(JAMAICA OBSERVER) THE Ministry of Health is urging the country to be on the alert as the forecast model for Tropical Storm Isaac suggests that the storm might impact the island as early as Friday.
The warning came yesterday at the ministry’s quarterly media briefing in New Kingston.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at the ministry, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, told journalists that as the system approaches the Lesser Antilles citizens must be in a constant state of readiness.
“… We are in a constant state of readiness for disasters — having an established Emergency Disaster Management and Special Services branch. We have monthly disaster management meetings [and] coordinate, at the national level through the ODPEM (Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management), with the National Disaster Committee and we coordinate with the parishes and the regions in terms of gauging their own preparedness,” Dr Bisasor-McKenzie said.
The Meteorological Service of Jamaica, in a media release yesterday, said that Isaac is expected to enter the central Caribbean Sea this weekend.
At 4:00 pm yesterday, the centre of the tropical storm was located near latitude 14.6 North, longitude 51.3 West or about 1,075 km east of the Lesser Antilles.
“Isaac is moving toward the west near 28 km/h and this general motion is expected to continue through the next few days. On the forecast track, Isaac is expected to move near or over the central Lesser Antilles tomorrow, move into the eastern Caribbean Sea tomorrow night, and move into the central Caribbean Sea by this weekend.
“Maximum sustained winds remain near 110 km/h with higher gusts, and Isaac is expected to be near hurricane strength when it moves through the Lesser Antilles, with some weakening forecast afterwards, on Friday and Saturday,” the release said.
It added that Isaac was not a direct threat to Jamaica.
However, Bisasor-McKenzie said that the ministry was practising an all-hazard approach although the storm was expected to weaken.
“… We have been getting our supplies in place to make sure that we have tarpaulins, raincoats, things to supply the hospitals and the regions in case it is needed. In terms of our vehicles, we keep a constant check on what is available to ensure that we know when something is needed for transportation and we know exactly where they are and how it is that we communicate,” she said.
Isaac, the fifth named storm of the season, was downgraded from hurricane status yesterday.
The CMO also mentioned the advisory issued by the Jamaica Defence Force for fishers occupying the Cays to proceed to mainland Jamaica at their earliest opportunity and of its move to evacuate its personnel from its station at Pedro Cays, and urged residents in disaster-prone areas to evacuate as soon as notified.
“All persons who are in disaster risk areas and areas that are at risk for flooding should be making their plans as to where it is that they are going to go. We have been checking on our shelters to ensure that our shelters are prepared. However, persons must know where their nearest shelter is and be prepared to go to the shelters when the warning is issued. Persons must understand what are the things that they must take with them, and their medication is key.
“At this time persons should all ensure those with chronic non-communicable diseases, in particular, have adequate supplies of their medication and that they carry the medication with them to the shelters where they are going. Pregnant mothers need to ensure that they’re in close proximity to a hospital. We don’t want to have the road washed away and you are unable to get to the hospital,” the CMO said.