According to officials at the Meteorological Department at the Grantley Adams International Airport, the just concluded month of August was one of the wettest of the year — and with just three days of September completed, it looks like we could be in for another rainy month.
While some may complain about the rainfall, we suspect there are many others who welcome the act of Mother Nature, particularly our farming community, since the right amount of rain can lead to a bountiful harvest.
However, we wish to use the results of yesterday’s heavy rainfall to remind Barbadians that we are still in the hurricane season and being prepared should be at the top of our agenda. Yesterday’s heavy rainfall was not particularly problematic, although it seemed to have caught some off-guard; and the gusts of winds in some districts apparently scared others.
What it all says to us though is that we should continue to question if nationally we are ready for what Mother Nature can throw at us, storm wise. Just a few hours of rain led to flooded streets and other areas, while the winds blew away a few sheets of galvanised hoarding here and there, and the non-permanent roof of a Christ Church restaurant.
We accept that the roof mentioned above would not have been designed to withstand high winds, but we are again left to wonder, based on recent experience, what would have been the outcome had the wind velocity been marginally higher.
We have seen absolutely nothing in recent years to convince us that the average Barbadian has any idea of what level of winds his or her home is designed to withstand, so in what circumstances should they seek refuge elsewhere. We are not convinced that the average Barbadian has had his or her home assessed to determine the extent to which deterioration of materials over the years has made it vulnerable.
We are more than sure that there is no national register of properties so our state emergency planners can say that in the event of a tropical storm we will lose “X” number of homes/roofs, in a category 1 hurricane we will lose “X” plus “Y” number of roofs/homes, etc.
Yes, we accept that there are aspects of the state/national apparatus that offer comfort, with the Roving Response Team at the top of the list. We acknowledge too that in recent times the Department of Emergency Management has been doing much to inform Barbadians of where they can go for shelter when a hurricane is approaching or after the impact of such a system.
But we also have to accept nationally that the state emergency response mechanism has not been truly tested for over half a century and therefore it is incumbent on Barbadians generally to ensure that to the best of their ability they should be able to take care of themselves and their loved ones in the face of disaster.
We, as individual citizens, really have no excuses for not knowing what our vulnerabilities are and taking whatever steps are within our means to mitigate against them. Our “it-will-not-happen-here” attitude will haunt us in the worse way one day if we do not place more emphasis on individual preparation.
September represents, potentially, the height of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. As much as we may wish otherwise, it could bring us woe like most of us have never experienced. We therefore admonish all Barbadians to let the dark clouds, heavy rains and the largely uneventful wind gusts of yesterday be a wake-up call.