Setting a record in a usually tranquil local hurricane season history, the past two years have been extraordinary for Cayman. As if Ivan were not enough last year, residents of these three islands have already faced down two solid threats in what has been predicted will be a highly active 2005 hurricane season.
The season’s early start is, however, reinforcing the message that advance preparation and heeding official warnings do assist in saving lives, said a GIS press release.
Thus, when Hurricane Dennis threatened in the first days of July, residents closely followed its path as it brushed by Jamaica. For a while it seemed as though Dennis would directly impact the Sister Islands and residents prepared, stocking up on supplies, reinforcing property and activating hurricane plans. On all three islands, shelters opened as necessary. Fortunately, Dennis took a northerly jump and the threat quickly receded.
Just days later, it was Hurricane Emily’s turn – this time taking aim at Grand Cayman. Once more, residents were thrust into preparing for a major hit. But it did not come.
Impossible as it seemed, Emily came only near enough to send gusty weather, squalls and wave action as the system passed several miles from Cayman’s shores. Yet the storm’s initial predicted track had indicated that it could bring serious devastation to Grand Cayman – and probably would have, were it not for a favourable high-pressure system that kept it to the south. The people of Cayman breathed a collective sigh of relief, thankful that they had been spared by the first two devastating storms of 2005, storms that had brought death and destruction to other countries in and around the region.
Yet it is the country’s good fortune that spurs the National Hurricane Committee to caution residents against complacency. Head of Meteorological Services Fred Sambula reminds everyone that it is unwise to compare any two storms because the smallest path change can dramatically affect the outcome for the islands.
‘This is why we closely monitor all threats even before they enter our area,’ added NHC Chairman Donovan Ebanks ‘As we announce tracking changes, some of which can be quite sudden, it is vital that we all maintain our vigilance and readiness. Throughout the hurricane season, we have to continue our current level of preparedness in order to avoid panic if another storm comes our way.’
Most residents will long remember the trials associated with Hurricane Ivan. All residents need to understand that every new storm that looms on the horizon has the potential to mean additional problems for Cayman, the release said.
The NHC acts under the comprehensive rule: ‘What could happen to one island, could happen to everyone,’ sending a consistent message for all residents no matter what island they are on. NHC advice accordingly encourages early home preparations, the stockpiling of adequate emergency supplies and the importance of staying tuned.
‘Our main objective stands,’ concluded Mr. Ebanks. ‘We have to ensure that the people of the Cayman Islands are well advised before, during and after major weather threats. With all three islands being so close together, there is no need to separate the messages because effects in one are usually experienced by the others, if only to a lesser degree.
‘We are committed to providing all the necessary information to pull Cayman through any storm. We just want our people to stay alert and to never assume that because we have been lucky so far, that the situation won’t change. We pray that it won’t, but we must always be ready.’