Tobago and Trinidad have begun to feel the effects of Tropical Storm Gonzalo with the onset of thundershowers as the islands are on orange level alert for bad weather.
The advisories have led at least one political party – the UNC – to cancel campaigning and the Emperor Valley Zoo in Trinidad has been closed on Saturday. Several supermarkets and businesses also closed in Tobago.
Tobago is under a tropical storm warning, and as of 8 am Gonzalo, although a weak system, made landfall, triggering heavy rains, thunder and powerful gusts across the island.
Tobagonians, for the most part, were in their homes, having stocked up on basic food items, candles and other commodities on Friday.
The traffic at gas stations in Carnbee, Scarborough and Bon Accord reduced significantly on Saturday.
Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) director Allan Stewart said some ten shelters were activated to assist affected citizens.
“So far, we only have two persons occupying shelters and that is in the Betsy’s Hope area,” he told Newsday.
“If people recognised that their homes are at risk they will take shelters, so two persons have decided to take shelter.
“But we do not have any major reports at this time, just people with situations that need attention. So, we are dealing with those.”
Stewart said TEMA has received requests from people for supplies while others were concerned about threatening trees and flooding.
Meanwhile, Viewport supermarket closed all of its locations.
In a notice, the supermarket said it was monitoring the progress of the storm and decided to close all of its locations to ensure the safety of its staff and customers.
MovieTowne, Lowlands, and the Pigeon Point Heritage Park also did not open for business.
In Trinidad, the advisory is for bad weather associated with the passage of the storm.
The Met Office said there is a high chance (70 per cent) chance of heavy showers or thunderstorms during the period, which may lead to street/flash flooding as well as landslides/landslips in areas so prone. Gusty winds in excess of 65km/h can also be experienced in the vicinity of heavy downpours.
Also, in a release on Saturday morning, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) urged the public to "remain vigilant" and prepare for the effects of Gonzalo in Tobago and in north and east Trinidad. The ODPM said the public should expect heavy rainfall, thunderstorm activity, strong gusty winds and rough seas conditions.
"This system has so far proven to be a very unpredictable. Notwithstanding this unpredictability, based on the MET Service forecast, it appears that Trinidad and Tobago can expect very heavy rainfall. As such, the ODPM is urging all persons to fully prepare themselves and secure their possessions. The entire Trinidad and Tobago is asked to be ready for this passing weather system."
Coastal and offshore waters around Tobago and the north and eastern coastlines of of Trinidad, as well as sheltered area, are under a hazardous seas alert. The conditions are expected to persist into Sunday.
People living in low-lying areas, near river banks, or living /working in flood prone or landslip prone areas should be "be extra vigilant and to take the necessary precautions to preserve life and property," said the ODPM.
It also advised the public to contact the nearest regional corporation for sandbags and other assistance if necessary.
The National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) has also been activated to coordinate response and relief efforts. The agencies include Disaster Management Units of the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government, the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), the Ministry of Works and Transport, the various divisions of the Ministry of National Security, a number of private sector agencies and NGOs.