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20th Anniversary Of Hurricane Gilbert’s Impact On Jamaica

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Friday, September 12, 2008, marks the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Gilbert’s impact on Jamaica. Gilbert is one of the most memorable hurricanes to have affected the island because of the millions of dollars in damages and destruction it caused to the island’s physical infrastructure.  

The twelfth tropical depression of the 1988 hurricane season became Tropical Storm Gilbert on September 10, and was upgraded to a hurricane on the morning of September 11. Hurricane Gilbert made its first landfall on the east coast of Jamaica at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, September 12, and began its passage over the island with wind speeds averaging 75 mph, gusting to 127 mph in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA). Gilbert, as it exited western Jamaica at 6:00 p.m. that evening, developed into a Category 5 hurricane, the most severe on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.

Hurricane Gilbert, in its eight-hour rampage, traversed the entire length of Jamaica, killing forty-five persons and leaving behind millions of dollars in damage and destruction. Here are just a few highlights of sectors that were affected by Hurricane Gilbert

Agriculture and Livestock:

Damage to crops and livestock was reported in all agricultural areas:

  • The estimated loss to the island’s domestic crops was J$769 million.
  • The banana industry, comprising 12,000 acres for the local market and 7,100 for the export market, was totally destroyed.
  • There was an estimated 60 percent loss of bearing coconut trees.
  • In the citrus industry 30-40 percent of the 1988/89 crop was lost as several acres of bearing trees were damaged and there was extensive toppling of young trees.
  • The 1988/89 sugar cane crop was reduced by approximately 17% with the loss of 30,000 acres of sugar cane.
  • Trees were stripped of their leaves and uprooted and so surface wash and soil erosion were widespread.
  • In the dairy industry the greatest damage was due to fencing and to a lesser extent to roofing.
  • In the poultry industry, 90 percent of the total broiler stock was destroyed resulting in the need for the importation of chicken meat.


Damage was reported in all resort areas on the north coast. Over 80 percent of the hotels suffered damages. In Montego Bay, 20 hotels and restaurant buildings were affected while of the nine hotels in Ocho Rios affected, Runaway Bay and Tower Isle suffered major damages.

Tourism attraction sites such as Dunn’s River Falls and Carinosa Gardens in St. Ann, and Castleton Gardens in St. Mary also suffered serious damages. Overall damage to the tourism sector was estimated at J$431 million.


Damage to the country’s road network was restricted primarily to main and parish council roads. The greatest damage to road networks occurred in the southeastern and south-central parishes. Clarendon suffered the worse damage with J$13 million, Kingston and St. Andrew J$$9.8 million, Manchester J$6.8 million, St. Thomas J$6 million, and Westmoreland J$2.7 million.   

On this the 20th 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 residents:

  • Review your family disaster plan 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 in place 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 insurance coverage is up to date.
  • Review mutual aid agreements with neighbouring companies.

The ODPEM can provide interested persons with further details about Hurricane Gilbert’s social and economic impacts on the island and implores all of Jamaica to remember: Disasters Do Happen … Be Prepared!

Contact:    Kerry-Ann Morris, [email protected]   

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