Although it is too early to tell how close it will come to the Cayman Islands, Tropical Storm Dean is expected to become a hurricane and enter the Caribbean Sea.
Senior Manager of the Cayman Islands Meteorological Service Fred Sambula said Dean’s path would likely be determined by the ridge of high pressure known as the Atlantic High Pressure System.
‘There is a ridge of high pressure just to the north of the system, which is keeping it down,’ he said.
Dean’s path will depend on how strong that ridge remains over the next few days, Mr. Sambula said.
‘If it weakens… it could curve north and some models are showing that. But some models show that it doesn’t.’
The consensus model, however, brings the system into the Caribbean in the general vicinity of Jamaica on Monday.
‘But five days is a long time in terms of weather,’ Mr. Sambula said. ‘A lot can happen in the atmosphere in that time.’
The projected path was based on what was known about Dean as of 10am Wednesday morning, including its forward speed of 20 mph.
Mr. Sambula said the forward speed could very well change, altering the path.
‘In my experience, I haven’t seen hurricanes zipping through the Caribbean at 20 miles per hour,’ he said.
A Hurricane Hunter aircraft was scheduled to investigate Dean on Wednesday and what it discovered could also change the predicted path.
Mr. Sambula said residents of the Cayman Islands should keep a close eye on Dean.
‘The next two days will be critical,’ he said. ‘We should know a lot more about where it’s headed then.’
One thing people could do in the meantime is prepare, Mr. Sambula said, quoting the former chief of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Max Mayfield.
‘There is an abundance of evidence that many perished by being unprepared, but not one shred of evidence can be found that people perished from being over-prepared.’
Cayman’s Government Information Services issued a press release Wednesday reminding residents to have emergency plan.
High on the list of any emergency plan should be knowing where to ride out a storm.
‘The best hurricane shelter is a secure home,’ the GIS press release stated. ‘However, if your home is not considered secure, or if you live in an area prone to flooding, you should prepare yourself to go to the nearest shelter once a hurricane warning has been issued.’
There are only about 4,000 spots available in the government hurricane shelters on Grand Cayman, so they cannot accommodate all residents. Some churches and private businesses offer shelter during a hurricane as well.
Pets are not allowed at government shelters and pet boarding is severely limited in numbers.
Those intending to go to a government hurricane shelter should take with them three to four days of food that does not need cooking; a three to four day supply of water, based on one gallon of water per day per person; a first-aid kit that includes any prescription medications family members might need; bedding; special need items for infants, elderly or disabled family members; passports and other important family papers; and extra clothes.
Other items people should take and a list of things they cannot bring can be found at the Cayman Free Press website at www.caycompass.com. There is also a list of government hurricane shelters on the site.
Dean’s emergence signals the beginning of what is expected to be the most active part of the hurricane season. In addition to Dean, Tropical Storm Erin formed in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday morning.
That system, which formed from the remnants of the tropical wave that affected the Cayman Islands last weekend, is expected to make landfall in south-western Texas on Thursday as a tropical storm.