If you’re a Weather Network viewer, then you know that last week Jamaica had a tropical storm scare. Tropical Storm Earl developed early in the long weekend and by Monday morning, the risk to Jamaica was increasing. Thankfully the storm passed to the south of the island, growing in intensity until it made landfall early last Thursday morning in Belize. At first it weakened, then it picked up intensity as it passed through to Mexico. So far, 40 deaths have been attributed to the storm.
Hurricanes and tropical storms haven’t been kind to Jamaica. There are still places that haven’t recovered from the damaged caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. I was impressed with how serious the government took the storm, even though the risk of Earl making landfall in Jamaica was always pretty minor. Warnings and advisories were issued 48 hours before the storm was expected to pass the island. Emergency numbers were circulated on Facebook and Twitter, on the radio and on TV. I even got a courtesy text message with a storm advisory. It would also seem that Jamaicans took the warnings seriously. Being that it was a long weekend, only one grocery store was open, and apparently it was packed with people stocking up on emergency rations. Many of my coworkers stayed home on Tuesday just in case, even though there wasn’t much wind or rain to speak of at that point.
Cuso has very cautious emergency plans in place for dealing with storms or other natural disasters. We were advised to shelter in place from Monday afternoon until the official advisory was lifted Tuesday evening. We are expected to have food and water to last us for 3-5 days, and there are plans in place if we need to evacuate our homes, our neighborhoods, or even the country depending on the severity of the conditions.
There is plenty of evidence that climate change is changing the frequency and intensity of hurricanes and other severe weather events worldwide. Caribbean climate scientists are anticipating this year’s hurricane season to be “very active.” It’s very likely that this won’t be the only tropical storm during my time here, even if we are fortunate enough to avoid a full-blown hurricane. Thankfully, I am as prepared as one can be.