BY DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
Iram Lewis, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management, and Reconstruction, says Grand Bahama is “ready as can be” and has “more than enough” hurricane shelters based on meteorological advice concerning the storm.
“We are fully aware of the system in the Tropics. It will not be a major system, however, we will…be putting necessary protocols in place to ensure we are ready,” he said on Wednesday during a press conference in Freeport.
“We are working closely with the Met Department, Social Services, the City of Freeport, and my colleagues’ ministers in GB…to ensure that we are in a complete state of readiness. Hurricane shelters are being prepared and inspections are being carried out in GB.”
Minister Lewis noted that as a result of information received from the Met Department, all the shelters will not be activated on GB.
“We have churches and schools that are also ready; we have more than enough to meet our needs,” he said.
The schools identified as shelters on the island include Hugh Campbell Primary, Jack Hayward High, Sister Mary Patricia Russell Junior High, and the Maurice Moore Primary School for East Grand Bahama. Some churches are expected to be added to an updated shelter list that will be released Thursday.
Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian in Grand Bahama and Abaco on September 1-3, the new Disaster Preparedness ministry was created to help focus and coordinate the national response for disasters, recovery, and reconstruction in the Bahamas.
In Abaco, Minister Lewis stated that shelter facilities are being prepared.
He has been assured that facilities are being readied on Sandy Point, Cherokee Sound, and Crossing Rocks, as well as Green Turtle Cay and Guana Cay. The school on Grand Cay and Moore’s Island has been identified as shelters on those islands.
“Moore’s Island school… even though it is not 100 percent it is suitable for the storm, and a church there is also ready to be activated as a shelter should the need arise,” Mr Lewis said.
The minister noted that they are mindful of the need to ensure that all shelters are in compliance with COVID-19 protocols.
COVID-19 is a major driver of how we manage and prepare shelters. I have no major concerns with our team being ready. As it is now and based on projections, we are ready as we can be, but again our situation is fluid and we have to make necessary adjustments.”
The minister said inspections were conducted at the COVID-19 section at the Rand Memorial Hospital, where teams of contractors are working to complete hospital renovations.
Mr Lewis indicated that sections of the hospital will open in phases, with the entire project completion in late August to early September.
The minister said that while the system is not expected to become a hurricane, the Emergency Operation Center will be activated by Friday afternoon or no later than Sunday.
The main concern with the system is rainfall. He said that debris removal is still a priority even though the island is not expecting a lot of wind.
“We are in discussions with Troy McIntosh at the City of Freeport on the removal of debris; we do not want debris floating all over our community and so we want to ensure we manage debris collection and containment,” he said.
Orson Nixon, chief Meteorologist at the Department of Meteorology in GB, said the system expects to weaken as it moves over Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, and Cuba.
“Our main concern is rainfall along the western part of GB and Bimini,” he said. We expect it to reach Bimini by Saturday night into Sunday morning.”
Christine Palacious, Administrator of West Grand Bahama, said preparations are underway in West Grand Bahama.
“There are persons on the ground in all the communities assessing persons who would need assistance in terms of evacuation, those staying in their homes, and need tarps for roofs,” she said.
She noted that they have started getting drains cleaned, and have contacted GB Power Company to deal with overhanging trees and power lines.
Administrator Palacious stated that social services are inspecting shelters in the area, and finalizing the official list of shelters for persons wishing to evacuate.