Alexis Jeffers
Alexis Jeffers

Disaster management minister marks start of 2018 Atlantic hurricane season

From the NIA

CHARLESTOWN, Nevis – The following is an address by the Honourable Alexis Jeffers, deputy premier of Nevis and minister responsible for disaster management in the Nevis Island Administration, in observance of the start of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season that runs June 1-Nov. 30.

Fellow citizens and residents,

The 2018 hurricane season is now upon us and it is my duty to urge all the residents of Nevis to ensure they are prepared for any eventuality.

As we reflect on last year, the images and emotional scars are fresh in all of our minds.

We in Nevis can count ourselves both lucky and blessed as we were spared the full brunt of two Category 5 hurricanes that passed us within 2 weeks of each other.

As Minister with responsibility for Disaster Management, it is my duty to ensure the government gives the necessary support to the Nevis Disaster Management Department to adequately coordinate preparations and mitigate any impact the island may experience this hurricane season.

There is a cadre of trained persons in various aspects of disaster management.

This includes areas such as district chairpersons, shelter and shelter management, damage and needs assessment, ham radio operators, security as well as community emergency response teams.

At this time, I do express my sincere thanks to all volunteers who have served over the years and to thank you in advance for your availability during this season.

You are the persons who sacrifice your time and safety away from your various families in an effort to ensure vulnerable persons are taken care of.

Just this last weekend we had an early start to the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season with the formation of sub-tropical storm Alberto in the Gulf of Mexico and was predicted to impact the Southern United States.

Events like these underscore the importance of our people to take the warnings and advisories seriously.

These storms as scientists suggest are a direct impact of climate change and global warming.

The warming of the sea around our islands are perfect conditions for the development and rapid strengthening of tropical cyclones.

Unfortunately, on a global scale we contribute nothing to this situation and are the most exposed.

Since the recording of temperatures began in the year 1850, the two hottest years recorded were 2016 and 2017.

If the warming trend continues, global experts have indicated that 2018 may follow a similar pattern.

Hurricanes negatively impact our economies and most importantly our way of life.

As I said earlier, our neighbouring islands have hardly recovered from the devastation of hurricanes Irma and Maria of September 2017.

They have had the destruction of their housing stock making it difficult for basic shelter.

Persons have no place to live, buildings that housed businesses were utterly destroyed thus creating mass unemployment and loss of economic power for business owners.

If we look at the farming sector we have both crop and livestock farmers that are exposed to the elements with nothing but a hope and a prayer.

Adding to that, when our ports are affected the inability to have ships that bring the majority of our food puts our country in a severely compromised position in terms of food security.

I will not detail but our electricity and communication platforms are often very fragile.

The long and short of this is that our way and quality of life stand to be obstructed with the impact of any storm whether Category 1,2,3,4 or 5.

We have heard the horrifying experiences of people from Dominica, Barbuda, Anguilla, British and United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, many of whom have still not yet recovered.

It is not the intention to scare anyone, however, the government agencies cannot do everything.

I am advising all of our residents and business houses to take the protection of life and property seriously, and do all that is possible to minimize the impact of tropical weather systems on our island if we are hit.

The prediction for 2018 is not sobering as experts are predicting the Northern Hemisphere could see up to four major hurricanes during this season.

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1, peaks from August to October, and extends to November 30.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which released its forecast for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season on Thursday May 24th, 
There is a 35 percent chance that this hurricane season will be above normal, a 40 percent chance for a near-normal season, and a 25 percent chance for a below-normal season.

Overall, NOAA predicts that there will be 10-16 named storms, of which 5-9 could become hurricanes, and 1-4 of those could be major hurricanes.

It takes only a single rain event, or a mere category one hurricane to set back the social and economic gains we have spent years achieving.

However, at the same time it represents an opportunity for our people to use their training, ingenuity and comradery to protect and preserve what we have and recover faster to a better position than we were.

Our local meteorologist, disaster management professionals and media personnel are ready and able to assist in making sure we are always aware of any approaching weather systems.

Once members of our communities listen and act accordingly, we can be safe.

In closing, once again, I urge our residents to begin to get their respective disaster plans activated and I pledge the government will do its part to ensure the island’s readiness in preparation for the 2018 hurricane season.

Thank you and may God continue to bless us all.