Sunday 21 July, 2019

Wild, wild Gilbert: 29 facts... 29 years later

A street in Kingston in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Gilbert.

A street in Kingston in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Gilbert.

Exactly 29 years ago, beginning at approximately 10:00 am on the eastern end of the island, Hurricane Gilbert came visiting as a category three system, and what a bad impression it left as an upgraded category five storm by the time it got to the west!

From infamy to appreciation and even respect at the first direct hit on the island for well over 30 years, and the hardest hitting system in the country’s history, Gilbert, in many way, has since been a friend of many, with fond recollects often expressed by those who had the ‘privilege’ of having experienced the biggest bully to have hit town or country.

Today, in reflection of the anniversary of the hurricane, Loop New presents 29 items of fact or nostalgia behind the most memorable weather system locally.

1. Hurricane Gilbert is the most destructive and severe storm to have hit Jamaica.

2. Gilbert was the first direct hit on the island by a hurricane since the early 1950s.

3. Jamaica experienced a huge influx of relief supplies in the aftermath of the hurricane

4. A zinc scandal relative to relief materials followed the destruction by the hurricane.

5. ‘Full a bully beef’ – the staple among diets during the recovery period after the passage of the hurricane.

6. Introduction of the average clause by home insurers followed the devastating impact of the hurricane.

7. Gilbert ranks second to Hurricane Wilma in 2005, as the most intense Atlantic hurricane.

8. A total of 45 people died from the impact of the hurricane in Jamaica.

9. There was an estimated US$4 billion in damage locally.

10. Gilbert took a total of over 400 lives across the wider region, including the United States.

11. The overall damage from the hurricane was around US$10 billion regionally.

12. The hurricane gushed some 32.4 inches of rain in the mountainous interior of the island, resulting in wide-scale flash flooding.

13. Singer Lloyd Lovindeer did the beloved ‘Wild Gilbert’ hurricane ‘anthem’ song, which went ‘viral’ within days, and was one of the fastest-rising songs nationally, with more than 200,000 copies of ‘Wild Gilbert’ reportedly sold.

14. Among the humourous  lyrics of ‘Wild Gilbert’ was the reference to his roof migrating without a visa.

15. The island’s poultry industry was virtually wiped out by the impact of the hurricane.

16. Overall, some US$500 million in damage was estimated across the local agricultural sector, including a virtual wipe out of the banana industry.

17. Over 100,000 houses were destroyed or damaged island-wide.

18. Then Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, described the damage across the island, after an aerial tour, as looking like Hiroshima after the atom bomb was dropped on that Japanese city in World War II.

19. Significant looting was an unfortunate feature of the passage of Hurricane Gilbert.

20. Daily lining up at ice factories and bakeries, where rationing was the order of the times, was a daily feature for some time after the passage of the hurricane.

21. Lack of public electricity and water supplies was a reality of the post-hurricane period for months in the case of some residents and communities.

22. Over 600 persons remained in official shelters in January 1999, almost four months after the passage of the hurricane.

23. There was a huge and noticeable baby boom some nine months after the passage of the hurricane.

24. Wind speeds averaging 75 miles per hour (mph) gusting to 127 mph, were recorded in the Kingston Metropolitan Area.

25. It was estimated that more than 800,000 persons sought shelter before, during and immediately after the hurricane.

26. A one-month state of public emergency was declared for St Thomas, St Catherine, and Kingston and St Andrew.

27. Gilbert struck during the local pear season, sending thousands of the much-loved fruit thudding to the ground.

28. Leaking or blown off roofs was a typically feature of the hurricane’s passage.

29. Over 90 per cent of the island’s health facilities suffered damage from the hurricane.

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