CAPITAL HEIGHTS, St James — While he is pleased with the country’s overall ability to weather an active hurricane season, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie has expressed concern about sections of Montego Bay’s drainage system.
Pointing to the unexpected development of Hurricane Idalia in a section of Florida that is typically storm free, he stressed the need to always be prepared.
“It is an indication that the region is in the belt where anything can happen. We cannot afford to have something that is going to [have significant] impact and then you have this drain leading into the North Gully, not in proper working condition,” the minister said.
His comments came following a tour of drainage infrastructure in Capital Heights in Montego Bay on Wednesday afternoon. He was joined by Member of Parliament for St James Central, Heroy Clarke; councillor for the Montego Bay South Division, Richard Vernon and other members of the municipal corporation.
“I am recommending to the member of parliament and to the councillor and the municipality that we will provide the funds to clean the drain,” McKenzie said.
But he said an assessment will need to be done to determine the extent of work needed on the structure, which was installed using an earth-based method of construction.
“The first thing that we are going to be doing is to clean the drain so that the technical team can have a look to see the conditions that exist so that we can work to remedy those conditions,” the minister added.
Turning his attention to the country’s general ability to withstand storms, he said while a lot of work has been done to prepare but vigilance is required.
“We are in good standing. The municipalities have been cleaning drains, there is some more drain cleaning to be done but as I said before, we have done the work,” said McKenzie
“We can’t be too prepared, because we don’t know when [there will be a storm] but all I can say is that the organisation, the structure is in place and if it becomes necessary, we can activate if we are called upon,” he said.
The likelihood that he and his team will be “called upon” has increased with an upward movement in the number of storms expected this year.
“We’re getting deeper into the hurricane season and yesterday I had a meeting with all national coordinators and disaster coordinators, the ODPEM [Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management], the weather bureau to be updated on the prospects. Based on what came out of the meeting, we are expecting nine more than was predicted active hurricanes in the region this season,” McKenzie stated.
Earlier in the season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast 12 to 17 named storms. It is now projecting that there may be 14 to 21 storms. This includes tropical storms and hurricanes. Of the number predicted, about half are expected to be full-blown hurricanes but some storms may never make landfall.
September and October are especially critical months in the annual Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.