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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Municipalities brace for heavy storm conditions

Cataño Mayor Julio Alicea Vasallo

By The Star Staff

Given the communication issued Sunday by the National Meteorological Service (NMS), several island mayors called on residents -- especially to residents of flood zones -- to activate their emergency preparedness plans and be alert to weather conditions in the next few days.

The NMS reported that the AL90 system was presenting a high potential for cyclonic development, which could give rise to adverse weather conditions in the northern regions of the island.

“Regardless of its development, unstable weather condi-tions are expected for the start of the work week and the rest of the week according to the forecast by the NMS,” Canóvanas Mayor Lornna Soto Villanueva said. “Therefore, if you or a family member lives in a flood-prone area, it is time to take the necessary precautions and not wait until the last moment. I also call on the children and grandchildren of residents in these vulnerable areas to provide support and assistance in their preparation, especially in the protection of their necessary medicines and medical equipment.”

“Underestimating any warning can put your life and that of your loved ones at risk,” Soto Villanueva added. “Regardless of whether the system develops or not, a rainy start to the week is forecast, with the first rainfall expected for today [Sunday].”

The municipality of Vega Alta was ready to face the possible effects of the potential cyclonic development predicted by the NWS, Mayor María Vega said Sunday, adding that her greatest concern was with the electrical service provided by LUMA Energy.

“Since the early hours, we have been alert and have been carrying out efforts with the director of municipal emergency management, Miguel Navas, to be prepared for a possible atmo-spheric event, as predicted by the National Weather Service,” Vega said. “For early [Monday], we have called a meeting of all members of the Emergency Operations Center in case there are no changes.”

“Our biggest concern is the situation of the electrical system,” the Vega Alta mayor added. “We have areas like Barrio Maricao, where in the last two months the electrical service has been interrupted every day. Last week we had a serious situa-tion with trees and a cement pole falling to the ground for two consecutive days. Thank God, there was no one passing by on Highway 647 at the time. We are already in conversation with LUMA staff to follow up on tree pruning in that area.”

In Sunday’s 2 pm bulletin, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast that, if the current trend were to continue, it could be as soon as Sunday afternoon that a depression or tropical storm could develop. At the time, it said a tropical wave south of Puerto Rico, called Invest 90L, was showing signs of organization.

“Visible satellite imagery shows indications that a well-de-fined center is developing, and early satellite wind data showed that the system was producing winds of 35-40 miles per hour,” the NHC said.

Cataño Mayor Julio Alicea Vasallo and his emergency team on Sunday afternoon reviewed the necessary work plans to be executed before the potential heavy rains that were expected Sunday evening. Likewise, he urged residents to “be aware of the official announcements before the amount of rain that is expected to bring the atmospheric disturbance.”

“As part of the preparations, in the Juana Matos neighbor-hood, there are two pumps with flexible sleeves to prevent the accumulation of water or mitigate major flooding,” the mayor said. “Similarly, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, through its [contracted] private company, agreed to our request to install a temporary pump on the Wilson Ramos Bridge to serve as a backup to the existing pump to protect the area of the town center, which was badly flooded during the rains from Hurricane Fiona. Prevention is the key to avoiding calamities.”

Alicea Vasallo emphasized that work has been continu-ously done on the uncovering and cleaning of all drains and areas vulnerable to flooding, including drain pipes. Likewise, it was reported that all the pump houses are prepared to work at capacity. It was also emphasized that residents not put out garbage or debris at this stage in order to avoid clogging drains and disrupting the flow of flood water.

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