The people of Antigua and Barbuda are being urged to pay heed to the approaching tropical storm Erika. Although Erika is not forecasted to develop into a hurricane by the time it impacts the area, there is a strong likelihood of heavy rainfall. Both the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS), and the Meteorological Office are urging residents of both islands comprising the twin-isle state, not to become complacent but to heed the various advisories about the storm.
There has been an alarming chorus of criticism coming from some quarters that is being levelled against the Met Office. The office is accused of giving a wrong forecast ahead of TS Danny which dissipated and had little effect, if any, on Antigua and Barbuda. The criticisms are baseless and most unfortunate. However, despite these misgivings, NODS Director Philmore Mullin said Erika is a different storm with different characteristics. As such, people should follow the advice from the department in an effort to protect life and property.
“We know that weather prediction is not an exact science. However, we are proud of the work of the Meteorology Department in providing the nation with up-to-date information in a timely manner prior to each storm. We urge residents to follow the advice as this is in their best interest,” he stated. Mullin said that people in low lying areas, especially West Palm Beach in Bolans, and areas such as Bendals, Yorks, and Piggotts should particularly be mindful about heavy rainfall. Mullins said the shelters will be open; people are urged to seek refuge before the storm if necessary.
Meanwhile, the Antigua Public Utilities Authority has activated its disaster plan ahead of Erika. Electricity manager, Andre Matthias, said the plan calls for measures to protect the utility service’s key assets prior to the storm, and for recovery after the storm. The police said they too will be looking to help protect property during and after the storm. Special attention will be paid to protecting the commercial areas of St John’s, as well as other key national assets.
During the passage of the storm, residents are urged to stay indoors and venture out only in cases of emergency. Each household is urged to ensure that it has its own disaster plan and, to activate these as the storm approaches.