Hurricanes slam Sister Islands

In late August, Hurricane Gustav appeared to head directly toward Grand Cayman as a Category 1 storm before it turned to the north to pass between Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands.

sister islands hurricanes

Cayman Brac took the brunt of Hurricane Paloma, with an estimated 90 per cent damage of buildings across the island.

Gustav came about 33 miles from Cayman Brac and about 28 miles from Little Cayman at its closest point of approach. Maximum recorded sustained winds on Cayman Brac were 57 mph, with gusts up to 84 miles per hour.

The storm downed trees, power lines and light poles, and washed away docks on the Sister Islands. The two reported injuries from the storm occurred when a couple taking photographs from a dock in Little Cayman were washed into the sea as the storm approached.

After leaving the Sister Islands, the storm strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane and headed west toward Cuba and Louisiana on the Gulf Coast.

The remaining part of the hurricane season seemed to be fairly quiet until early November when tropical depression Paloma formed of the east coast of Nicaragua. It quickly crossed the Caribbean gathering strength into a hurricane.

Early on, Hurricane Paloma appeared it would hit Grand Cayman but the storm shifted course slightly at the last minute, taking it about 30 miles east of Grand Cayman and causing only minimal damage. Still, Grand Cayman received more than 13 inches of rain from Paloma.

The eastward shift in course took Paloma on a collision course with the Sister Islands. On 8 November, the storm slammed into the Sister Islands with maximum sustained winds up to 140 mph with gusts estimated at over 160 mph.

While both of the Sister Islands sustained major damage, the Brac took the brunt of the storm which obliterated whole buildings and inflicted severe damage on an estimated 90 per cent of buildings across the island. Coincidently, it was also the 76th anniversary of the deadly hurricane of 1932.

Up to 1,000 people were left temporarily homeless by Paloma.

No deaths were reported from Hurricane Paloma. Little Cayman tourist business was up and running within a few weeks but it will be much longer before Cayman Brac rebuilds fully.

Recovery efforts are expected to continue well into 2009.

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