Right Steps & Poui Trees


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How Often Did Your MP Attend Parliament in 2016 – 2017?

In the past couple of weeks, the issue of the narrow margin between the Government (32 seats) and the Opposition (31 seats) has come to the fore once again. This is because Member of Parliament (MP) Derrick Smith, who is Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, is currently overseas receiving medical care and if he were absent for the upcoming vote, the Government mightn’t have the votes to pass the Budget.

Derrick Smith Gleaner photo

Gleaner photo

Mr Smith is quoted in an article in The Gleaner this week as saying, “I will be available for any parliamentary vote.” And one can believe it, as he is one of only five MPs who were present for 40 of the 41 sittings of the Parliament during the year. He is also the only MP recorded as present at the sitting scheduled for October 4, 2016, when there was no quorum due to the threat of Hurricane Matthew impacting Jamaica. (I am not sure if his attendance was due to his personal commitment or was in some way connected with his position of Leader of Government Business.)

Attendance in Parliament is only one of many measures of an MP’s performance, but it is a starting place for holding our representatives accountable. The table below sets out MPs’ attendance at the 41 sittings of the new Parliament which had its first sitting on March 10, 2016, after the general election in February. The table doesn’t indicate whether MPs were present for roll call at the start of sessions, though this is available in the records of the Parliament. Whether they stayed to the end of the sessions isn’t recorded, however.

One question to consider as you look at the table is – How much, if at all, does it matter to you whether your MP attends Parliament?

MPs attendance 2016 - 2017 aMPs attendance 2016 - 2017 ab

(Click to access table as PDF file: ATTENDANCE RECORD FOR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT MARCH 2016 – JANUARY 2017)

RELATED DOCUMENTS

The data for the table was taken from the following attendance records obtained from Parliament:

ATTENDANCE RECORD OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT FOR PERIOD NOV 2015 – DEC 2016

ATTENDANCE RECORD OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT FOR PERIOD NOVEMBER 2016 to JANUARY 2017

RELATED BLOG POST

How Many Times Did Your MP Attend Parliament in 2015?


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Hurricane Flora, 1963: Another Devastating October Hurricane

I have two memories of Hurricane Flora, which brought torrential rains to Jamaica between October 5-7 in 1963; neither memory has to do with the actual rain, but instead are of the aftermath. Perhaps staying home because of rain wasn’t particularly memorable to a 6-year-old, and memory is a strange thing anyway.

Hurricane Flora developed to the east of Trinidad on September 30, 1963 and it is interesting to note the difference in the technical data available for forecasting and tracking a hurricane at that time. This can be seen, for example, in a Preliminary Report on Hurricane “Flora”, September 30 – October 12, 1963 done by the US Weather Bureau:

Hurricane “Flora” was one of the most destructive in recent history in Haiti and Cuba. It was unusually violent when it crossed Haiti during the night of October 3-4. Then it remained nearly stationary for more than four days (October 4-8) over eastern Cuba and produced unprecedented amounts of rainfall, which in turn resulted in devastating floods. Although final figures are not yet available, it appears likely that the death toll will number in the thousands and property losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hurricane “Flora” appears to have formed and intensified rapidly about 150 miles east of Trinidad on September 30, 1963. It seems possible that the original disturbance that eventually developed into “Flora” moved off the African coast on September 23. Later a TIROS VII photograph at 0942Z September 26 (Orbit 1464) showed a large cloud mass in the area between 10 and 15N and 35 and 40W. No additional information was received until a KLM jet airliner bound from Lisbon, Portugal to Paramaribo, Surinam reported a disturbed area near 12.4N 47.2W at approximately 2230Z September 28. On the basis of the KLM report, the San Juan Weather Bureau requested special ship reports in the area east of the Lesser Antilles.

Following ship reports and US Navy reconnaissance aircraft flying to the area on September 30, the first advisory for Hurricane Flora was issued, with hurricane warnings for Trinidad, Tobago and the Grenadines.

Flora followed a long and circuitous track through the Caribbean, part of which is clearly shown on this map:

A map from the current Weather Underground site indicates the strength of Hurricane Flora as it traveled on its path of destruction:wu-hurricane-flora-track-1963

When Flora eventually moved away from the region, it left behind devastating death and damage:

The effects on Jamaica were substantial, though nothing near the catastrophic effects on Haiti and Cuba.

