Tropical Depression #16 dumped
heavy rainfall on the Cayman Islands Monday and Tuesday, causing severe
flooding of low-lying areas.
The huge weather system, which
resembles a monsoon depression common in the Western Pacific Ocean, formed into
a tropical cyclone around 10am Tuesday. The Cayman Islands Government issued a
tropical storm warning at the same time.
The system, which was designated
Invest 96L on Monday, was expected to strengthen into Tropical Storm Nicole
sometime Tuesday, however it had not done so as of press time.
Heavy rain from the system started
Monday evening. The Cayman Islands National Weather Service measured 4.05
inches of rain in the 12-hour period between 7pm Monday night and 7am Tuesday
morning. Another 3-4 inches of rain was forecast through Wednesday morning and
rain was expected to continue falling during the day Wednesday, said Cayman’s
Chief Meteorologist John Tibbetts. The
National Hurricane Center in Miami stated a total accumulation of as much as 10
inches of rain were possible in the Cayman Islands.
“The eastern side of this tropical
depression is a fairly massive area of heavy thunderstorms,” Mr. Tibbetts said
Tuesday morning. “Cayman sits on the northerly edge of this area, so it should
all be moving north across Cayman.”
Mr. Tibbetts said a flood warning
was issued for low-lying areas Tuesday morning and that there was also a marine
warning in effect.
“All marine crafts should seek safe
harbour and remain there until further notice,” he said. Seas are expected to remain
rough, with five to seven foot waves, at least through Wednesday evening.
All government schools, including
the University College of the Cayman Islands, closed at 1pm Tuesday due to the
tropical storm warning. Cayman Prep and Triple C schools also closed at 1pm.
Other private schools remained opened for normal hours. The Cayman Islands Government also allowed
civil servants living in low-lying areas to leave work early yesterday.
The cyclone formed about 116 miles
northwest of Grand Cayman and was moving north-northeast. However, as the
National Hurricane Center in Miami pointed out, the strongest winds and
heaviest rains associated with the system were occurring well to the southeast
of the centre.
Mr. Tibbetts said sustained
south-to-southwest winds were expected at 15 to 20 knots. “There will be higher
gusts, possibly up to tropical storm force,” he said. Tropical storm force winds start at 39 miles
per hour and go up to 73 miles per hour.
The weather pattern for the
northwestern Caribbean shows more activity in the week ahead. Mr. Tibbetts said the forecasts were actually
indicating a light northwesterly wind for the Cayman area for the end of the
week as the result of a cold trough coming into the Gulf of Mexico. At the same
time, however, computer models were forecasting another tropical disturbance in
northwest Caribbean to form, possibly as soon as this weekend.