The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is advising the public to begin preparations in the event the country is impacted by a tropical storm.
A Tropical Storm Watch is now in effect for Jamaica as the area of low-pressure over the southern Caribbean has developed into a Tropical Depression and is expected to further strengthen while heading northward towards the island. The island could start to feel the effects by as early as Tuesday evening (Oct. 23).
“We are asking the public to ensure that they have adequate water and that you have adequate supplies of food to take you through …into Wednesday night (Oct. 24),” says Director General of the ODPEM, Ronald Jackson.
He stated that while the local authorities and the National Works Agency (NWA) will be addressing infrastructure such as drains, “at the individual household level, ensure that you have checked and have cleared any blockage that may impede drainage of your lot.”
Mr. Jackson is also advising householders to ensure that their roofing is sound. “We are expecting 50 miles per hour winds with higher gusts given that its a tropical storm. Typically, roofing infrastructure should be resilient against that wind speed but if you are uncertain about the capability of your roof, we are asking you to check it now,” Mr. Jackson said.
Persons living in low-lying and flood-prone areas should begin now to take the necessary precautions, he said.
He further informed that shelters that are to be opened for evacuation purposes will be made public later today into Wednesday.
According to the Meteorological Service, at 1:00 p.m. today, the centre of Tropical Depression Number 18 was located near Latitude 13.5 degrees North, Longitude 78.5 degrees west, or about 525kilometres (325 miles) south-southwest of Kingston, or 390 kilometres (240 miles) south of the Pedro Cays.
The system is moving towards the southwest near seven kilometres per hour (kph) or five miles per hour (mph), and is expected to maintain a drift towards the west today and into tonight, before turning towards the north-northeast with an increase in forward speed on Tuesday (Oct. 23) and Wednesday. On this forecast track, the centre would approach Jamaica’s mainland on Tuesday night or early Wednesday.
Maximum sustained winds are near 45 kph or 30 mph, with higher gusts, and strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours. The system could become a Tropical Storm later today or tonight and be near hurricane strength near Jamaica on Wednesday.
Over the next couple of days, showers and thunderstorms are expected to increase over Jamaica, accompanied by gusty winds, eventually becoming sustained at tropical storm strength late Tuesday. Marine interests will experience winds primarily out of the east before becoming southerly by Tuesday evening.
Fishers on the cays and banks are strongly advised to evacuate immediately and start returning to the mainland. Other small craft operators are advised to return to port and small craft operators, who are in port, are advised not to venture out.