After two anxious days, Barbadians can finally exhale as we have yet again been spared the full fury of a severe weather system, Tropical Storm Dorian.
Even for the casual observer, there was something amiss on Saturday evening as the queues in supermarkets and gas stations grew longer with every passing hour. Those lines intensified on Sunday morning as we got word that Tropical Storm Dorian was 200 miles to the west of Barbados and the island was placed under Tropical Storm Warning.
It would seem as though the level of destruction we witnessed from Irma and Maria across several island neighbours, including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Maarten, Anguilla and Puerto Rico in 2017, served as a wake-up call for Barbadians.
As one shopper observed: “We saw what happened with the hurricanes and storms in those other Caribbean countries and we don’t want to be caught in that same position.”
Indeed, Barbadians took the warning seriously and set to work on getting their houses and neighbourhoods in shape, not only by venturing into the supermarkets and the big-box stores and purchasing emergency supplies, including water, batteries and canned goods in bulk but also by clearing drains, trimming overhanging tree branches, putting up shutters on their windows and doors and placing sandbags in front of their doorways.
The Sanitation Service Authority also advised the public to remove any bulk waste from around homes that could become missiles during high winds or block watercourses in heavy rain.
The corporate community played its part in extending opening hours on Sunday evening to allow people to get their last minute supplies, including medications for the elderly or other people suffering from chronic conditions.
Businesses also adhered to the national shut down at 10 o’clock yesterday morning, even if it came not too long after they opened their doors, and by all indications, the shutdown, as well as the efforts to get commuters home via both the Transport Board and private sector bus operators, went relatively smoothly.
Another example of how concerned Barbadians were about this particular event was that over 100 people sought refuge at the various emergency shelters around the island, a number which Chief Shelter Warden Karen Best, the Chief Education Officer, said was unprecedented in her years at the post.
And while not disclosing locations or the numbers housed at each facility, Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson said 38 shelters were in operation, of which 17 were occupied.
Thankfully, there was no major damage, and better yet, no-one suffered any injuries during the passage of Dorian.
There were reports of fallen trees, including one in St. Luke’s, St. George, fallen poles and power lines in St. George, Christ Church, St. John, St. Thomas, St. Andrew and St. Michael, and at least one property in St. Peter lost a portion of its roof.
There were water outages in some parishes owing to power failures, and while the desalination plant was taken offline, it was put back on stream when the all-clear was given and water tankers were sent out to affected areas.
The Barbados Light and Power Company also set to work urgently on correcting issues within their network.
It was also pleasing to report that there was no damage to fishing vessels or to facilities at the Grantley Adams International Airport and the Bridgetown Port, and our network of hotels and guest houses remained intact.
Meteorological officers reported that Tropical Storm Dorian ran out of steam during its time in our neck of the woods, stating: “The visible and infrared satellite images showed an eyewall that was trying to develop, but that totally eroded away… That sometimes happens when systems are battling against the elements as they try to intensify.”
We were fortunate this time, but as we saw two years ago with Maria, which grew from a Category One to a Category Five hurricane within the space of 24 hours, the reverse can also occur, especially in this era of climate change it would appear.
We know that certain areas of the island are highly prone to flooding, so it was good to see remedial work being done in the Speightstown area, a feat we hope was repeated, or will be, in other flood-prone areas before the season is over.
We pray efforts will be ongoing to remove the pile-ups of debris in and around our communities as the storm season continues.
While our fisherfolk heeded the calls to get their vessels into safe harbour or hauled out of the water, we are still concerned that to this date the issue with the crane at Oistins has yet to be resolved; we hope this can be sorted out before the 2020 season is upon us.
There was also a decided improvement in the level, frequency and quality of communication from the authorities, most notably the Prime Minister. The new National Shutdown policy was brought into effect with minimal disruption. The administration deserves praise for its preparedness.
So overall, Barbados receives a passing grade for our level of readiness for Tropical Storm Dorian.
Nevertheless, we cannot afford to be complacent. As Prime Minister Mottley said: “This system allowed us to mobilise and focus on some areas.
“For example, the work done on Sunday (at Speightstown among other places) made a significant difference in our state of readiness.
“However, we must remember that there are still three full months left to go until the end of the season, so we must continue our preparedness efforts.”
We could not agree more.