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Water continuing to rise around New Market

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Water continuing to rise around New Market

But small St Elizabeth town remains safe for now

BY GARFIELD MYERS
Editor-at-Large
South Central Bureau
myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 22, 2020

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NEW MARKET, St Elizabeth — When the Jamaica Observer visited on November 10, popular local, Denvan Hanson, was largely dismissive of the threat to New Market by rising waters.

There would have to be very intense rain in the hills for the small town, just inside St Elizabeth’s north-western border with Westmoreland, to be flooded, Hanson said back then, when asked about water rushing down from a usually dry water course called Hog Hole.

“Is ‘ooman’ rain wi a get so far, yuh ago need ‘man’ rain fi flood wi out,” he said then, even as water crossed distant fields and roadways — blocking the Carmel Road into eastern Westmoreland.

Hanson’s optimism of two weeks ago appeared to be justified then, since the water seemed far away.

But when the Sunday Observer visited last Friday, 11 days later, Hanson struck a different note.

“We could be inna problem,” he said, as he watched from a roadside bar as motorists carefully negotiated a spreading, growing pool of water —at tire height — on the New Market to Montego Bay main road, 400 metres from the centre of New Market.

Just 70 metres away from the roadside bar, on the Beersheba road, a much deeper pond blocked traffic close to the Beersheba Primary School.

In fields, pastures and farms around New Market, growing ‘lakes’ and ‘rivers’ were seemingly everywhere last Friday as Hog Hole water continued to run in a steady flow.

“It (water) getting closer, but it still far,” one hopeful local told the Sunday Observer.

In an elevated basin surrounded by hills, New Market, a crucial junction on the road linking St Elizabeth and eastern Westmoreland — extending through eastern Hanover to Montego Bay in St James — has a long history of flooding.

The most recent episode was 2010 when rains associated with Tropical Storm Nicole overwhelmed the town and surrounding areas “overnight”.

The most famous case was in 1979. Heavy rains over a long period caused extensive damage and grief across Jamaica and left New Market submerged for months, as swollen underground springs and currents in the hills above — as far away as the Cockpit Country — surged to the surface.

On Friday, less than half a mile to the west of New Market, the blockage on the Carmel road into eastern Westmoreland at the merging of two ponds either side of the road — called Two Sister — had obviously risen by several feet over the previous 11 days.

The Two Sister — named for two sisters said to have died in the ’79 floods — is now a massive, growing, moving body of water.

Worryingly for locals, water surging across open fields could end up cutting off an alternative route into eastern Westmoreland through Kilmarnoch. On Friday, water, flowing steadily, was at ankle height at one spot on the road to Kilmarnoch.

When contacted by telephone early yesterday, Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth North Western JC Hutchinson was clearly worried that the water around New Market “is coming up”, even while saying there was no immediate threat to the village centre.

He noted reports from New Market, late Friday, that it was “raining heavily up there”.

In normal circumstances in Jamaica, rain in September and October subsides in the later months of November/December through January into February.

But Hutchinson observed that this year, weather forecasters had predicted wet weather all the way into early 2021.

“What to do? It’s God’s handiwork, we just have to hope for the best,” he said.

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