Hurricane damage assessed

Cayman Islands Government leaders toured Cayman Brac and Little Cayman Sunday to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Gustav close pass to the Sister Islands.

Gustav’s centre came within 28 miles of Little Cayman and 33 miles from Cayman Brac late Friday, bringing strong winds, high surf and heavy rain.

Grand Cayman suffered less damage because Gustav’s centre passed more than 50 miles from the islands. The most significant damage on Grand Cayman – like downed trees and light poles and ruined agriculture – occurred along or close to the northern coastline.

Price gouging claims

There were several reports of price gouging in advance of the storm

Two retailers vehemently denied any incidents of price gouging.

Altee Thompson said any reports that AL Thompson raised any prices as Gustav approached were ‘an outright lie’.

‘We change prices if something goes up in price for us,’ he said. ‘We don’t raise prices for a storm. We never have done so and we never will.’

Mr. Thompson said some people get confused by the price of plywood because it varies depending on the type.

‘Every type of plywood is not the same,’ he said. ‘Everyone wants the cheaper kind.’

Although AL Thompson had more of the cheaper kind of plywood – the half-inch untreated type – than it normally has in stock, it still sold out.

‘When the half-inch sells out, we start selling the 5/8 inch; when that runs out, we start selling the ¾ inch,’ Mr. Thompson said.

In addition to the width size variations, there is pressure treated and non-pressure treated grades. The treated plywood costs about $5 more per sheet than the untreated, Mr. Thompson said, adding that the prices of the various types of plywood stayed the same.

‘We do not change prices on any items whatsoever,’ he said. ‘I would like someone to tell me one item that we raised prices on.’

Woody Foster said Fosters Food Fair did not raise any prices either.

‘I can assure you someone else would have to own this company for us to raise the prices of any items,’ he said. ‘I will not happen.’

One possible reason for people thinking Foster’s might have raised prices was that it ran out of Aquafina drinking water in small bottles.

‘We ended up getting it from a local supplier and paid twice the price we sell it for,’ he said. ‘We were selling it at cost.’

Mr. Foster said a sign was posted telling customers the reason for the higher price. However, when it became apparent that the new price was causing an issue with customers, Mr. Foster instructed the product be pulled from the shelves.

‘It wasn’t worth having us being accused of price gouging,’ he said.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police said it had not received any reports of price gouging.

Busy tropics

Hurricane Gustav, which made landfall in Louisiana on Monday, was only one of several areas of concern in the Atlantic basin.

Tropical Storm Hanna intensified to a hurricane Monday afternoon and Tropical Depression 9 formed. In addition, the National Hurricane Center in Miami was monitoring three other areas of concern, one of which had a high probability of developing into a tropical cyclone.

Hurricane Hanna turned toward the northwest from a southerly track, threatening the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas.

TD9 was generally projected to pass north of the Caribbean, as were two other areas of low pressure moving across the tropical Atlantic.

September is often very busy with regard to tropical cyclone activity. The peak hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin generally runs from late August to mid-October, with the apex being around 11 September.

Mr. Foster said Foster’s Food Fair would generally be able to replenish low hurricane supplies within two weeks.

‘In most cases, it’s just a matter of waiting on the Seaboard Marine boat to get here with new supplies,’ he said.

However, Foster’s purchases some items from local suppliers, and if stocks on those items are sold out, it could take longer to replenish.

Mr. Thompson said he has 200 bundles of plywood sitting in a port in Mobile, Alabama, which was getting some of Hurricane Gustav’s impact on Monday.

‘We bought it at the old price and we’re not going to raise the prices,’ he said. Going forward, though, prices of building materials could go up if Hurricanes like Gustav, Hanna or other cause significant damage in the United States, creating higher demand.

In the meantime, AL Thompson was inundated with people who were trying to return hurricane supply items like lanterns and flashlights on Monday, Mr. Thompson said.

‘We’ll take it back if it’s unopened, although we’ll charge a restocking fee,’ he said. ‘But if it’s out of the package, we can’t take it back. If we did, we might as well throw it away because people won’t buy things out of the package.

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