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Forecasters are predicting that the cool conditions experienced with intermittent rainfall over the past two months may be short-lived.
Rainfall data from the Department of Disaster Management for the period January to December 2015 indicated that a total of 15.19 inches of rainfall was recorded at the Paraquita Bay weather station and 16.22 inches from the Valley, Virgin Gorda station. These statistics represent a significant reduction in rainfall when compared to the same period in 2014 where 30.44 inches of rainfall were recorded at the Paraquita Bay station and 30.55 inches from the station in the Valley, Virgin Gorda.
Director, Department of Disaster Management, Ms. Sharleen DaBreo said, “The statistics are showing changes in climate over time. Although not affecting the Caribbean region, we have seen the formation of Hurricane Alex over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on January 14. Alex has now been recorded as one of the earliest tropical systems to form in the Atlantic Hurricane Basin since records began in 1851.”
Ms. DaBreo said since the beginning of the year, the Territory has been experiencing rainfall which has kept the hillsides lush and allowed for persons to access harvested water from their cisterns. She added that reports from the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) in Barbados indicate the Caribbean region may be heading into a drought, similar to what occurred in 2015.
The drought outlook from the institute for January to March 2016 and beyond indicates that the El Niño will continue to peak in strength which may result in the wet conditions currently being experienced to transition into periods of drought.
Ms. DaBreo cautioned that if this is the case, then residents must be aware of what is needed to combat the effects of the dry conditions, while paying close attention to the current health situation that is affecting the region.
Local officials are increasing their public awareness and outreach programmes to ensure that preparations are in place to deal with the possible impact that the reduction in rainfall and the predicted drought conditions may bring.
Medical Officer of Health and Health Disaster Coordinator, Dr. Ronald Georges said, “It is important that we continue to be aware of our surroundings as we go through these periods of rainfall and ensure that we do not encourage mosquito breeding especially with the growing cases of the Zika virus that has been reported in the Caribbean region.”
The Zika virus, which is carried by the mosquito that carries the dengue and Chickungunya virus, has been confirmed in Haiti, Guyana, Barbados, Puerto Rico, Martinique and several Latin American countries. The Ministry of Health and Social Development is urging residents to rid their surroundings of receptacles that can store water, repair outdoor leaking pipes and faucets, cut grass, clear guttering to prevent water settling and drain areas were water may be accumulating. The Zika virus is suspected to be linked to microcephaly cases in babies born to women infected by the Zika virus which results in an abnormal growth of the brain.
Residents are encouraged to protect themselves from mosquito bites, especially pregnant women, those working outdoors, the elderly, the sick and children.
They are also urged to keep abreast of information provided, continue to conserve and recycle water as much as possible and report leaks or broken pipes to the Water and Sewerage Department as soon as these are identified.
For more information of the Zika virus or the predicted drought conditions, persons can contact the Ministry of Health and Social Development or the Department of Disaster Management.