Bermuda ‘must remain vigilant’ for Jerry
Public schools will open today as Bermuda returns to “business as usual”, the Government confirmed yesterday.
However, Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, urged residents to remain on guard ahead of Tropical Storm Jerry, which is expected to come within 75 miles of the island on Wednesday morning.
He said yesterday: “We are in a state of being prepared for a storm, everyone must remain vigilant.”
By 6pm yesterday, Belco had restored power to 24,905 customers, or 95 per cent, but the utility company said the damage was greater than first thought.
Returning pupils and school staff were asked to bring at least two 15oz bottles of water until they receive confirmation that the water filtration system in each school has been checked in the wake of Hurricane Humberto.
Students, teachers and parents were also reminded about the importance of hygiene and were encouraged to wash their hands frequently with warm water and soap or an antibacterial hand sanitiser.
Government offices will be open today, while buses and ferries will run as usual. The airport will operate as normal.
Mr Caines said: “Thanks to the major efforts being made by our combined crews, we have made good progress on road clearing.
“However, please be mindful of roadside debris and take caution while driving on our roads, as clearing work continues.”
He added that trash collection will run as normal and insisted that all green debris, like trees and foliage, is taken to Marsh Folly, where dumping fees have been waived. The minister said King Edward VII Memorial Hospital was operating as usual and preparing for the next storm.
He explained: “The hospital is still seeing patients coming in with clean-up related injuries — please take all necessary precautions while restoring your property.”
Mr Caines added: “Pay close attention to the food in your fridge.
“Some people have been without power for many days. Your food may not have been properly preserved and I strongly suggest that you throw it out as it has probably gone bad.”
He said that vulnerable residents, such as seniors or people with mobility challenges, can call 247-1639 for assistance with roof repairs.
A Belco spokesman said last night: “It is clear that a number of tornadoes hit the island, which uprooted a large amount of vegetation and caused extensive damage to our infrastructure, more than had been identified in early assessments of our transmission and distribution system.
“As a result it may take a little longer than anticipated to get all our customers reconnected.”
Belco retirees have “hit the ground running” to help restoration efforts.
The company said: “Their experience, skill and professionalism will help to further increase our capacity to address the remaining outages and bring households back online quickly and efficiently.”
Four linemen and a safety officer from Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp — the Canadian group which is in line to acquire Belco parent company Ascendant — also arrived on the island to help as part of a “mutual aid agreement”.
Members of the public were reminded not to call the company unless there is an emergency, which includes a pole fire or downed power line.
The firm added: “Belco would like to thank all those who have been instrumental in getting the work done efficiently and safely and asks for the public's patience as work continues.”
One Communications said last night that 4 per cent of mobile phone sites were affected by Hurricane Humberto and 13 per cent of internet, television or telephone customers were offline.
Frank Amaral, the chief executive, added: “One of the most common questions we're being asked is about why internet and TV services are not working if Belco power is on at their home.
“The explanation is either our outside network infrastructure feeding a neighbourhood or home has been damaged, or we are waiting on Belco to repair their power grid in that neighbourhood and in turn supply electricity to our equipment in the field.”
A Bermuda Weather Service update at 6pm yesterday indicated that the storm's closest point of approach to Bermuda within 72 hours was expected to be 64 miles to the northwest at 3am on Wednesday.
However, the system may move closer after this time period, depending on its track.
The weather service said: “Jerry is forecast to approach from the southwest with gale to storm-force winds from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning.”
It added: “Ahead of Jerry, expect showers to develop from the south during Monday evening, tending to rain at times with a thunderstorm or two on Tuesday.”
At 6pm, the storm was 406 miles south-southwest of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 63mph and gusts to 75mph. It was moving at 9mph.
James Dodgson, the BWS director, said earlier yesterday: “All our eyes are on Tropical Storm Jerry, it's been downgraded from a hurricane for the moment.
“The forecast for Jerry is for it to remain a tropical storm, but a strong tropical storm as it comes by to our northwest later on Tuesday evening.”
He said clouds will increase today with a strengthening breeze and showers.
Mr Dodgson explained that — at that time — another tropical storm, Karen, which formed in the Windward Islands yesterday, was not a threat to Bermuda.
He said: “The extended forecast, that I've looked at today that goes beyond what we have on our tropical update bulletin, suggests that we will be blocked by a ridge of high pressure.”
The Emergency Measures Organisation will meet at 10am today with updates expected to be provided in a press conference at 12.30pm and on the Emergency Broadcast Station, 100.1FM, at 1.30pm.