Dominica PM urges residents to be prepared even as Isaac downgraded to tropical storm

ROSEAU, Dominica, Sept 11, CMC – Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit Tuesday urged citizens to be “fully prepared’” as Dominica was placed on a hurricane watch despite Hurricane Isaac being downgraded to a strong tropical storm.

Skerrit said he was urging all citizens “to take these warnings seriously. Whether it is a tropical storm, a tropical storm watch, or a hurricane watch or a hurricane warning, we must treat all of them the same way.

“The fact remains the storm is some distance away from us and anything can happen. Our hope and prayer is that it weakens and it goes away and there will be no impact on our country and our residents. But we must not be like the foolish Virgins. We have to prepare and show we prepare to the fullest possible extent,” he told a news conference.

He said as far as the National Emergency Planning Organisation is concerned “we are taking no chances and we are leaving no stone unturned in respect to the preparation of the state, the country and its citizens for this incoming weather system.”

The Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in its latest bulletin said that hurricane watches had gone into effect for Dominica, and the two French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, while a tropical storm watch is in effect for Antigua and Barbuda and Montserrat.

It said that the storm, which was located at 775 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, had maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour (mph).

It said that a hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area and Prime Minister Skerrit reminded citizens that Hurricane Maria had increased its intensity “in a matter of hours’ from a Category 3 to Category 5 storm when it lashed the island on September 18 last year, killing several people and causing hundreds of dollars (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) in losses.

“We cannot afford a storm, much less for a hurricane, “Skerrit told a news conference, as he urged residents to take all precautions ahead of the storm.

“This is not the time to go to a dark room and cry,” he said, indicating that later on Tuesday, the authorities will be making a statement regarding the schools and the working hours within the public and private sectors.

The NHC said that Isaac is located near latitude 14.6 North, longitude 49.7 West and is moving towards the west near 16 mph. It said that this motion is expected to continue for the next few days.

“On the forecast track Isaac is anticipated to move near or over the central Lesser Antilles on Thursday and move into the eastern Caribbean Sea Thursday night.”

The maximum sustained winds remain near 70 mph with higher gusts.

“Isaac is expected to be near hurricane strength when it moves through the central Lesser Antilles, with some weakening forecast afterward on Friday,” the NHC added.

It warned that Isaac is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of three to five inches with isolated amounts near 10 inches across the southern Leeward Islands late this week, with one to two inches anticipated across portions of the Windward Islands.

“A storm surge of two to four 4 feet above normal tide levels is possible near and to the north of where the centre moves through the Lesser Antilles.  Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves,” the NHC added.

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