Several areas of Grand Cayman particularly South Sound and Savannah did sustain some flooding and storm damage Monday as the outer bands of Hurricane Dean blew ashore.
But the chairman of the National Hurricane Committee said the damage could certainly have been much worse.
‘We’ve come off extremely well,’ Donovan Ebanks said.
‘There is some damage in coastal areas and to some coastal properties. There have been some roadways that obviously had debris on them, and also in the South Sound area some erosion to the road surface.’
West Bay Road was strewn with rocks and debris and the section near Public Beach remained closed at press time Tuesday. However, that section of road was expected to be opened back up by this morning.
South Sound Road was not closed but drivers were asked to avoid the area until National Roads Authority crews could clear the area. The cleanup was being hampered by heavy traffic in both directions.
Some homes in South Sound sustained both wind and water damage. Home flooding was also reported at a few houses in West Bay along the iron shore.
Mr. Ebanks said water went over the coastline Monday in Savannah, but by nightfall of the same day drivers were able to get through on roads there.
An evaluation of property damage was still under way Tuesday, but Mr. Ebanks said it appeared there was little damage to physical property.
At the height of Monday’s storm there were an estimated 1,600 people in Cayman Islands shelters. That figure was revised downward from the initial 2,200 people reported by the government.
The busiest shelters by far were Prospect Primary school, West Bay Assembly Hall and UCCI Assembly Hall.
Grand Cayman has a maximum of about 4,000 shelter spaces, but Mr. Ebanks said it appears there wasn’t a demand for even half that many.
‘I do believe a lot of people sought shelter with relatives in what they thought were safe conditions,’ he said.
Mr. Ebanks said the National Hurricane Committee still intends to expand the number of shelters on the island. But he said shelters alone won’t solve the problem if a major storm strikes Cayman head on.
‘My ultimate aim isn’t to leave…12 to 20 thousand shelter sites around Grand Cayman,’ he said. ‘But the 4,000 figure will improve.’
One of the biggest difficulties the island had was with curfew violators.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service announced a curfew at 10pm Sunday and lifted it on 2pm Monday. However, it was obvious on Monday morning that hundreds of people ignored public officials’ pleas to stay indoors and stay safe.
At one point during the morning there were so many cars on the road that Caribbean Utilities Company repair crews had difficultly getting to locations where power line repairs were needed.
Dozens of pedestrians could be seen walking around the harbour front in George Town at the storm’s height.
Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan said those people were very lucky the storm wasn’t worse.
‘We were disappointed at the number of individuals out on the road late-morning (Monday),’ Mr. Kernohan said.
Those who violate a police-ordered curfew can be fined and arrested. In fact, one man in West Bay who went out twice during the storm was arrested. However, in this case Mr. Kernohan said arrests were not necessary.
‘Clearly, we try where possible to enforce the curfew,’ he said. ‘And if we think if was for criminality then they would be arrested. But it was clearly sight-seers out there that were putting their own lives at risk.’
‘Had the situation been worse…then far more people would have been arrested.’
Over the next few days, it is expected thousands of people will be returning to Grand Cayman.
Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson urged patience for those arriving at Owen Roberts International Airport as long lines at the Immigration counter were likely.
Mr. Manderson said it shouldn’t take quite as long to check island residents as it would for tourists or those who are newly-arrived to the country. But he said lines were still expected to be long.
‘We’re expecting an enormous amount of people to come back,’ he said. ‘It’s much, much higher than we would see on a regular day even in the height of our tourist season.’
Mr. Manderson said he didn’t expect any problems with people trying to sneak in, and that the Immigration Department would staff up this week to make sure things go smoothly.
‘We didn’t let (Hurricane) Dean in,’ he joked. ‘But we’re happy to welcome our tourists back…and we’ll provide our normal warm Caymanian welcome.’