Jamaica’s emergency management agency started deploying supplies to shelters yesterday as Hurricane Matthew gained strength while churning across the warm waters of the central Caribbean, resulting in the Meteorological Service labelling the cyclone “extremely dangerous” and placing the island under a hurricane watch.
“This means that the following dangerous effects of a hurricane are expected to affect Jamaica by Monday:
• Dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves, even though winds expected may be less than hurricane force;
• Average winds 64 knots (118 km/h) or higher,” the Met Service said in its 8:00 pm bulletin.
“At 7:00 pm the well-defined eye of Hurricane Matthew was located near latitude 13.5 degrees north, longitude 72.0 degrees west. This is about 665 kilometres (415 miles) south-east of Morant Point, Jamaica, or 130 kilometres (80 miles) north-northwest of Punta Gallinas, Colombia,” the Met Service added.
The agency said that Matthew was moving south of due west near 15 km/h (9 mph) and a westward motion at a slower forward speed was expected last night and today.
“A turn toward the west-northwest is forecast by Saturday night, followed by a turn toward the north-west on Sunday,” the agency said.
“Data from the Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have again increased to near 240 km/h (150 mph), with higher gusts. Matthew is, therefore, a Category Four hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some fluctuations in intensity are possible this weekend, but Matthew is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through Sunday, the Met Service explained, adding that hurricane force winds extend outward up to 55 km (35 miles) from the centre and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 315 km (195 miles) primarily to the north of the centre.
Yesterday, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie said that the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) had already been deploying the necessary items to shelters islandwide.
“These items include generators, tarpaulin, blankets, water containers, and other such items that are going to be required,” McKenzie told journalists at a press conference at ODPEM headquarters in Kingston.
McKenzie said that effective today, the national operation will be going 24 hours, while the Ministry of Local Government will be operating a centre that will work directly with parish councils to get information.
“There are some toll-free numbers that will be made available for the public,” McKenzie said.
At the same time, he said that concerns have been raised about the more than 2,000 homeless people islandwide and that measures are in place to get them off the streets and into shelters.
McKenzie urged citizens to comply with evacuation notices and said that transportation would be in place to take people to shelters.
“We are putting in place all the necessary arrangements so that we can respond to the needs. We know the critical areas in Jamaica, places like Rocky Point, Port Royal, New Haven, Taylor Lands, we know these critical areas across the country… All shelters, across the country will come into operation by tomorrow (today). All shelters will be provided with the necessary resources,” he added.
“I am just doing my monthly shopping. I bought extra batteries, matches, more canned goods than normal and extra juices and water,” said attorney Harrington Dermot, who was seen paying for his groceries in Brooklyn Supermarket, Twin Gates Plaza.
Another shopper, Wilfred Hermitt, said: “I am always prepared from the perspective that I usually have the basic things, rain or shine. As a former Boys’ Brigade we have to prepare, we will not be caught flat-footed.”