Storm expected to pass over Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti before heading toward the U.S.
Storm preparations are underway throughout the Caribbean as Tropical Storm Sandy moves northward through the region, toward Jamaica, Cuba and Haiti.
A hurricane watch is already in effect for Jamaica and a tropical storm watch has been issued for Haiti, bringing a potential for strong winds, dangerous rainfall, flash flooding and mud slides. The storm is forecast to reach hurricane strength before landing over Jamaica as early as tomorrow.
“We are in close contact with all of the Red Cross societies situated in Tropical Storm Sandy’s path. Disaster Management delegates are ready to be deployed if any society needs direct support to respond to the storm,” said Enrique Guevara, communications officer for the Red Cross Americas Zone.
As was the case with Tropical Storm Isaac two months ago, the Red Cross network is working to prepare vulnerable Caribbean communities to weather the storm as best as possible. The Pan-American Disaster Response Unit is tracking the storm and is ready to distribute relief supplies throughout the region as needed.
The Jamaica Red Cross is on alert with disaster response teams on standby. Prepositioned supplies are in place at the four branch offices in the country, ensuring they are available for quick distribution after the storm passes.
In Haiti, the Red Cross is working to ensure that people living in camps are aware of the possible risks and knowledgeable about how to prepare and protect themselves.
“We know from experience that Haiti is particularly vulnerable to flash floods, so our teams are working to reiterate the Haitian government’s disaster alert system in the camps, warning communities in high-risk areas to get to higher ground when necessary,” said Sinan Al-Najjar, deputy country representative in Haiti for the American Red Cross.
Sandy’s current path is expected to take it near Haiti’s western peninsula, where higher elevation in mountainous areas may lessen the storm’s force. The Red Cross has initiated an SMS campaign and activated sounds trucks to provide early warning and preparedness messages. In-country Emergency Response Teams are on standby and able to distribute emergency relief supplies to up to 11,000 families if needed.
“We have been monitoring the storm since it formed as a tropical depression yesterday. Once it increased to tropical storm strength, the Government of Haiti issued an orange-level alert, so we are working closely with members of the National Center for Emergency Operations to monitor and prepare for Sandy accordingly,” said Diene Diouf, disaster risk reduction program delegate for the American Red Cross in Haiti.
Since the January 2010 earthquake, the American Red Cross has partnered with the Haitian Red Cross to regularly send local volunteers and staff into vulnerable communities to provide disaster prevention tools and training.
Through its disaster preparedness programs, the American Red Cross has carried out many mitigation activities – community-level projects designed to help prevent or lessen adverse effects from natural disasters. To date, the American Red Cross has spent or committed to spend more than $27 million on disaster preparedness in Haiti, benefitting more than 465,000 people as of July this year.
It remains to be seen where Sandy will head once it passes over the Caribbean islands.
Forecasters have not ruled out a potential landfall along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. If Sandy threatens American coastal communities, the American Red Cross will work to identify shelters, ready supplies and mobilize disaster workers to help people in the path of the storm.
The Red Cross urges individuals and families prone to tropical storms to take personal preparedness steps today to ensure the safety of loved ones and property. Download the free Red Cross hurricane app for more information about how you can stay prepared.