Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis is expected to meet with members of the Tobago disaster management committee to plan and prepare for the possible effect of Tropical Storm Gonzalo this weekend. The Met Office on Wednesday forecast the storm to develop into a hurricane on Thursday and pass north of TT.
At the weekly post Executive Council media briefing on Wednesday at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex, Scarborough, Dennis said the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) is continuing to monitor the system.
He said: “Plans and preparation are well under way and while now is not a time for panic, it is a time to ensure that all of us are prepared and ready for any eventualities with respect to that weather system that is approaching.”
He said the Assembly will continue to keep the public up to date “on an hourly basis to ensure that we have accurate and predictable information going forward.
“From the perspective of the Tobago House of Assembly, we would continue to monitor and do what we have to do to ensure that our island and our people are well prepared for any eventualities,” he said.
Contacted on Wednesday, TEMA’s director Allan Stewart said the agency has already sprung into action.
“We are adequately prepared. As to how best we’re prepared, it all depends on our public. Based on the resources available to us, we consider ourselves to be ready to deal with Gonzalo.
“As a state body, we have dealt with similar in the past already, we have already started doing our pre-planning in regard to shelters,” he said noting that the Tobago Operations Centre (TOC) would be activated if needed
Stewart also had some advice to the members of the public.
“We want people to do the necessary preparations. At this stage you have at least between now and Friday to make final preparations to ensure that you look around your surroundings. If you have loose items that could be driven by wind, you secure them... We’re not just talking about residential properties here, but we are also speaking about construction sites. We know now is election time, so if you’re going out there pitching tents, you ensure that you secure these things."
During a June news conference, Stewart said that with the ongoing threat of covid19, the island may require additional shelters to house people during the hurricane season. He said shelters on the island are categorised into primary, secondary and alternatives, noting that primary shelters are usually community centres while secondary shelters are schools and churches, respectively.
He said schools and churches may have to play a key role if Tobago is hit with a major hurricane noting that shelters will now be governed by new regulations about how to manage spaces adding that buildings that once accommodated 100 people will now hold 60.
Stewart on Wednesday said TEMA has trained 84 people in shelter management and new shelters will be available if needed.