ODPEM on all systems for Tomas


The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) says it is taking its preparations for Tropical Depression Tomas “very seriously,” despite the fact that the system has been weakening.
At a press conference hosted by the ODPEM at its offices in New Kingston, today (November 3), Director of the Meteorological Service, Sylvia McGill, informed that over the last 12 hours, the system had been downgraded to a tropical depression.
She said the system had slowed down to five miles per hour, with its highest winds at 35 miles per hour, triggering a downgrade of the Met Office’s warning from a Hurricane Watch to a Tropical Storm Watch.
However, Director General of the ODPEM, Ronald Jackson said the agency is still putting in place all the necessary measures, given that the weather system is forecast to strengthen.
“The system is still within our territorial water. We are still within the probability cone and as such we have to be prepared for any eventuality. So, for us we are planning for a worst-case scenario, in this case, impact from a hurricane category one, perhaps two, then we will work our way back in terms of the various scenarios,” he explained.
He said the ODPEM is moving ahead with plans to establish the national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), and that it would be collaborating with its various partner agencies to staff the centre as of tomorrow (November 4).
Mr. Jackson said that all Parish Disaster Committees have been activated. However, he said the ODPEM, for the moment, would be concentrating most of its efforts on the eastern end of the island, where it is predicted Tomas will have the greatest impact.
He informed that a budget has been set aside for each parish to take care of expenses associated with operating shelters for at least two days, adding that a list of shelters will be placed on its website as well as disseminated throughout the parishes.
The Red Cross, which will be manning most of the shelters, says it has already been in contact with its regional and international partners with a view of receiving help if needed. It said some of its supplies were used up following the passage of Tropical Storm Nicole, and that these would be replenished with supplies which should arrive from Panama by Friday.
Meanwhile, Mr. Jackson said the ODPEM has already pre-positioned supplies in preparation for the storm and that arrangements are also being made to airlift food into areas which might be cut off as a result of the passage of Tomas. He is advising Jamaicans to ensure they stock up on hurricane supplies and ensure that they store enough water for each family member and pets for at least seven days.
The ODPEM head said the office has already started sending out public advisories through the media and that as of today it will start sending advisories by text messages. He said the ODPEM would also be making a spokesman available to provide consistent updates to the public on the situation.
Mr. Jackson is also advising Jamaicans to evacuate if they live in flood-prone areas and not to attempt to cross flooded waterways. In addition, he advised fishers to return to land and secure their boats.

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