Cold front causes six cruise ships to miss Grand Cayman
The 2011 Atlantic Basin hurricane season ended Wednesday with the Cayman Islands feeling the effects of a cold front.
Although the hurricane season generated 19 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes, none came close to the Cayman Islands. Only Hurricane Rina in late October impacted the Cayman Islands. Rina, which passed just under 200 miles southwest of Grand Cayman as a major Category 3 hurricane, brought rough seas and more than four inches of rain to the Island. In addition to some short-term power outages, storm surge from Rina washed sand and other debris onto Harbour Drive in George Town and West Bay Road near the Public Beach. The rough seas also caused the USS Kittiwake – a US Navy ship sunk earlier this year as a dive site off Seven Mile Beach – to move about 60 feet out to sea.
The 19 named storms tied for the third most on record, trailing only 2005 (28 named storms) and 1933 (21 named storms) and equaled the number in 1995 and 2010.
The 2011 hurricane season was unique in that the first eight named storms did not become hurricanes, setting a record. It wasn’t until late August that Irene became the first named storm to reach hurricane status. The Category 3 Hurricane Irene went on to become the most destructive storm of the 2011 hurricane season, killing 56 people and causing more than $10 billion in damage. The storm made three US landfalls as it raked the East Coast from North Carolina to New York and caused severe flooding in many Atlantic Coast states and left more than 7 million households without power, some for a week or more.
The various preseason forecasts all predicted a more active than average hurricane season, but all underestimated the total number of named storms. Florida State University’s Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, which uses a unique numerical model unveiled last year to make its forecasts, came the closest, predicting 17 named storms. The UK-based Tropical Storm Risk was closest on the number of hurricanes and major hurricanes, virtually nailing its forecast of 7.6 hurricanes and 3.6 major hurricanes. It’s possible, however, there will be another named storm this year as the hurricane season ended with an active low pressure system located about 400 miles north-northeast of the Northern Leeward Islands. The system, designated Invest 90L, was given a 20 per cent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone by the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Should it do so and have its maximum sustained winds reach 39 miles per hour, the system would be designated Tropical Storm Tammy.
The Colorado State Tropical Meteorology Project’s Forecast forecast for the 2012 Hurricane Season will be released next Wednesday, 7 December. Tropical Storm Risk will also issue its long-range forecast for the 2012 season next week.
As the hurricane season ended, the Cayman Islands was feeling the effects of a cold front that brought snow as far south as the US Gulf Coast.
The front, which came in from Monday, has brought breezy conditions, rough seas, scattered showers and cooler temperatures.
Cayman Islands National Weather Service Chief Meteorologist John Tibbetts said the front had become stationary in the area. “It’s going to take a few days for this to dissipate out of here,” he said. “But by [Thursday] there should be a little shift of the winds to the northeast and then the seas along the west coast will start to die down.”
Mr. Tibbetts said the winds are still expected to remain at 15 to 20 knots through Sunday, with small craft advisories or warnings in effect throughout the entire period. The front will also bring patches of cloudiness and a few showers, he said.
The rough seas caused five cruise ships to skip Grand Cayman on Tuesday and another one to miss on Wednesday. Three other ships still called on Wednesday, but off-loaded passengers at the Spotts dock.
Port Authority Manager Cruise Operations and Security Joseph Woods said the sea conditions at the Spotts dock itself were calm enough to land passengers on Tuesday, but the swells out by the ships were too big, so the ships left.
Mr. Woods said he could not say whether additional ships would skip Grand Cayman later in the week with the conditions expected to remain rough. “That’s for the ships to decide,” he said, noting most of the ships come in and assess the conditions before making the decision whether to off-load passengers or not.