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2004-08-31 16:03:22

Hotels Brace For Frances

The projected course has officials at local hotels in full disaster preparedness mode.

Local hoteliers are bracing for the potential impact of Hurricane Frances, which meteorologists say is expected to lash The Bahamas late Wednesday or early Thursday.

At 12pm Monday, the Category three storm was about 1,250 miles southeast of Nassau.

The projected path of Frances is a similar tract Hurricane Floyd took in 1999, leaving behind thousands of dollars in damage.

Frances was expected to pick up speed Tuesday and strengthen to Category four status. The projected course has officials at local hotels in full disaster preparedness mode.

According to Stephen Kappeler, regional director of the Holiday Inns of The Bahamas, Sales, both properties were scheduled to call a Hurricane Preparedness Task Team meeting Monday afternoon.

“We have already begun posting information at the front desk for our guests to be aware that the storm is moving in our direction,' Mr. Kappeler said.

In November 2001, Hurricane Michelle lashed across the hotel's West Bay Street property damaging a guest room window, resulting in “everything being sucked out.'

This set the hotel back some $10,000 to $15,000, according to Mr. Kappeler.

Kerzner International officials have also thrown their hurricane plans into full swing.

“At this point, we have pretty much done all the activities that we should have done before the hurricane season even started and so we are simply reviewing those to make sure that we are still current,' Director of Emergency Preparedness, Karen Myers-Rolle told the Bahama Journal Monday.

“If we do go into a hurricane watch mode, then we will delve further into our plans. But at this time, it's a matter of monitoring the system. All the prep actions have already been taken.'

Mrs. Rolle further revealed that should the need arise Harborside Resort guests would be relocated to the main Atlantis Paradise Island property. The timeshare units are located near the Atlantis property.

Executives of the Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino, meantime, have already identified an in-house evacuation Centre and equipment that may be needed.

“We are now going over our hurricane preparedness plan,' said Stephen Greenslade, director of Complex Security at the Cable Beach property.

“We just had a Hurricane Core Committee meeting this morning at 11 when we reviewed the intensity, speed and projected tract of the storm. We have also gone over our evacuation plans and we will make a determination on this by Wednesday.'

The Wyndham suffered both interior and exterior structural damage during Hurricane Michelle, incurring expenses in excess $300,000.

Owners and operators of small hotels like Dillet's Guest House and the Corner Motel are no less prepared.

“Because a hurricane can impact you for an indefinite period of time, we have to make provisions for our guests – be it food or securing our property. We also advise our guests of any impending hurricane threats,' said Danielle Knowles, director of sales at Dillet's Guest House.

“We always have our staff on property with the guests and we try to make an event of it all. We provide them with literature as it becomes available. We keep in touch with the various airlines and the Caribbean Hotel Association. We try to give them a sense of comfort and safety while they are away from home [and] ease the inconvenience of having to experience a hurricane.'

According to Nina Maynard, managing director at the Corner Motel, the Carmichael Road property has already installed its shutters. On Tuesday, she said, the hotel will order its food supplies.

Healthcare officials were also preparing for the worst.

Princess Margaret Hospital officials were urging the public to donate blood – namely 'O' positive and negative – as they prepared for any type of emergency that may arise if Hurricane Frances were to hit landfall.

“All persons – strong, healthy, males, females – are encouraged to donate if they can. We want to make sure that the blood bank is stocked up because we don't know whether this hurricane is going to happen or not, but in the case it does, we want to be prepared,' said Bernice McClain, medical technologist at the Blood Bank.

“But we can only help others, if people help us. If we don't have enough, it hampers us from giving to persons who critically need it.'

Persons willing to donate blood must be at least 17 years old. It is further advised that donors eat a solid meal before coming to the hospital.

According to Technical Officer at the Meteorological Office, Godfrey Burnside, residents of the southern Bahamas should pay particular attention to the storm.

“As Bahamians, we refuse to take any kind of action until something happens,' he said. “During May, we were able to go through some of the preparatory things that should be done to the homes and surroundings.'

“At this time, persons should be closely monitoring the advice given by the Department of Meteorology because we also listen to other stations around the Florida area. Persons should also take quick action, if necessary.

“Residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeast Bahamas should have these preparations in place at this time. I would hope that they are stocking up on canned goods, water, cutting shrubbery around the homes, taking in some of those loose items. This would also include speedily putting shutters in place. But hurricanes are so erratic that we cannot determine in the next 24 or 36 hours exactly what would happen based on the systems to the north.'

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has identified 274 hurricane shelters in The Bahamas, 29 of which are located in New Providence, 30 in Grand Bahama and 215 in the Family Islands.

Persons residing along the waterfronts on low lying areas or on small cays are advised to evacuate early to one of the shelters.

Meanwhile, other countries in the northern Lesser Antilles and the northeastern Caribbean were duplicating the same efforts as they monitored the progress of the storm.

Macushla N. Pinder, The Bahama Journal

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