19th Anniversary Of Hurricane Gilbert’s Impact On Jamaica, Wednesday, September 10-12, 2007

ISSUED ON: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at 11:30 a.m.

Wednesday, September 12, marks the 19th anniversary of Hurricane Gilbert, which impacted the island in 1988. Hurricane Gilbert is one of the most memorable hurricanes in Jamaica’s long disaster history because of the millions of dollars in damages it caused to the island’s physical infrastructure.

The island had been affected by heavy and intermittent rainfall since September 10, and as the system traveled towards Jamaica, it gradually increased in intensity. Maximum winds had increased to about 115 mph when the centre of Gilbert reached Morant Point at 11:00 a.m. on September 12. The hurricane traveled across the entire island from east to west, with maximum force winds of 115 mph or more extending outward 75 miles (120 km) from the centre in all directions. Gilbert traversed the entire island, resulting in the deaths of 45 persons and estimated damages totaling US$7 billion.

The damage to crops and livestock was extensive. The estimated loss to domestic crops was $769 million. The banana industry, which comprised 12,000 acres for the local market and 7,100 for the export market at the time, was totally destroyed by the effects of the hurricane. Thirty thousand acres of sugar cane was lost reducing the 1988/89 crop by approximately 17%.
Damage was reported in all resort areas on the north coast with over 80% of the hotels suffering damages. The overall damage to the tourism sector was estimated at $431 million.

As we commemorate the 19th anniversary of Hurricane Gilbert, the public is reminded that we are now in what is statistically the busiest section of the hurricane season. At this time most preparedness measures should be complete. The following checklist serves as a reminder:

For all residents

  • Review your family disaster plans and ensure that all members of the family are aware of it.
  • Check roofs and have them repaired if necessary.
  • Have on hand hurricane shutters and/or other material for securing windows and doors.
  • Trim trees that overhang or are close to buildings
  • Check your emergency supplies and have them restocked where necessary.
  • Remove all loose objects from your yard and have them properly secured.
  • Make arrangements for shelter with relatives and friends.
  • Know where your nearest emergency shelter is located.
  • Know the safest evacuation route from your home.

For businesses

  • Revise disaster plans and carry out drills.
  • Have on hand plastic bags to secure vital records, documents and electronic equipment.
  • Have on hand hurricane shutters and/or other material for securing windows and doors.
  • Check to ensure that your insurance coverage is up to date.
  • Review mutual aid agreements.