Storm tides snarl traffic

By Gwen Evelyn
Guyana Chronicle
October 26, 1999

UNUSUALLY high tides, worsened by thunderstorms in the Atlantic Ocean, continued to sweep through parts of the coast yesterday afternoon as waves pounded sea defences, flooding areas and snarling traffic along the East Coast Demerara road.

Police in the morning and afternoon had to divert traffic on sections of the East Coast highway, near the University of Guyana, where waves washing high over the sea wall and on to the road made driving almost impossible.

At weakened points of the East Coast sea defence, water flowed freely through, continuing the flooding of sections which began Sunday.

Sand bags were used to reinforce weak points where the sea water was pouring through.

Chief Hydromet Officer, Mr. Dilip Jaigopaul said the unusually high spring tides could have been aggravated by thunderstorms in the Atlantic Ocean.

Areas affected were between Turkeyen and Ogle, East Coast Demerara; Versailles, West Bank Demerara and Johanna Cecelia on the Essequibo Coast.

On the East Coast yesterday morning, the waves rushing over the sea wall caused a major traffic jam and vehicles had to divert to the newly built highway along the old railway embankment.

Some vehicles were forced to drive in the wrong lane on the Rupert Craig Highway to avoid the waves and a few were affected by the salt water.

A number of vehicles swamped by the water reportedly stalled on the road.

By late morning, drains along the highway and in village streets remained filled with sea water but water on the road had receded, leaving piles of debris behind.

Jaigopaul said the worst has not passed.

The tide yesterday morning was higher than 10 feet, four inches, he said, and is estimated to be several times higher than the estimated 10 feet, three inches and 10 feet, nine inches today.

"These are the lowest possible (levels)", Jaigopaul said, adding that the tide should be much higher.

Jaigopaul said thunderstorms in the Atlantic Ocean are generating heavy winds which are driving waves across the sea walls.

The overtopping did not occur throughout the coast and was probably restricted to areas where there were storms, the official said.

Spring tides represent the highest tide levels during the month, he explained.

Residents on the East Coast Demerara were concerned and said they had never seen anything like it in that area before.

One woman said she heard a funny sound Sunday afternoon and saw water pouring though the sea defence like it was coming through pipes.

"This morning (yesterday) it was worse. I heard this swishing and I thought it was rain", the woman said. She looked and saw one half of the Rupert Craig Highway flooded.

Even her yard was flooded, she said.

Another resident said her entire yard was flooded with the sea water.

A third said the road "looked like a river".

Head of the Sea Defence Emergency Works Project, Mr. Mahadeo Persaud said there was a long-term, permanent sea defence plan for the East Coast between the University of Guyana road and Ogle.

He said this was included as part of a foreign-funded loan but was not considered critical and the department opted out of it.

Persaud said sand bags were being put yesterday to keep the water off the roads. He said 5,000 feet of sea defence needed to be attended to yesterday.

He said that water flowing through crab holes in the Versailles sea dam when the water is too high, contributes to flooding.

He was concerned that the water may also rise at Helena, Mahaica, which he described as a low area.

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