Calm before the storm in Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Hurricane Beryl as seen from the Zoom Earth satellite on July 2, 2024. – Photo courtesy Zoom Earth

Newsday senior reporter Paula Lindo, currently on vacation in Jamaica, described the atmosphere as sunny and warm as category 5 Hurricane Beryl made its way towards the island.

The country is bracing for its severe impact, which is expected early on Wednesday morning. Beryl’s surge could raise water levels by as much as three-five feet above normal tide levels. Rainfall of four-eight inches, with isolated totals up to 12 inches, is forecast.

Lindo, who is vacationing with her family in Negril, on the island’s north coast, spoke with Newsday around 12.30 pm on Tuesday.

She said the government has been clearing drains and other flood-prone areas.

“Fishermen have brought in their boats.”

Like many other Jamaicans, Lindo has stocked up on water, canned goods, and other essential items.

“People are going to the groceries, stocking up on toilet paper and food items. Some are going to the hardware stores to get wood to board up their homes. We’ve bought extra water, batteries, etc.”

Lindo said there is no public transport and the country is preparing for whatever might happen tomorrow.

“We will most likely start experiencing Beryl’s real effects this afternoon. It’s still hot and sunny.”

On Monday, the country’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, in an address to the nation posted on his Facebook page, urged citizens to take every precaution to protect themselves and their families during a media briefing.

“You have to look at the threat to your immediate environment and make the right decision about evacuation.”

He acknowledged that evacuation is a sensitive subject, noting that people may not want to leave their homes due to security concerns.

“The most important thing is your life,” he emphasised.

Holness warned that security and emergency services would be unable to operate before, during and immediately after the hurricane.

“There may be a delay after the hurricane. Secure yourself by moving to higher ground, making arrangements with your family members and finding a safe place to be.”

He said people living in low-lying areas, especially in Portland, St Thomas, Manchine Hill and eastern rural areas, are likely to be the most affected.

“Please, you’re going to be impacted. Take the necessary steps.”

Jamaica’s Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie said arrangements were being made to transport homeless people to relief centres.

“The municipal corporations have been working on that since June 30, and they have intensified those activities.”

Hurricane Beryl is expected to hit the Cayman Islands on Thursday. A hurricane watch has been issued for the islands.

On Monday, Beryl ravaged Grenada and its dependencies, blasting through buildings and knocking out power and phone service to almost all of the island.

Grenada’s Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell told a press briefing, “In half an hour, Carriacou was flattened.”

In neighbouring St Vincent and the Grenadines, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, via a Facebook livestream, reported one death and said there was widespread damage, which included several schools, churches, and government buildings.

Despite the devastation, Gonsalves expressed hope that night, saying, “Tomorrow we get up with our commitment and conviction to rebuild our lives and our families’ lives.”