TOBAGO was spared any sginificant damage by Tropical Storm Gonzalo on Saturday as the weather system fizzled into a depression as it passed the island. The Met Office, at 4pm on Friday, forecast a direct hit when it issued an orange level tropical storm warning for the island. Tobago was expected to experience storm conditions from 8am-8pm on Saturday. The Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) had sprung into action early, setting up shelters, training shelter managers and issuing precautionary guidelines to the population.
Heavy rainfall, thunder and lightning and mild winds on Saturday morning threatened a repeat of Tropical Storm Karen, which hit Tobago last year and caused $24 million in damage. But by 1pm the warning was discontinued as Gonzalo passed between Trinidad and Tobago and spared both islands.
TEMA director Allan Stewart, on Sunday, lauded Tobagonians for their serious approach to the storm threat. Stewart said the heightened awareness can be attributed to the impact of Tropical Storm Karen on September 22 last year.
"I think what we have witnessed with the population is a level of consciousness. I suspect, this is a result of Tropical Storm Karen...it would have left an indelible mark on the minds of the population of what can happen. You see a different posture gong forward."
Stewart said Tobagonians have become more willing to volunteer to assist in times of disaster.
"That was demonstrated. Even the persons who made themselves available for shelter management training, you see a very large catchment which is tremendous. Last year we would have had challenges but this year you had people coming out as early as 6.30am coming out to provide that service to the community. You're seeing an improvement in that behaviour from the public."
Stewart said people still need to keep their surroundings safe and work alongside the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Environment.
"The only challenge/criticism, if I may call it that, some of the people made requests: people wanted trees to be cut, drains to be taken care of in public spaces, but it would have been a little too late...One of the things is policy. The policy of THA, as part of government, is not to go on to private property and cut people's trees for them. We are asking persons to manage those things for themselves. There's always a case where you may have persons physically challenged by their age or disability and then the state mechanism, based on the risk factor, may provide that support.
"That is the only concern I had but you would have seen improvement."