May 12, 20141040Views

The trough
which brought heavy downpours and thunderstorms to the British Virgin Islands
dumped over five inches of rain on the Territory during May 8 to 10.

The network of
weather stations monitored by the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) show
the largest amount of rainfall being captured in the Road Town/MacNamara area
with 5.11 inches.

The rainfall recorded
at Paraquita Bay over the three-day day period totaled 5.06 inches; at Hannah’s
Estate, 3.1 inches and in The Valley, Virgin Gorda, 3.97 inches.

When comparing
2013, the data shows that the BVI experienced a similar heavy downpour during
the same period in May last year. The rainfall total for the same three-day
period was 3.84 inches, with the total for May 2013 being 9.36 inches. Less than
halfway into this month, the total rainfall for May is already at 7.88 inches.

The majority
of last week’s rainfall occurred on Saturday and the DDM received several reports
of damage and flooding.

A DDM team led
by Director, Ms. Sharleen DaBreo immediately embarked on an island-wide
assessment. “During a lull in the rainfall, a team of five staff members and
one volunteer visited all of the affected areas on Tortola. We witnessed
various levels of impact including flooding in low-lying areas, fallen rocks in
the hillsides, a fallen rock wall, significant sedimentation in bays and
harbours, heavily flowing ghuts and debris from overflowing drains on some
roadways,” Ms. DaBreo stated.

Commenting on
the overall event and the rainfall totals, Ms. DaBreo said, “There are evident
changes in rainfall patterns since we have been collecting data and periods
when we would have seen heavy rains in the past are now very dry.  We are experiencing impacts from the passage
of more troughs than storm events.  A
similar trough event impacted St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and
Dominica in December last year, resulting in the loss of lives and millions of
dollars in damage.”

A retaining wall also collapsed in the Georges North
Side area which forced the relocation of 12 persons from two neighbouring
houses. It is not the first such structural collapse witnessed in the BVI and
for the DDM, it is an area of ongoing concern which prompted the DDM Director
to have immediate consultation with Chief Planner in the Town and Country
Planning Department (TCP), Mr. Gregory Adams and Director of the Public Works
Department, Mr. Jeffrey Skelton.

Mr. Adams highlighted many of the requirements
contained in Physical Planning Act that would help to prevent the impacts which
were seen over the weekend. “R
ock walls should not be used as retaining structures
but rather for landscaping purposes and should not exceed six feet in height. Concrete
retaining structures should be designed by a qualified engineer and oversight
should be provided during construction and back-filling to ensure that
appropriate material is used,” Mr. Adams advised.

The Chief
Planner also encouraged persons to ensure that “home inspections during the construction
phase are carried out by the TCP and the Building Authority as it is not only a
requirement in the law but will help to ensure that the development adheres to
code and is in compliance with best practices.” He noted further that these
inspections are important because they help to ensure protection of investment,
to prevent injury and to ensure protection of the fragile environment that we
live in and depend on.”

The recent
trough came weeks before the start of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season
forcing an immediate response by the Public Works Department to clear roadways
and ensure that ghuts were flowing freely. 
The DDM continues to encourage the local population to engage in
preventive action and to maintain a state of readiness at all times.