BY DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
Grand Bahama shelters will open this morning as the island expects to experience tropical conditions by Saturday, with winds anticipated to reach 50 to 70mph.
At 8am the shelters will be activated. The four shelters are Bethel Deliverance Centre and Central Zion Baptist Church in West Grand Bahama; St Georges' gymnasium for Central Freeport; and Maurice Moore Primary School for Freeport and East Grand Bahama.
However, residents are strongly advised to remain at home if their structure can withstand tropical storm conditions.
According to AccuWeather, Tropical storm Isaias is expected to take a northwesterly path roughly between Cuba and the Bahamas late this week.
At a press conference in Freeport yesterday, Minister of Disaster Preparedness, Management, and Reconstruction Iram Lewis said the ministry is closely monitoring the storm.
"We encourage all Bahamians to make necessary preparations as we brace for the potential impact of Isaias.
These preparations must be completed in congruence with regulations outlined in COVID-19 emergency orders," he said.
"I want to stress the importance of staying at home. If your home is able to withstand the tropical storm, please stay at home," the minister urged.
Mr Lewis stated that a decision would be made as early as this morning on whether to evacuate residents of Sweeting's Cay.
He said COVID-19 patients who are in isolation at Rand are secure in a resilient area in the hospital. He said people under quarantine at the government facility at Our Lucaya resort will remain there, and people under quarantine at home are asked to stay home. He indicated that the Ministry of Health has provisions that are in place to evacuate such persons should the need arise.
In terms of shelters, Chief Welfare Officer Dorothea Gomez said all shelters and team staff are ready.
When asked the number of persons that could be accommodated at the shelters in GB, she stated that due to COVID-19 regulations she could not say. "Because of the COVID -19 pandemic we are advising persons to shelter at home," she added.
With hurricane debris still present on the island, GB Meteorologist Orson Nixon believes it could pose a threat, and advises that steps should be taken to protect one's property.
"I was asked whether persons should batten up their homes and businesses; with debris still on the island from Dorian, it would be a good idea for residents to make those preparations. Anticipated winds are anywhere between 50 and 70mph," he said.
Mr Nixon reported that the island could expect 4 to 8 inches of rain in some instances. That, he said, could change as time goes on.
Philcher Grant, director of Operations at GB Utility, said they are in a state of readiness. "We are taking the threat of a storm seriously. We learned some hard, difficult lessons from Dorian," she said.
She reported that water depots on the island have been secured, and steps have been taken to protect their assets and equipment.
Ms Grant assured that there is no plan to shut down the city's water plant during the storm. "The team is on standby to keep the water on as long as we can," she said.
Nikita Mullings, director of customer operations at GB Power Company, said their storm response plan has been activated.
She also assured that there is no planned control shut down of power, but do expect that there may be isolated outages.
"The system is designed to protect itself. We expect some isolated outages and our crews will respond as long as it is safe to do so."
Ms Mullings said customers should contact 352-8411 if they experience outage as sometimes they are not aware unless a report is made.