The Jamaica Public Service (JPS) is being urged to clear encroaching trees and vegetation from power lines, as the country begins its preparation for the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which starts on June 1.
“We are going to be writing to the JPS. Already, many persons are concerned about the trees that have developed a personal relationship with the JPS lines. In my own constituency, I have to be talking to them almost on a daily basis and the response from JPS to these concerns have been very slow in coming,” Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, has said.
He was speaking at the working session of the National Disaster Risk Management Council meeting, held at the Spanish Court Hotel in Kingston, on May 25.
“I want the Parish Coordinators using the Municipal Corporations to let us have an idea of the communities that are affected. Almost everywhere is affected; you go on Church Street (downtown Kingston), and every tree has a relationship with a JPS high tension wire, and that is [how] it is across the general country,” the Minister added.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting near-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic this year.
The NOAA is forecasting a range of 12 to 17 total named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher). Of those, five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher).
Mr. McKenzie also noted that the Government has placed the country in a much better position financially, while pointing out that if the country is impacted by a natural disaster, “the Government does not have to wait for anybody to come and to give us some aid”.
“We are in a position where we can find money to respond, and so the various agencies that are here, all of you have developed the capacity over the years to be able to deal proactively with the various challenges,” he said.
The Minister also addressed the issue of shelters across the island.
Mr. McKenzie said the issue has been of concern because the majority of facilities used as shelters are schools.
“Eighty per cent of them do pose challenges during the hurricane season. I was in the community of Banks in Clarendon and the school that is used as the shelter lies in the middle of a pond, whenever it rains. So, they have to seek alternative location for the community of Banks,” he added.
He told Coordinators, especially from the Municipal Corporations, that “while close proximity to location is good, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best”.
“I think we have enough time and I believe that some of the coordinators have been very proactive to really look seriously at the question of shelters. I was impressed with some of the shelters that I saw… with the various signs, but the great majority of our shelters really need serious examination,” he added.