A statement issued by the Barbados Ministry of Culture on Thursday night indicated that the opening ceremony of CARIFESTA XIII, which was scheduled for Friday, at Kensington Oval, had been postponed due to the approach of Tropical Storm Harvey.
Culture Minister Stephen Lashley said that preparations for the impending weather system had greatly impacted the arrangements for the opening ceremony.
“The national response ahead of the system has forced the cancellation,” he said, noting that as a result of the inclement weather, some flights would be impacted, and some of the delegations due to arrive in Barbados would be delayed.
Lashley said that a new date for the opening ceremony would be announced “very shortly”, and all tickets and arrangements for entry to the event would be honoured.
The Barbados authorities have said that various emergency shelters on the island have opened and urged people, especially in low lying areas, to be careful.
“We’d want the public to be aware to avoid walking through flood waters. Motorists should know that although waters may not look deep, anything greater than two feet could move your car. Fishermen should secure their boats properly,” said the director of the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), Captain Robert Harewood.
“If possible, persons should erect simple sandbag barriers to properly protect their property if you know that you are in a flood-prone areas. Given the persistent rainfall we would have had over the last couple of weeks as well, there is increased probability of land slippage,” Harewood said.
In St. Lucia, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said that with the storm expected to intensify over the next two hours “as such all offices, commercial and Government, should remain closed until 1:00 pm (local time).
“The 1:00 pm time is conditional to receiving the all clear by 12:00 pm. I am asking everyone to remain indoors and continue to exercise caution. Also asking everyone to stay close to your radios for any further updates. We are anticipating that the airports should open up at 10 am. We asking everyone before they go to the airport to please check with SLASPA (St. Lucia Air and Seaport Authority or your airline,” Chastanet said.
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, another island which is expected to be impacted by the storm, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has ordered the closure of all businesses and non-essential services from Thursday night and Friday.
“Please note, according to the meteorologists, according to the scientists studying the weather system, the system is moving towards us. That is, from the east to the west at 18 miles an hour and on this trajectory, the centre of the storm is expected to pass over mainland St. Vincent just about noon tomorrow,” Prime Minister Gonnsalves said in a national address onThursday evening.
He said all emergency shelters had been opened and that while the government recommends that the first option is to stay with friends and family, emergency shelters should be a final option.
The Argyle International Airport close on Thursday night and Gonsalves said that “ the airport is unlikely to open during the day (Friday)”.
Gonsalves said that the weather system is expected to be packing winds of 45mph with higher gust when it passes over St. Vincent.
“It means, therefore, that these are winds which can cause a lot of damage,” Gonsalves said, urging residents in areas prone to landslide and flooding “to take all the necessary precautions as heavy rains may result in flash floods and landslides,” the prime minister said.
“Again, I am urging everyone to take all the necessary precautions to protect life and property. Do not take this storm for granted as on its current track, the system is expected to pass directly over St. Vincent and the Grenadines, producing storm force winds, rough seas and heavy rainfall,” Gonsalves said.
In its 8.am (local time) bulletin, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the center of the storm was now located between Barbados and the Windward islands.
It said the storm is 55 miles west of Barbados and 60 miles east south east of St. Luca with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (mph).
A tropical storm warning is in effect for Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, while a tropical storm watch is in effect for Dominica.
“Harvey is moving toward the west near 18 mph and a continued westward motion with a slight increase in forward speed is expected over the next couple of days. On the forecast track, Harvey should move through the Windward Islands and into the eastern Caribbean Sea this morning,” the NHC said, adding that “some slight strengthening is possible during the next 48 hours”.
The regional airline, LIAT, has announced the cancellation or delay of several of its flights.