Wilma still whipping Cayman Islands

The slow moving Hurricane Wilma will continue to affect the Cayman Islands, particularly with pounding surf, through the weekend.

Coastal buildings and roads in several locations on Grand Cayman have already sustained damage, and Meteorological Services weather forecaster Allan Ebanks said things are expected to get worse for the west coast when the winds shift to the south-southwest as Wilma makes an expected turn to the north-northeast.

A tourist watching the waves

A tourist watching the waves outside the Marriott Resort Thursday is caught off guard as heavy surf pounds Seven Mile Beach. Photo: Justin Uzzell

When that wind shift will occur is still uncertain.

‘It all depends on what time (Wilma) makes its turn,’ said Mr. Ebanks.

The prediction is that Wilma will begin to move north-northeast early Saturday, which will bring about the wind shift in Cayman later that day.

The shift will put Cayman’s west coast, which includes Seven Mile Beach, in jeopardy from eight- to 10-foot waves, Mr. Ebanks said.

‘It’s going to get a little worse along the west coast,’ he said. ‘And the south coast will continue to get high surf.

‘This is all due to the slow moving storm,’ he said.

Although the Tropical Storm Warning and Hurricane Watch was lifted Wednesday afternoon, Cayman remained under a Severe Weather Advisory on Thursday.

Wilma caused damage in varying degrees to several waterfront restaurants on Grand Cayman, particularly to seaside decks. The Wharf Restaurant, Hammerheads, Rackam’s Pub & Restaurant and Grand Old House all sustained some damage from the battering seas.

Several sections of roads were closed because of the incursion of seawater.

The road in Savannah just east of the Hirst Road and Shamrock Road junction was restricted to emergency trips only. Residents in the Eastern Districts were advised Thursday not to come to George Town unless they had to.

Portions of North Church Street and Harbour Drive were also closed as waves washed over the roads.

Traffic was diverted off West Bay Road near the Courtyard Marriott through Governor’s Harbour, and residents were warned to expect the diversion and unusual delays through Friday.

The storm also created power outages to the Eastern districts and to parts of George Town Thursday morning because of damage to a transmission line at CUC’s South Sound Substation.

All government schools were closed Thursday, and most private schools were as well. Triple C School opened, but had to close afterwards because of the power failure.

Government schools, including the University College, will remain closed Friday.

Legislative Assembly was scheduled to sit on Thursday, but was cancelled.

A farewell reception for Governor Bruce Dinwiddy and his wife Emma scheduled for Thursday evening at the Government House was also cancelled.

As of Thursday morning, Wilma was heading west-northwest at only 7mph. When the hurricane makes its turn to the north-northeast, it is expected to pick up forward speed and head in the direction of South Florida.

Although Wilma had been downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane, it was expected to regain Category 5 strength before interacting with the Yucatan Peninsula early Friday.

That interaction with land is expected to weaken the storm significantly, but it was still expected to make another landfall in Florida as a dangerous hurricane on Sunday.

Wilma had already brought almost four inches of rain to Grand Cayman between Tuesday morning and Thursday morning, according to the Meteorological Services.

Weather forecaster Mr. Ebanks said another two to three inches of rain was expected through Friday night as Wilma’s outer rain bands affected Grand Cayman.

Winds were sustained at 25 to 30 mph Thursday, with gusts up to 41 mph, Mr. Ebanks said.

‘Tropical storm force winds were actually a little closer to us this morning than they were yesterday,’ Mr. Ebanks said.

Although the winds were expected to die down some on Friday, Mr. Ebanks said the seas would remain rough.

‘The seas don’t decrease right away,’ he said. ‘There’s still a lot of energy in the seas even after the wind decreases.’

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