citing the extensive damage caused by a simple trough in Dominica, where several people lost their lives and hundreds were displaced by flood waters and landslides.

Fortunately, no lives were lost in this latest trough to hit Jamaica, but many communities around the island were flooded, including homes and farms resulting in heavy losses. Some 20,000 homes were without electricity, 30 people went to emergency shelters in St. Catherine, and many main and secondary roads rendered impassable.

In a comment on this latest trough and the failure of people in vulnerable communities to heed the met office warnings and leave flood-prone areas, Issa expressed concern about the practice and sympathized with those affected.

“It’s unfortunate that so many people do not heed warnings of approaching bad weather systems…it’s a dangerous practice that should be stopped.

“However, I feel sorry for those who have been affected by the heavy rains, especially people who were made homeless, farmers who lost their crops and livestock, children who couldn’t go to school and motorists who were stranded,” said Issa, executive chairman of Cool Group of companies.

According to experts some 80 per cent of flooding across the island occurs half a kilometer from streams and rivers and in areas 200 meters below sea level. The damage caused by flooding since 2000 has been estimated at over US$1billion.