Tropical Storm Bertha is slightly stronger according to the hurricane reconnaissance aircraft which went into the system at around 11:00 a.m. today.
The Tropical Storm Warning, issued by the Antigua Meteorological Office therefore remains in place for the British Virgin Islands. A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within the warning area, in this case within the next 24 hours.
In response to the potential threat posed by Bertha, Acting Governor, Mrs. V. Inez Archibald chaired a meeting of the Operations Group this morning where she received reports from department and agency representatives on their state of readiness and authorised the activation of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC).
Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments and agencies have now activated disaster contingency plans and commenced preparations to secure offices, vehicles and other Government assets by the close of business today.
In a statement to public officers, the Acting Governor acknowledged the festive spirit in the Territory but urged them to undertake the necessary preparations “to minimise potential damage and facilitate the seamless continuity of operations when Government offices re-open on Thursday, August 7.”
Discussions will continue with the relevant agencies involved in the 60th Anniversary Festival celebrations to ensure that all possible safety measures are in place and to allow for sufficient time to secure tents, booths and other loose material.
Sea and airports throughout the Territory are operating under normal conditions; however, delays may be expected as the system gets closer to the area.
Acting Governor Archibald said proactive measures make a critical difference in disaster management. “It was heartening to listen to the agency reports and note that many agencies, even prior to the NEOC activation, had started to put their contingency plans in effect. As we enter this long weekend, it is important that we safeguard essential equipment and supplies and put measures in place to ensure that offices and homes are in a state of readiness.”
On the forecast track the centre of Bertha is expected to move through the Central Lesser Antilles tonight and approach the Virgin Islands on Saturday. Maximum sustained winds remain near 50 miles per hour with higher gusts and no significant change in strength is forecast during the next 48 hours. Bertha could produce rainfall amounts that may cause localised flooding, hazardous sea conditions and squalls in the Virgin Islands through Saturday night. Vessel owners and operators are being cautioned to remain close to port.
Residents are urged to pay close attention to the development of this tropical system as it progresses. The Department of Disaster Management will continue to monitor Tropical Storm Bertha and provide updates accordingly. Please visit www.bviddm.com to subscribe for updates and continue to monitor the DDM Facebook page and media outlets.