Rainfall levels for Jamaica were record breaking, with the highest amount of 60 inches recorded at Spring Hill in Portland. (The highest amount recorded in the region was 100.39 inches in Santiago de Cuba.)

us-weather-bureau-monthly-review-october-1963-hurricane-flora-jamaica

US Weather Bureau Monthly Review Vol 9 No 3, p. 136

The Gleaner headlines give an indication of the news in Jamaica at the time:

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Daily Gleaner, Thursday, Oct 3, 1963

gleaner-oct-4-1963-flora

Daily Gleaner, Friday, Oct 4, 1963

gleaner-oct-6-1963-flora

Sunday Gleaner, Oct 6, 1963

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Daily Gleaner, Monday, Oct 7, 1963

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Daily Gleaner, Tuesday, Oct 8, 1963

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Daily Gleaner, Wednesday, Oct 9, 1963

As a 6-year-old, I wasn’t aware of any of this news, the deaths, the destruction and the severe hardships being faced by so many. Children nowadays see images on television and the internet, bringing them far closer to the news of things that don’t touch their lives directly. I do remember that when we went back to school, we had to take boiled water with us and we had strict instructions not to drink water from the pipes, as it would make us sick. I carried my water in a regular glass jam jar, with its metal screw-on lid. All the water bottles were lined up on a shelf in the classroom, with our names labelling them.

We lived on Gore Terrace at the time, which is near to the Sandy Gully and one day, my father walked with my older brother and me out to the Sandy Gully Bridge on Constant Spring Road. It wasn’t raining , and there were many other people standing on the bridge looking at the water roaring through the gully and under the bridge. I don’t remember the sound, but the image of the rough torrents of brown water rushing through the gully is seared into my memory. When we crossed the road to the other side of the bridge, the water churned even more violently as it went down the slope in the gully. I clung to Daddy’s hand and that provided a measure of security, but I had a terrible sense of the danger of that water, which seemed like a frighteningly live thing.

Hurricane Matthew has battered Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas over the past few days, and is now threatening the eastern coast of the USA. The news reporting is in real time, with non-stop images via cable, the internet and social media, which is vastly different from the type of reporting possible 53 years ago. As a comparison, you might watch these two short videos about Flora, one recent (using archival footage) and the other from 1963.

Jamaica has escaped with little damage, though at times it seemed as if we might experience Matthew’s category 4 strength. Today, as in 1963, we know that an October hurricane has dealt a far harsher blow to our regional neighbours than it has to us.


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#Matthew: The Preferred Approach to Hurricane Preparedness?

“PM, yuh think wi should start do something now? Open some shelter, sen out a bulletin, tell people fi board up?”

“No man, Desmond. Breeze nuh start blow yet, and only likkle rain ah fall. Wait till wi really start feel it, man. If it look like di storm surge covering the road and reaching people house, I will call Up Park Camp and ask them to send some soldiers to Portland and St Thomas same time.”

“But, PM, dem can reach in the middle ah di hurricane? By di time dem reach, people nuh wash wey aready?”

“No man, Desmond, wi mustn’t overreact. After all, look how many times wi prepare and no hurricane come. Evan seh Matthew might come, but he’s only a meteorologist; what them know about weather? And the National Hurricane Centre is in Florida, so they cyaan know what is going to happen in Jamaica.”

“Okay, I will talk to Major Davis. ODPEM must just watch Matthew a likkle longer. Dem shouldn’t move to NEOC Level 2 activation too soon. Dem cyan always prepare afta di storm.”

****

Sometimes it is necessary to imagine the ridiculous in order to highlight  a situation.

There are some people who are angry with the government and the weather forecasters because they advised people to prepare for a possible encounter with Hurricane Matthew, and in the end Jamaica hasn’t been severely impacted. Based on the ongoing information available from meteorologists locally, regionally & internationally, Jamaica was in the cone of possible impact of the system, which on Friday night reached the level of a Category 5 hurricane, the highest strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.nhc-matthew-cat-5-30-9-16-11pm

Matthew did a number of things which the weather forecasters didn’t expect. Its rapid intensification from not even being classified as a tropical depression on Wednesday morning (Sept 28) to being a Category 5 Hurricane on Friday night (Sept 30) was completely unexpected; it was described on Jeff Master’s blog on Weather Underground as ” a jaw-dropping stretch of rapid intensification” (October 1, 2016). The path of the hurricane was also unusual and it slowed down and wobbled before it took the predicted turn to the north, which took place later than initially expected. This is a satellite image of where Hurricane Matthew was on Sunday morning, at a point when it was moving west at a forward speed of 3 mph:

wu-matthew-satellite-photo-2-10-16

Image from Weather Underground

Our local forecasters gave their updates based on the data available at the time and reminded that the forecast could change. Forecast accuracy has improved over time, given the advances in technology and available data, but meteorology is not an exact science.

It would have been grossly irresponsible if the government, given the information available to it, had not begun serious preparations for the possibility of a major hurricane hitting or passing close to Jamaica. Advisories had to be issued for people to prepare well in advance of projected impact.

No-one enjoys the disruption to normal routines that happens because of hurricane preparations. (Except perhaps for children who get time off from school.) People may feel frustrated, impatient, angry, anxious, frightened or any number of other emotions. Spending money on hurricane supplies when money is in short supply is frustrating and if the hurricane doesn’t materialise, the frustration may intensify. Boarding up, moving to a shelter, closing a business, worrying about family who are vulnerable are among the stressful experiences associated with preparing. But preparing is essential.

