The Sister Islands escaped Hurricane Dean with only minimal damage.
On Tuesday afternoon District Commissioner of the Sister Islands Ernie Scott said that from a preliminary assessment in the form of a drive through both islands, the suggestion is that there has been very little damage on both Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.
But there has been some damage, which a damage assessment team had gone to assess on Tuesday. Mr. Scott, who is also Chairman of the Sister Islands Emergency Committee, was expecting a report from the team in 24 hours, he said.
‘We’re all very relieved, and as Chairman of the Sister Islands Emergency Committee I am more than pleased that we had minimal damage and no loss of life. We really have a lot to thank God for,’ he said.
Aunt Sha’s restaurant on the south coast of Cayman Brac sustained damage and is out of operation, he confirmed.
While the management is looking into relocating, this does not mean that the building is not restorable, he said.
Waves pulled rocks and debris into the building and windows and doors were broken. There is structural, plumbing and electrical damage, but the walls, roof and floors are still there.
Damage was also done to the private and public docks on the islands, some with ‘substantial damage’, he said.
‘We are hoping the docks will be repaired, but some might need to be rebuilt,’ he said.
The road on the south side of Cayman Brac was littered with debris in three places, two of which made it impassable, and equipment was brought in to remove the debris and free up the road again. ‘There was very minimal damage to the road itself,’ Mr. Scott said.
The District Commissioner had also received some unconfirmed reports of damage to private residences, including leaking roofs, particularly on the Brac.
There were a couple of fallen trees also, which were quickly removed.
Although there was a mandatory evacuation ordered for Little Cayman, about 30 people still remained there, Mr. Scott said. Despite trying to persuade them to leave, they opted not to, he said. They stayed at their own properties because the shelter was closed in the mandatory evacuation.
In all, about 150 people, including residents and visitors, were evacuated from Little Cayman.
‘All visitors went to Grand Cayman and then to their home of origin, the majority of whom were from North America,’ said Mr. Scott.
Most of the Little Cayman residents ended up on Cayman Brac for the storm.
There were three shelters open in Cayman Brac and all were under-used, in terms of numbers, during the storm.
The Aston Rutty Centre, which has a capacity for 420 people, had 319 stay there; The West End School, with a capacity for about 235 people, had 135 stay there; the New Day Care Centre, with a capacity for 140 people, held 107.
The reason for this under utilisation of shelters was that there are quite a number of houses on the bluff where people stayed, said Mr. Scott. Many people opted to stay there in family or friends’ homes. One household had 20 people sheltering there for the storm, for example.
Another option used by people was the Veterans and Seaman’s Society building, which, although not a designated shelter, was used by some 82 veterans and seamen and their families and friends.
Mr. Scott said that there is a unique situation on Cayman Brac, where the population is approximately 1800, and that is that if everyone needed to stay at a shelter, they could be accommodated, although it would be tight, with shelter spaces at 795 in their official capacity.
Giving an example of the Aston Rutty centre during Ivan, when its official capacity was then 365 (before the addition of the medical wing) they had 557 people registered there, and housed them with relative ease, said Mr. Smith.
‘The recommended capacity and reality can turn out to be quite different,’ he said. ‘Even though there is a recommended capacity we’re not going to leave someone outside,’ he said.
There was power throughout the storm on Cayman Brac, but Little Cayman had none, because of the mandatory evacuation. From 7.30am Sunday morning to 9am Tuesday morning there was no power because without staff there to man the equipment, the Cayman Brac Power and Light Company could not leave their systems switched on, on Little Cayman.
The local water plant on Cayman Brac, operated by the Water Authority, cut water around 7.30pm Sunday evening. It had come back on by early Tuesday morning.
However, Mr. Scott noted that this water supply in Cayman Brac only covers the extreme west tip of the island, affecting about 15 or so households. The other homes and businesses operate with cisterns, tanks and deep wells.
The police, medics, shelter staff and volunteers all behaved admirably, Mr. Scott noted.
Following the storm, a full-scale clean-up operation was in motion, with everything being put back in order.
By Tuesday morning the New Day Care Centre had already been cleaned up and was accepting children from 7am. The Aston Rutty Centre was being cleaned up Tuesday and expected to be ready for normal business again Wednesday. The West End School was also set to be cleaned up quickly.
Another plus was that officials in Cayman Brac were able to keep in contact with their counterparts in Grand Cayman throughout the storm, using cell phones and radio.
Indeed, throughout the storm, shelter residents were able to track the storm on the weather channel on TV thanks to the service provided by CITN and its local manager Christopher Randall.