EDITORIAL – Getting ready for the rainy season

Hurricane forecasters have increased their predictions for the Atlantic hurricane season. They say conditions are likely to lead to 14 named storms and six, not five, hurricanes over the next few months.

They anticipate a fairly average season, with a 44% chance of a hurricane tracking into the Caribbean before it is over. The catch, of course, is that no one can predict with absolute certainty when or where a hurricane will develop or make landfall. Even the most highly trained experts using the most scientifically advanced methods can make only what amounts to an educated guess.

Still, as imperfect a tool as these seasonal forecasts can be, most of us pay attention each time they are issued or adjusted. Forewarned is forearmed, as the adage goes, and it is important not to let down our guard as hurricane season approaches.

As Premier Alden McLaughlin wrote in his annual hurricane season message, “We know that just one bad storm can wreak havoc.” Indeed, government deserves high praise for its commitment and professionalism in creating hurricane response plans, conducting exercises and sharing important information about these rare, but natural disasters.

We wish they would treat with equal seriousness another perennial danger: Seasonal flooding caused by torrential rains.

Unlike hurricanes, we can predict with near-100% certainty that the rainy season will wreak havoc on low-lying neighbourhoods – flooding streets, homes and businesses, causing headaches, inconvenience and damaging property. We even know which areas of our island will be hardest hit.

Cumber Avenue, Belford Estates, Randyke Gardens, Windsor Park. Each summer, the residents of these and other especially vulnerable areas will be forced to deal with impassable roads, yards and driveways under water, damaged vehicles and sodden messes. Surely, something can be done to address this chronic issue.

Last month, residents of North Sound Estates in Savannah shared their frustrations with a Compass reporter, describing saltwater spewing from storm drains and breaching canal walls during king tides and heavy storms. Many have taken the initiative to raise their driveways or building walls in an attempt to protect against rising water, but there is only so much they can do. With side roads built less than 2 feet above mean sea level — less than half the recommended elevation — the problem is too big for a single property owner or resident to solve.

The National Roads Authority is working to provide some relief by raising the elevation of the streets in the areas that are most susceptible to flooding. They, too, are limited by the general lack of elevation and must be careful not to create new flooding problems in their attempts.

“It was not really filled to the level it should have been,” the area’s legislator Alva Suckoo said of the North Sound Estates development.

Flooding will always be a fact of life on our low-lying islands. That does not prevent our adopting – and enforcing – building codes and construction protocols that will minimise the ill effects.

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