Semper audentes (Latin, ‘always ready’)

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As Tropical Storm Tammy bears down on us, we believe that it is prudent that we use the remaining time before the system strikes us, later this evening, to upgrade and solidify our emergency plans. In hindsight, it is safe to say that many of us were not fully prepared for Tropical Storm Philippe, which dumped more than eight inches of rain on us, never mind the fact that the weather folks were predicting between four and six inches. Yes, weather forecasting is an inexact science, so we should always prepare for the worst.

Consider, if you will, the strength of the winds from Philippe. The forecasters were predicting tropical storm-force winds, but based on the number of trees and utility poles that were uprooted and broken, many residents are suggesting that Philippe’s ferocity seemed more like a category one hurricane. Many residents were also quite taken by the angry peals of continuous thunder and lightning.

Of course, we’re grateful to the Almighty for favouring us with the bounteous showers that accompanied Philippe, and we trust that Tropical Storm Tammy will take her cue from Philippe and bless us with showers, but not much by way of lightning, and strong winds. All of our water catchments are full, or near full. Our most famous surface water catchment, Potworks Dam, which was officially opened in 1970, covering over 300 acres, is one-third full, and another good downpour could easily bring it to its 1.2 billion-gallon capacity. That would be certainly great news to the APUA water folks who are still struggling to meet the daily water needs of this fair State, never mind our many reverse osmosis plants.

Some of us can well remember when the Father of the Nation, Sir Vere Cornwall Bird, and others, decided to develop the Potworks Dam as a water catchment to help alleviate our bedeviling water situation in the late 1960’s. many skeptics scoffed at the idea and mocked Papa Bird, some suggesting that he was going to relieve himself in the dam, filling it. You see, at that time, Antigua was experiencing severe annual droughts. Of course, Sir V C would not be denied, and he forged ahead with the work on the dam. Mercifully, his faith was rewarded, and a few days before the dam was supposed to be officially opened, the windows of heaven broke, filling it to capacity. By the time Tammy passes, we believe that Potworks Dam will be filled to capacity, what with the 6 inches of rain that they are forecasting.

Much like Boy Scouts, we must be prepared. Extra supplies of water. Batteries. A transistor radio. Extra canned goods. One or two flashlights. We must make sure that loose objects on our properties and securely fastened so that they do not become projectiles. Our pets must be placed in safe and dry locations. Make sure that windows and doors are securely latched. And of course, in the event that your home becomes inundated with water, be prepared to evacuate quickly and safely to a friend or family member’s home, or the government shelter nearest you. Remember, ‘semper audentes!’

Who can forget Hurricane Gonzalo which struck us nine years ago this week. Gonzalo was not supposed to be anything of significance, yet she quickly became a Category Four hurricane, the first of that strength since Hurricane Ophelia in 2011. When Gonzalo first touched us on October 12, she was but a tropical wave. She quickly strengthened to a Category One hurricane, wreaking damage to the tune of US$40 million. By the time she touched Bermuda, Gonzalo was a Category Four.

Folks, let us never underestimate Mother Nature’s wrath. She has unleashed her fury on Planet Earth on account of mankind’s poor stewardship of the environment. Our profligacy; our indiscriminate disposal of bottles, plastics and other substances harmful to the environment; our wilful and wanton use of fossil fossils; our failure to make the necessary switch to renewable and sustainable forms of energy; our destruction of forests, mangroves and wetlands; our callous insistence on sacrificing Mother Nature on the altar of development, have resulted in fiercer hurricanes. To be sure, our [Antigua and Barbuda’s] carbon footprint is negligible, but unfortunately, small islands such as ours are bearing the brunt of these dastardly weather events. May the world pay the more earnest heed.

To all Antiguans and Barbudans, please be prepared, and of course, be safe.

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