Bad weather sweeps across south, central – 11 ROOFS BLOWN OFF

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

NO SHELTER: Sintra Bridgelal’s roof was blown off by strong winds along Rahaman drive Gasaprillo on Thursday. – Lincoln Holder

Heavy rains and strong winds ripped off galvanised sheets and roofs, uprooted trees, broke branches, and knocked out power in parts of Bonne Aventure in Gasparillo on Thursday, affecting about 45 people from 11 families.

Many families were unsure of their sleeping arrangements for Thursday night, and some were erecting tarpaulins to secure their household items in case the rain returned.

The bad weather started at about 1 pm.

At Phekoo Avenue, the Scarlett family of seven was affected. Several galvanised sheets ripped from the roof and landed in the yard. One of the seven was Newsday’s sports writer David Scarlett, who also works as a teacher’s assistant at a primary school in San Fernando.

He recalled he was in class when he got the news from neighbours.

“A TV also fell and was damaged by the strong winds. No one was at home,” he said.

Scarlett said the bad weather caused a coconut tree to fall further along the street, pulling down electrical lines and cutting off electricity. It was later restored.

At Rahaman Drive, Maureen Nobbee, 62, recalled she was at home alone when the rain began falling, coupled with lightning and thunder. She was watching TV and was about to cook. But when the galvanised sheets started to rattle, and she became frightened, she changed her mind about cooking.

Her common-law husband, Kumar Lutchman Charlie, was not at home but returned when he heard the news.

“It was like a tornado that passed through. It happened a few minutes after the rain started to fall. The galvanised sheets ripped off and landed next door,” Nobbee said.

Her household items were damaged. The whole ordeal lasted about an hour. Nobbee said she has kidney problems and has been in and out of the hospital for the past year.

The entire roof of her neighbour’s home was blown off. The couple from that house was not at home.

The wall of a concrete house owned by Ganesh Ramcharran fell.

The house is under construction.

At the nearby Gasparillo Secondary School, branches from several trees broke. One cause damaged a teacher’s Nissan Frontier van parked in the compound. There were no injuries reported.

At Bonne Aventure Road, the rooftops of several homes were also blown off.

One affected resident, John Mark Natram, said he was alone at home when he heard whistling sounds, and the galvanised sheets began rattling. Seven people were affected, including three children, ages 16, 15 and nine.

Ralph Sawh, who described himself as a community activist, said on learning of the disaster, he alerted some Venezuelans to help another affected family on the same compound.

“This family lost everything. They lost everything. These Venezuelans came to help this family. We appreciate their response,” Sawh said.

RIPPED OFF: Part of the roof of this home at Phekoo Avenue Bonne Aventure Gasparillo was blown off by strong winds on Thursday. – Lincoln Holder

Newsday caught up with the Gasparillo/ Bonne Aventure councillor Ravi Pooran Maharaj as he toured the area. The councillor described the weather as intense, saying it was unusual to what people were used to.

Residents described it to him as a tornado-type effect, but he was advised it was a downburst. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration describes a downburst as the “general term for all localised strong wind events that are caused by a strong downdraft within a thunderstorm.”

Pooran Maharaj said TT Electricity Commission workers had several crews in the area to restore electricity.

He added that the disaster management unit (DMU) of the Couva/Tabaquite/ Talparo Regional Corporation (CTTRC) was assessing the disaster and offering support.

“DMU workers had been on the ground since around 2.30 pm and are still on the ground. They have done initial assessments. They advised the affected people to complete several grant forms to help with the repairs.”

“It was a very traumatic experience for the people. One person mentioned that it felt like an earthquake, with the vibrations they felt. They did not think it was associated with winds.”

The councillor urged people to contact the corporation at 499-0977 or the DMU at 800-2882 for weather-related concerns or emergency assistance.

He said people’s safety and well-being are the corporation’s top priorities.

While Newsday was in the community, the DMU workers were distributing mattresses and tarpaulins.

On Thursday afternoon, a statement from the Office of Disaster Preparedness And Management (ODPM) said there were nine incidents in the South Central Region. That figure has since increased.