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By Deon Spence | Associate Writer
As you would already know, Jamaica is indeed a tropical paradise. Unfortunately, we are not exempt from nature’s harsh realities. Natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes are also part of our lives.
Let’s take a little journey to find out more about the hurricane season and hurricanes in Jamaica.
You will find that June 1 in any year is a special day in Jamaica. It marks the official start of the hurricane season.
This runs from June 1 to November 30 each year.
As you can imagine, all gears get rolling in preparation for the possibilities. You will find that the months of June and July are not usually very active but the later months especially September and October tend to be action-packed.
You will also find that Jamaica gets most of its rainfall during this time as well.
Yes, hurricanes do hit Jamaica, but not as often as you might think, they are usually few and far in between, generally speaking.
But when they do, they can be quite dangerous. As a matter of fact, the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) has advised that according to information from the Jamaica Meteorological Service of Jamaica (Met Service) Jamaica is expected to have an above normal season for 2020 with regards to activity.
We are expected to have between 13-19 storms developing this year as opposed to the average norm of 12. Four of these are expected to be major.
As such the Met Service constantly monitors the weather systems and informs the nation accordingly.
It’s really hard to say how often we get a hit but you can imagine, the more weather systems that are developed, the more likely we can be affected whether directly or indirectly.
As a matter of fact, lingering weather systems, which may not result in a direct hit can cause severe flooding and landslides and other devastating effects.
This is why we get the ball rolling very early.
From historical data you could say that we (Jamaica) gets a hit maybe once every 11 years and close call about once every 4 years. Let’s now take a look at how Jamaicans actually prepare.
Now we’re at the fun part!
At the start of the hurricane season, you will find a few persons who are proactive who will start buying their emergency supplies such as canned food, candles, kerosene oil, water, matches, lighters, batteries etc.
Most Jamaicans however appear to be panic shoppers in this season and will only start buying supplies when there is a serious threat. Some will even say, there’s no storm coming and it doesn’t come our way a lot of the times and will wait on the very last minute to get supplies.
You only need to hear that a storm is coming and the peddlers will be out in their numbers with their wares all over the place, supermarkets will even have special sections for emergency supplies.
It’s an exciting time as there’s a mad rush to get supplies, a lot of buzz and hype. Plywood covering windows, awnings taken down, last minute fixes to roof tops, knocking here, knocking there, cutting or trimming of tree overhangs, gas stations filled with motorists and the list goes on.
I can tell you one thing though, make sure you go to the supermarket early unless you’ll be looking at empty shelves!
The government, at the start of the season makes provisions for drains to be cleaned as these usually cause severe flooding when blocked. The power and water companies will play their role as well implementing safety and security measures.
You will find that the disaster preparedness teams will be on the ground, giving advise and warnings and ensuring that emergency shelters are ready. To be frank, you will find that there’s a whole lot of planning and execution that goes in during this time, all in an attempt to keep everyone safe and sound.
You certainly cannot talk about hurricanes in Jamaica and not talk about Hurricane Gilbert or what some would call “Wild Gilbert”.
For those of us who experienced it, the memories are forever etched in our minds. I can remember being about 8 years old and heard that this storm was coming.
Of course I was so excited, I could barely contain myself. I wanted to know what it was like to be in a hurricane and secretly wished it would come our way, being completely naive and totally ignorant of the dangers at hand.
I tell you, when I saw the neighbor's coconut tree danced until it fell while peeping through a small section of the window, the flashing lightning and clapping thunders, heavy winds and rains and no electricity, having to listen my father’s battery radio to get news updates, though it was fun at times, it was enough for me not to want to have that experience again.
The aftermath was even worse when I realized how many people lost their homes or roofs. This hurricane was by far, the most devastating hurricane to hit Jamaica in history.
It is not unusual for Jamaicans to express a tragedy in song and make it humorous at the same time.
Popular reggae artiste “Lovindeer” did justice with his popular hit “Wild Gilbert” which took no time to make the airwaves and still remains today as an all time favourite and reminder of the past.
You can find this informative but hilarious music video on YouTube at your leisure, just search for “Wild Gilbert”, you can’t miss it!
Finally, Here are a few tips of what to do and what not to do during a hurricane that you may find useful:
So there you have it, all about hurricane season in Jamaica.
And if you get stuck somewhere and not sure where to go during a hurricane, please see link below for a list of emergency shelters provided by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).
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