Dennis inches towards Cayman

Tropical Storm Dennis continued its track across the Caribbean yesterday, moving closer to the Cayman Islands, with Cayman Brac and Little Cayman close to the storm’s path.

The cyclone was expected to become a hurricane by Wednesday night.

Although Dennis was not expected to directly cross any of the Cayman Islands, Head of Meteorological Services Fred Sambula said the storm should be watched closely and all necessary precautions taken.

‘I always preach being prepared,’ he said.

‘Even if the eye doesn’t cross us, hurricanes are a wide area of destruction.’

Based on information available yesterday morning, if Dennis maintains its projected path and speed, it will pass approximately 38 to 40 miles north of Cayman Brac sometime late Thursday night or early Friday morning, Mr. Sambula said.

The Sister Islands can expect winds close to 70 miles per hour, very close to hurricane strength, Mr. Sambula said.

Wave surge of two to three feet could be expected in Cayman Brac, but the biggest danger was from battering waves.

‘It will probably pass as a Category 1, so it won’t be much of a surge event,’ Mr. Sambula said. ‘It will be more wave action.’

Assuming Dennis remains on its current track, Grand Cayman can expect winds between 40 and 50 mph.

Mr. Sambula was reasonably comfortable with Dennis’ projected path, even though it has taken a similar track to Hurricane Ivan last September.

‘The steering currents at this time are steady and strong with Dennis,’ he said. ‘The steering currents with Ivan were quite weak.’

Winds will come from the northwest to begin with, and then from the south-southwest as Dennis approaches Cuba.

‘We will get the kind of waves associated with a nor’wester,’ Mr. Sambula said. ‘The western coast is in danger of serious beach erosion.’

The weather on Grand Cayman will start to deteriorate as early as Thursday afternoon, Mr. Sambula said. About two to three inches of rain can be expected in a 24-hour period.

Even though Dennis’ strongest winds are located in its northern quadrant, Mr. Sambula warned that the system should not be taken lightly.

‘A hurricane is a hurricane,’ he said.

Many residents of Grand Cayman apparently needed no additional warning with the memories of Hurricane Ivan fresh in their minds.

A.L. Thompson Home Depot had a steady stream of customers buying plywood to secure their homes.

The Home Depot’s Larry Thompson said typical hurricane supplies like lanterns, flashlights, coolers and batteries were selling briskly, but that the store still had plenty inventory left.

‘We just got a large shipment of hurricane supplies in,’ he said.

Customers said they were not taking any chances with Dennis.

‘I’m so scared,’ said Debbie Clarke while buying plywood. ‘I never used to be, but Ivan changed everything.’

Peter Milburn, who was also buying plywood for his house, echoed the sentiment.

‘I’m definitely taking the storm seriously,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to mess around.’

Kirk Supermarket’s operation manager Mike Blackmore said the store was not particularly busy early Wednesday afternoon, but stood well-stocked with hurricane supplies to meet customer demand.

‘We’ll do what ever we can to assist,’ he said.

The national flag carrier Cayman Airways had not made any changes to its schedule through noon Wednesday, however it stood by ready to help evacuate the Sister Islands if need be, said CEO Mike Adam.

Cayman Airways had, however, taken other steps in preparation of Dennis.

‘We’re advising all passengers inbound of the storm to allow them to make a decision if they still want to come,’ said Mr. Adam, adding that the Department of Tourism had advised other airlines to do the same.

Mr. Adam said Cayman Airways was also going to waive ticket change penalties, both inbound and outbound, for a period of five days.

British Caymanian Insurance also took steps in advance of Dennis when it stopped selling new coverage about 11 am Wednesday morning.

‘We have to do that to meet the agreement we have with our re-insurers,’ said Carl Brown, marketing manager for British Caymanian.

Mr. Brown said ‘quite a few’ people had called trying to get home insurance after the cut off.

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