Jamaicans prepare for Tropical Storm Sandy
on 24/10/2012 08:42:51
The US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said the storm was churning over warm Caribbean waters and should reach Jamaica later today, most likely as a Category 1 hurricane.
The late-season storm is expected to travel from south to north over the island, which meteorologists say has not sustained a direct hit from a hurricane's eye since powerful Hurricane Gilbert in 1988.
Acting prime minister Peter Phillips said "all Jamaicans must take the threat of this storm seriously" and asked people to look out for their neighbours, especially children, the elderly and the disabled.
Hurricane conditions were possible in eastern Cuba by early tomorrow. The storm is forecast to pass near but miss the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, where pre-trial hearings are being held for a suspect in the attack on the Navy destroyer the USS Cole.
Authorities at the base had considered suspending this week's proceedings, but said they planned to continue despite Sandy.
Early today the outer bands of Sandy drenched parts of Jamaica with steady rain that sent brown water rushing down streets and gullies.
Schools, government offices and Kingston's port shut down early and the country's international airports prepared to close today.
The Jamaican Constabulary Force called numerous curfews in neighbourhoods across the island to prevent crime and protect properties.
In the poor Kingston community of Standpipe, Christopher "Boxer" Bryce and his relatives were bracing for the worst as they quickly tried to finish repairs to their concrete home's leaking roof.
"This is giving all of us a nervous feeling, old and young. I'm hoping the storm doesn't leave too many problems," said Mr Bryce, as his brother Brian adjusted a plastic bucket to catch more of the water dripping steadily down from the cracked ceiling.
Across a debris-clogged gully, dreadlocked Philip Salmon was trying to find more sheet metal to bolster his shack's rusting roof. The labourer lives by himself in a ramshackle settlement of illegal homes near the US embassy.
"Everybody's worried about it here, I can tell you. This storm is no small thing," said Mr Salmon, whose sheet metal roof is held in place by rocks, just like that of many of his neighbours.
Two years ago, six members of a family living along a nearby stretch of the gully were swept away during the relatively weak Tropical Storm Nicole after part of their home collapsed into the waterway's raging current. People living in the shanty towns are warned repeatedly to move for their own safety but most refuse to relocate.
Jamaica's government issued a hurricane warning and announced schools would close today. It has urged people in flood-prone areas to be on alert and advised fishermen on outlying cays to return to the mainland.
There were reports in local media saying about 100 fishermen were stranded on the lobster and conch-rich Pedro Cays because they did not have enough fuel for the journey.
In Kingston, Jamaica's biggest city, some residents flocked to grocery stories to stock up on food, propane, tarpaulins, batteries and water. At one major supermarket, hardly any bread remained on the shelves.
In Cuba, authorities issued a hurricane watch for several provinces and there were intermittent rains over Haiti, where a tropical storm warning was in effect. By today a tropical storm warning was called for the central Bahamas, meaning stormy conditions were possibly within 24 to 36 hours.
Although Florida was not expected to receive any direct impact from Sandy, Brian Koon, director of the US state's emergency management division, said residents should remain aware of the storm and take precautions to keep themselves safe from indirect impacts such as windy conditions, rain and rip currents.