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Waiting for Ivan: Jamaica on hurricane watch *LINK*

In an address to the nation last night, the Prime Minister Patterson said: "I urge everyone to remain calm and act responsibly as we face this imminent danger... The forces of nature can change in a short time but we have constantly to be prepared for the worst-case scenario."

by Trudy Simpson, Freelance Writer

JAMAICA IS now under a hurricane watch as Hurricane Ivan moves closer to the island. A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within 36 hours.

At 5:00 p.m. yesterday, Hurricane Ivan, more powerful than Hurricane Gilbert which devastated the island on September 12, 1988, was located at 150 km north-northeast of Bonaire or 1040 km east south-east of Morant Point in eastern Jamaica. The hurricane is moving at 28 km per hour and has maximum force winds of 220 km per hour, making it a strong Category four storm.


Forecasters also project that the storm could further strengthen as it makes its way towards the island. Based on its current track, the island is expected to start feeling heavy winds and showers by this evening and the eye is expected to be over the island by mid to late morning on Friday, the National Meteoro-logical Service said.

A Category four hurricane can cause extensive damage to or completely destroy houses and topple trees and street signs. It can also cut off escape routes for persons living in low-lying areas, three to five hours before arrival of the hurricane centre, a local weather website, www., pointed out.

The approaching hurricane, which killed at least 20 persons and cut off communities and communication in sections of Grenada which it battered on Tuesday, has triggered a flurry of activity as Jamaica braces itself for what some forecasters have said may move to Category five status. Following the convening of the National Disaster Response Committee by Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson, the Ministry of Education ordered that all schools be closed today and tomorrow.

The Education Ministry also advised principals to ensure that keys to the buildings are made available to representatives of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM). Under the shelter programme, all Government-owned schools are designated shelters.

Supermarkets were not packed yesterday afternoon but owners and operators said they were stocking supplies in preparation for last-minute shoppers.

The Jamaica Public Service Company and the National Water Commission also issued warnings to the public that electricity and water supplies may be disrupted. JPS urged persons to cut trees close to power lines, to remove items that could be blown onto powerlines; to turn off electricity if they have to leave home; to have flashlights in case there is a power outage and to stay away from dangling powerlines. These should be reported to the JPS. The NWC advised people to store water.

The most powerful storm to hit the Caribbean in nearly a decade, Hurricane Ivan's fierce winds also pummelled Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Tuesday, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Up to yesterday, thousands remained without water, electricity and telephone service in the Eastern Caribbean.

The hurricane is expected to hit sections of Cuba and may make its way to the United States.

An advisory from the national Hurricane Center in Miami Florida, indicates that because of Hurricane Ivan, a Hurricane Warning remains in effect for Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. A hurricane watch and a Tropical Storm Warning remain in effect for the Guajira Peninsula of Colombia, and for the entire northern coast of Venezuela.

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