Hurricane alert issued for southeastern islands

National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Director Captain Stephen Russell said medical evacuations could take place on Mayaguana as early as tomorrow after the Bahamas Department of Meteorology issued a hurricane alert for the southeastern islands earlier today.

While the latest projections don’t have the southern islands in the direct path of the storm, Department of Meteorologist Director Jeffrey Simmons said Fiona could shift.

“Even though Fiona is still a tropical storm, a hurricane alert was issued because on its projected path and its forecasted intensity, it is expected that when Fiona is in the vicinity of The Bahamas, it is anticipated that it will be at least a category one hurricane at that time,” Simmons said at a press conference at NEMA Headquarters.

“That is the reason we are asking residents to prepare for possible hurricane conditions, which is forecasted to happen sometime around Tuesday morning.”

The alert is in effect for Inagua, Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island, Samana Cay, Long Cay and Ragged Island, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. A hurricane alert means that hurricane conditions could be experienced in the mentioned islands within 60 hours.

“We have issued that alert as a precaution to residents on those islands to please pay attention to what’s going on,” Simmons continued.

“There is a possibility that Fiona could drift more toward the west, which would actually put  it in position where there is a possibility we can get a direct hit on one of those islands, Turks and Caicos Islands or even Mayaguana.”

Captain Russell said NEMA will continue to watch the situation and make a determination if medical evacuations are necessary.

“We will refine that plan of action tonight, with a view of  executing and evacuating those persons who must come out tomorrow,” Russell said. “Definitely during the warning phase, we will have those persons evacuated from Mayaguana as necessary.”

He said large scale evacuations will only become necessary under certain conditions.

“Once you find a system going between a category two and a category three, we definitely try to bring people out of harm’s way,” Russell said. “With a category three, you’re now talking about a storm surge potential of 12 to 15 feet.

“We don’t want that type of water coming across our low lying communities with vulnerable populations. So once you see the system heading towards a category two or three, we will kick in that evacuation plan.”

He said based on early projections, only Mayaguana may experience some tropical storm force winds.

“If the storm veers more to the west and it strengthens, then you would have to look towards moving persons,” he said.

Russell said NEMA’s operation centers will partially activate tonight.

At 3 p.m., Fiona was approximately 673 miles southwest of Matthew Town, Inagua.

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