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Sitting out Emily

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Last week in Jamaica my life was dominated by that lady we named Emily. Well the week really started on a bad note.

I got to Barbados only to find that my luggage had not arrived. I wasn’t worried about it being lost since that is not supposed to be possible on a flight between St. Vincent and Barbados. But Who Knows! What was really at stake was the inconvenience. All things considered that was not really bad since I had to overnight in Barbados anyhow and had some time with which to play. {{more}}

The same however could not have been said for Jeannie Olliverre and Bully Lawrence who had international connections later that afternoon. They were, to say the least, extremely mad, especially Bully who had the same experience on his last three visits home. They would have had to go on without their luggage since no other flight was due from St.Vincent before their scheduled departures.

The first part of the week in Jamaica was occupied with the thought that the hurricane could possibly hit St.Vincent given the path it was following. I was not the only or even the most concerned one. My colleagues Beverley Steele from Grenada and Deborah Lee from the Caymans remembered vividly their experiences from last year and prayed not to have a repetition of it. There were others particularly from Barbados who also eagerly sought information about the progress of Emily. Even Lennox Bernard from Trinidad was beginning to feel some of the tension since hurricane notices began to include Trinidad. What was most frustrating however was the news from the weather channel, a different one from that normally picked up here, but an American station nonetheless.

The news from that quarter concentrated on Dennis even though that hurricane had already worn itself out. Their only interest in Emily began at the point when a hit on American territory was possible. I remembered on one occasion listening eagerly after Emily was mentioned in the headlines. But then nothing followed. We were provided with information indicating that some parts of the States were going to be treated with a reduction of their hot temperatures compliments Dennis.

Some people try to rationalize this kind of behaviour by reminding us that the channel is an American one. In this age of globalization one cannot accept this. Companies beam their advertisements not only to the American market but to every part of the world where their signals go. In fact our tastes have become thwarted by this advertisement blitz. So concerns about the welfare of people generally end at that point. Well, really this is not new. Remember the Olympics! What is new!. Interest arises only when America or Americans are under threat. Someone apparently forgot the number of American tourists in the region.

So much for that! Emily again bypassed us and headed further north. In its path was Jamaica and after Ivan and Dennis Jamaicans took the threat seriously. At least up to a point. As happens all the time there were those who refused to accede to warnings to vacate their particular areas because of the fear of flooding. Fisher folks particularly in Port Royal refused to leave for fear that their fish and fishing paraphernalia would have been stolen. They were prepared to stick with their belongings come high or low.

Quite early after the passage of Emily through the Windwards it was recognized that it would have been moving south of Jamaica although parts of Jamaica were expected to have been in its path. It was difficult, however, to take any chances with Emily for it was for most part, disorganized or unorganized and capable of doing anything, jumping north and south and everywhere.

The University campus was closed on the afternoon of Friday 15th. At Mona Visitors Lodge which at that time housed about 11 persons the Manager informed us of their emergency plans. We were highly impressed since she seemed to have been well in control of things and catered to all possibilities. We felt quite safe and had enough goodies to last us for two days. We were even more assured when a retired meteorologist, a University lecturer who had been living in the Cayman islands and who had experienced at least three hurricanes in Jamaica seemed to have been keeping a close watch on things and assured us that we were only likely to get a lot of rain and some strong winds. Emily was expected to begin affecting Jamaica sometime on Saturday and so we waited, confident however that whatever happened it was not going to be of any major proportion. The posse, mainly from the Eastern Caribbean with one person from Montego Bay, assembled in the kitchen to eat and chat and exchange tales. One adventurous colleague from St.Lucia engaged the services of security personnel and ventured just outside the campus compound to stock-up our supplies of wine, beer and Appleton rum.

Having thus imbibed some spirits we had fortified ourselves and talked the afternoon away, getting regular updates on the progress of Emily. With all of this, we realized that there was nothing we could do but to wait, hope and pray. While the situation at the Mona campus was relatively calm, the same was not true for other parts of Jamaica where flooding became a major factor. One other concern remained. Some persons from the Eastern Caribbean were due to fly out on Sunday but BWIA had quite early made an announcement about cancellation of their flights. The airport authorities had, however, said publicly that the road on the narrow peninsular would have been cleared by late afternoon. BWIA having already made a decision, stuck to it.

The regularity of hurricanes/storms so early in the season is another indication of the reality of climate change and of Global Warming. The weather pattern seems to have grown topsy-turvy and it is now difficult for those of us who have always relied on our living experience, even to predict when it is going to rain. Even the fruits seem to be confused by what is happening and have been reacting in strange ways, ripening out of their accustomed season and even appearing when we least expect them. Even our friend George W is beginning to accept that there is Global Warming although he is not prepared to accept the explanations being given.

The reality is that the United States of America which houses four percent of the world’s population throws off 22 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. But he is not about to sign the Kyoto protocol but to seek fanciful explanations for what is happening.

We seem to have a long hurricane season ahead of us, although hopefully it might taper out at an earlier than accustomed time. Let us hope this is so.

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