Hurricane Dean continued to race through the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday heading in the general direction of the Cayman Islands.
Based on the 10am Thursday consensus storm computer model from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Dean would pass approximately 70 miles south of Grand Cayman early Monday morning as a major hurricane.
‘This is just a prediction,’ warned Cayman Islands Meteorological Services Senior Manager Fred Sambula. ‘This will change, hopefully for the better.’
Mr. Sambula said that based the storm’s forward speed and direction of motion on Thursday morning, residents of the Cayman Islands could start feeling effects from Dean late Sunday night.
If the predictions hold true, Cayman would only face tropical storm force winds.
‘There is no forecast of Cayman being affected by hurricane force winds at the present time,’ Mr. Sambula said. ‘However, residents should continue to monitor the storm and be prepared to take the necessary actions for the protection of life and property.’
Cayman’s National Hurricane Committee Chairman Donovan Ebanks said the committee was planning to meet about Dean for the first time at 3pm on Thursday.
‘My line right now is just to try to get everyone mentally in gear to get the things done tomorrow that are best done on a working day,’ he said.
Official warnings from the Cayman Islands Government about Dean would likely not occur until Saturday. Tropical Storm or Hurricane Alerts come 48 hours before the corresponding conditions are expected to begin effecting the country; a Watch is initiated 36 hours before the onset of Tropical Storm or Hurricane condition; and Warnings come 24 hours before.
Mr. Ebanks said government would begin preparing for Dean on Friday.
‘I urge the public to do likewise and do everything a hurricane plan calls for,’ he said.
Some residents got an early start on hurricane preparations, at least when it came to shopping. Foster’s Food Fair had already reported an increase in business on Thursday.
‘I started from last night,’ said Managing Director Woody Foster. ‘It’s continuing on today.’
Mr. Foster said the supermarkets were planning to open Sunday.
‘All three supermarkets have made tentative plans to open Sunday from 7am until 3pm,’ he said, adding that the times could be adjusted depending on any changes Dean’s speed of approach. ‘All three supermarkets will do whatever is necessary to serve the public.’
Raul Mena, store manager at Hurley’s Marketplace in Grand Harbour, said the shelves are well-stocked, with plans in the works to bring in extra supplies on Saturday.
The island’s building supply stores are also prepared to open Sunday if necessary.
‘There’s a good possibility we will have to open,’ said Larry Thompson, store manager at AL Thompson Home Depot.
He said the shelves are well-stocked with hurricane supplies, and they have sent plywood to its Savannah location to ease traffic in town.
Charles Anderson, operations manager at Cox Lumber, said business had been brisk.
‘I’m surprised at the amount of people in the store,’ he said. ‘I guess after Ivan, they’re not waiting until the last minute.’
Hendrik van Genderen of the Cayman Islands Water Authority said it was possible water service could be shut off in the approach of Dean, but that no decision would be made until closer to the time.
‘It depends on the severity of the storm and where it’s going to hit,’ he said.
However if the Water Authority does decide to shut down its system, it would give four to five hours of advanced warning through an announcement on Radio Cayman to give residents enough time to fill water bottles and bath tubs, Mr. van Genderen said.
Caribbean Utilities Company will also turn off the power if the island starts experiencing hurricane-force winds.
During Hurricane Ivan, CUC did not turn the power off and let it go off as it went down circuit by circuit.
However President and CEO Richard Hew said CUC would carry out a more orderly shut-down in the event of a direct impact of Hurricane Dean.
‘Our practice would be as soon we’re experiencing hurricane force winds, we’d turn the power off,’ he said, noting that some customers could be impacted even before that.
‘Even in winds of 30 or 40 miles per hour, you could have a tree going into a line and knocking out a circuit,’ he said. ‘We wouldn’t be able to get a crew out there to repair it in those kinds of winds, so the power to that circuit would remain off until the winds had subsided,’ he said.
With regard to telecommunications, Digicel announced Thursday it had
put its hurricane contingency plan into high gear to ensure that all areas of its operations were secured.
‘With the acquisition of new cell sites, the raising of all low-lying cell sites and additional capacity at other cell sites, Digicel’s network has never been stronger,’ the company said.
Digicel recommended to customers they charge their phones and have a car charger handy. It also recommended for pre-paid customers to top up their cell phones.