As I tweeted yesterday:sg-tweet-3-10-16-hurricane-prep-optionsAnd I saw this tweet by a US meteorologist today:holthaus-tweet-re-matthew-4-10-16The government will obviously need to review its actions over the past week or so, to identify any flaws in its response and what improvements can be made. Meteorologists will definitely review the data about Hurricane Matthew for years to come, seeking to understand this unpredictable storm among unpredictable storms. And all of us can review our own responses to see what lessons there are for us to learn about how best to protect ourselves and our families.

As we watch Hurricane Matthew battering Haiti and Cuba, let’s remember that we were facing that possibility and if the track had wobbled a bit to the west and Jamaica had been hit, would we have wanted to be prepared or not?


.#Matthew: Friday Morning Outlook From Jamaica

I went up on the roof this morning and the view is beautiful and peaceful, as it usually is. p1010350

Forecasts

matthew-met-service-release-30-9-16-5amThe current weather forecasts are, however, showing that Jamaica is increasingly likely to have a direct encounter with Hurricane Matthew. Our Met Service‘s 5am release says that “A Hurricane Watch may be required for Jamaica today.” A Hurricane Watch is usually issued 48 hours before tropical storm force winds are likely to be felt. Once we have that strength winds, it’s difficult to do any further preparations.

 

The National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) map at 8am EST (7am Jamaican time) forecasts that on Monday morning the eye of Hurricane Matthew is likely to be very near the eastern tip of Jamaica, and within the forecast cone a direct hit is quite likely. This can obviously change, but direct hit or not, we are in for severe weather, it seems. Here is the NHC 8:00am advisory.

 

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I don’t like what I am seeing on Weather Underground this morning, which forecasts Matthew as a category 3 hurricane when it affects Jamaica, and the computer models are clustering to show a likely direct hit.

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pm-tweet-30-9-16Jamaica Prepares

Prime Minster Andrew Holness held  an emergency meeting with Members of Parliament at the Office of the Prime Minister last night. He has posted an update on Twitter & Facebook, and if you scroll down on his Facebook page, there is a recording posted of the full meeting – Meeting on Hurricane Preparedness. This morning the newspapers have reports of that meeting.

Gleaner: Ready For Matthew – Gov’t Says It’s Prepared For Hurricane, Jamaicans Urged To Store Water

Jamaica Observer: J’cans urged to prepare for Hurricane Matthew

So, even as we keep an eye on the weather forecasts, it’s time to prepare.

I went through Hurricane Gilbert at this house, when it hit at category 3 strength in 1988, and I know that this house can stand a serious storm. But it was very frightening. I know what I need to do to prepare and am beginning to do it.  I hope we don’t have a direct hit; a major hurricane would cause devastating damage in Jamaica.


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Keeping Track of Hurricanes: Gilbert vs #Matthew

That weekend in September 1988, I knew that there was a hurricane in the Caribbean; it was on the news, but I wasn’t paying close attention. It wasn’t until my mother called me on the Sunday morning (Sept 11), that I began to pay attention.

“Susan, this one looks as though it’s going to hit us,” she said. And the following day Hurricane Gilbert did hit us, as a category 3 hurricane, with the eye travelling across Jamaica from the east to the west.

hurricane-gilbert-12-9-88-eye-approaches-jamaica

National Hurricane Center satellite  picture, showing eye approaching eastern tip of island on Sept 12, 1988

At that time, the radio newscasts  and the weather forecast on the nightly television news were the main sources of information, which came from Jamaica’s Met Office.

How different it is today!

Matthew

On September 23 (2016), Jeff Masters of Weather Underground began to comment on the system that became Tropical Storm Matthew, before it even became Invest 97L.jeff-masters-23-9-16

He has continued to track and forecast about the system since then and his blog – Dr Jeff Master’s Wunderblog – is a good weather blog to follow.

There are many good Twitter accounts to follow for weather info about storms and hurricanes, and two that had early tweets about Invest 97L were:cantore-tweet-29-9-16andErdman 23-9-16.PNGThere are official sites, such as the US National Hurricane Center, at which you can read updates and view forecast maps & satellite imagery.

(Forecast map & satellite image – Matthew, 29-9-16)

met-service-29-9-16-aThe Meteorological Service of Jamaica site is the official government site for updates & is a good place to check. It has issued a severe weather alert for Jamaica and has advised us to pay attention to subsequent releases.

Yesterday Matthew began to affect the Caribbean and Twitter came alive with updates from around the region..

A short while ago, I saw online that Matthew has now been upgraded to a hurricane and posted a tweet myself. It looks as though we may be feeling some effects come Sunday…sg-tweet-29-9-16I still listen to the radio for hurricane updates, but there are so many other sources nowadays that tracking Hurricane Matthew is a vastly different experience than tracking Hurricane Gilbert was 28 years ago!