Stay indoors and leave nothing to chance, Government told residents Thursday as Tropical Storm Elsa advances toward the island.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley and key members of her Cabinet made persistent appeals for people living in “vulnerable” situations to seek refuge in shelters.
While the system is expected to pass 40 miles (65 km/h) early Friday, the bulk of a cyclone’s highest winds and heaviest rains are located in its northeast quadrant and will likely make its heaviest impact on the island’s southern half.
The system is the fifth tropical cyclone in a hurricane season that is expected to be above normally busy.
But even before landfall, Elsa, which threatens as much as eight inches of rain and wind speeds of 60 miles-per-hour is one for the record books – no other Atlantic hurricane season has ever had a fifth named storm in the season’s first four weeks.
Worsening conditions are expected to start around 2 a.m., but the highest winds are forecast to occur between 6 and 7 a.m. along with heavy downpours, Acting Director of the Barbados Meteorological Services Sabu Best told journalists.
Coastal areas, particularly in the Southeast and Southwest will likely be battered by storm surge from waves as high as five meters.
After marathon discussions with weather experts, key civil servants and ministers, the Prime Minister said she ordered that all necessary steps be taken to protect lives and properties.
“And to that extent, therefore, we have made the determination that there is nothing more important than to confront the reality of Tropical Storm Elsa,” Mottley declared.
“I want also to appeal to Barbadians who know that their houses are vulnerable, who are not that sure what would happen if the roof went off and it is looking a little shaky, or you were one of the roughly 165 houses that [were] damaged two weeks ago in the freak storm, I am formally appealing to you that in those circumstances, it is better to be safe than sorry.
“If you have family that you can go by, by all means, that is the best place to be, but if you don’t have family or if their houses are at risk too, then I really suggest that you make use of the shelters that we have.”
The PM also warned that officials would take an extremely dim view of joyriding in the storm and warned that perpetrators of these “reckless” acts would “face the consequences”.
Home Affairs Minister Wilfred Abrahams declared that the country is in a much better position to deal with such natural phenomena than in previous years.
But he added that after the “freak storm” which struck the island two weeks ago has left hundreds of households even more exposed and in a state of heightened “fragility”.
Abrahams declared: “We are expecting sustained storm force in excess of the winds that we would have had a week and a half ago. So people need to look around the houses, make themselves as prepared as they can be, pick up all the loose objects that can become missiles, clear the drains, clear the waterway and just make yourselves as prepared as you can be.”
He then invoked divine intervention, delivering an impromptu prayer that the island be spared the storm’s onslaught.
Adding to the plea from PM Mottley, Abrahams urged Barbadians to be honest with themselves about the sturdiness of their properties and seek assistance if necessary.
Acting Chief Education Officer Joy Adamson revealed that as early as 5:30 on Thursday, 33 Category 1 shelters, including three new ones, were opened to the public, but added that strict Covid-19 protocols would be in full effect.
General Manager of the Barbados Water Authority Keithroy Halliday revealed that the utility company’s 40 worksites and facilities had been secured and generators were in place to cover 80 per cent of the distribution system.
Halliday revealed that community tanks would be “topped up” and “locked up” for security prior to the storm but would be accessible after the all-clear is given.
He added that water tankers would be out in full force until approximately four hours before the passage of the storm and would again be available after the system has passed.
“You still need to continue to adhere to the protocol of storing as much water as you can – at least five gallons per person per day and for a minimum of five days, and also remember to store water for your pets as well,” Halliday warned.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George has urged all visitors to shelters to arrive with masks and hand sanitisers and exercise physical distancing.
Dr George further revealed that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital would be equipped with all necessary resources to maintain service throughout the storm’s passage.
He added that people in quarantine at the Paragon army base will be removed to another location.
Director of the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) Kerrie Hinds revealed that the National Emergency Operating Centre would be opened at 10 p.m. and all crisis coordination agencies would be present. ([email protected])