My fellow Montserratians, residents and visitors.
The 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season has now officially started and it is important that each and every one of us take all the necessary steps to prepare for any potential impact.
As we all know, tropical storms and hurricanes pose an annual threat to Montserrat and other Caribbean islands from June 1 until November 30, so we must plan and take preparatory action, and always be prepared for the unexpected.
Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in their latest outlook, have predicted a 75% chance that this season will be near or above normal. These predictions are often revised throughout the season as atmospheric and sea conditions change. However, regardless of what the predictions say, the most important thing for all of us, is preparedness, because it only takes one hurricane to make landfall and cause widespread damage in our region.
We can simply reflect on the scale of damage caused in the region last year; it took only one hurricane, Hurricane Irma to devastate the British Virgin Islands, Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Maarten and the U.S Virgin Islands. This was followed in close succession by Hurricane Maria; with one impact, Maria devastated Dominica, Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean.
We remain thankful that Montserrat was spared direct impact during the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which many refer to as the most catastrophic in recent history. We will continue to pray that Montserrat and the region is spared this year, but at the same time, we have to put our plans in place for any eventuality.
Hurricane preparedness programmes, tips and advice from the Disaster Management Coordination Agency (DMCA) are being disseminated on various communication platforms, to include radio, online and print. So I encourage you to listen closely to the messages, and make a note of what you need to do to improve your state of readiness in your homes, businesses and communities.
I also wish to take this time to remind you that the Government of Montserrat has implemented a ‘Disaster Preparedness Exemption Order’ also known as the ‘Hurricane Risk Reduction Resilience Promotional Drive’ which provides exemptions from Customs Duties and Consumption Tax on the importation of a number of items classified as being essential for hurricane preparedness. These include generators, purpose built hurricane shutters, chain saws and wood chippers. This programme ends on December 31, 2018 so I encourage you to apply to the Ministry of Finance for approval so that you can have essential hurricane preparedness tools.
While we activate our own preparedness plans, let us also remember to look out for those in our communities who may need our help this season, especially the vulnerable, elderly and single mothers. Whenever you can, please offer support in helping them to prepare.
May God continue to watch over us this hurricane season.