Jamaica – PM Calls for Change in Response to Extreme Weather After Montego Bay Floods

Montego Bay in Saint James Parish, Jamaica, was severely impacted by flash flooding on 22 November 2017, after almost one month of rain fell in 4 hours.

On a tour of the affected area, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that extreme weather events such as the flooding of Montego Bay must be used as a “platform to communicate with the people of Jamaica the great threat that we face from climate change.”

Montego Bay Floods

The flash flooding in Montego Bay left several roads blocked, cars swept away and houses damaged.

Jamaica’s National Works Agency (NWA) said that the main thoroughfare from Barnett to Adelphi was impassable. Education Minister, Senator Ruel Reid closed schools in the Montego Bay, St James.

The severe weather event overwhelmed the drainage systems resulting in flooding. Almost 100 mm of rain fell in just 4 hours. The North Gully, a drainage channel running through the city of Montego Bay, was completely overwhelmed.

During his visit to the flooded areas on 23 November, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Holness said the North Gully would appear at first glance to be able to carry a high volume of water instead of overflowing.

“It is a fairly large piece of infrastructure, which can carry a significant volume of water. This time, however, it just could not carry the volume of water, so it overran its banks and flooded the town centre,” he said.

Some streets were under 1 metre of flood water. The following days streets were still covered in thick mud and flood debris, making it difficult for pedestrians and vehicular traffic to move around.

Prime Minister Holness urged residents not to cross flooded roadways and to remain safe during this period of unstable weather.

1 Month of Rain in 4 Hours

Talking to local media Kareen Gourzong, head of the Weather Branch in the Meteorological Services, said “In four hours, Montego Bay got 94 mm of rain, that’s 96 per cent of the rain it would get monthly because on average, the town receivers 102 mm in November.

Prime Minister Calls For Change

During his tour of the flood hit areas, Prime Minister Holness said that events such as the flooding of Montego Bay must be used as a “platform to communicate with the people of Jamaica the great threat that we face from climate change”.

“We can’t necessarily say definitively that this (flooding) is due to climate change, but certainly it shows a significant variability in the weather patterns that we have become accustomed to,” he said.

Addressing the media following a tour of the affected areas in Montego Bay on 23 November, Mr. Holness said he cannot recall any event happening with such great frequency as what has been taking place, as it relates to natural disasters.

The Prime Minister emphasised that the people of the country have to become more aware of the issue of climate change, adding that it is important to note that it is generated by the actions of mankind.

“It is generated by how we choose to live… how we choose to build our houses and how we choose to dispose of our solid waste,” Mr. Holness explained.

The Prime Minister added that when infrastructure is built, “particularly our gullies”, they cannot be built under the impression “that this is a one in 10 years event.”

“These events that usually occur once a decade or once every 50 years are now occurring with greater frequency. We are going to have to build with much greater capacity,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that flooding as occurred in Montego Bay is bound to have a fiscal impact, adding that the Government will be forced to find resources “to expand the gully itself…”.

“But there is also the issue of where people choose to live. A conversation has to be seriously had that we cannot live where we feel like. Living on the banks of gullies should not be where people choose to live,” he added.

Damage left by the floods in Montego Bay, Jamaica, 22 November 2017. Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister of Jamaica.
Prime Minister Holness tours the aftermath of the floods in Montego Bay, Jamaica, 22 November 2017. Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister of Jamaica.
Prime Minister Holness tours the aftermath of the floods in Montego Bay, Jamaica, 22 November 2017. Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister of Jamaica.

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Flood Summary

Last updated: November 28, 2017
Event
Montego Bay, Jamaica, November 2017
Date
November 22 to November 23, 2017
Type
Flash flood
Cause
Extreme rainfall

Locations

A - Montego Bay
B - Barnett Street, Montego Bay
C - Adelphi Montego Bay

Magnitude

Rainfall level
94 mm in 24 hours
Montego Bay - November 22 to November 23, 2017

Damages

Buildings damaged
50 buildings
Montego Bay - November 22 to November 23, 2017
Estimated

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