Cayman dodges Ernesto’s wrath

Storm confounds forecasters

The Cayman Islands dodged what could have been a serious weather event when Tropical Storm Ernesto passed well to the south of Grand Cayman on Monday.  

The storm still brought rain, rough seas and windy conditions to Grand Cayman. 

As the storm strengthened, it also expanded, meaning it was likely to bring more rain to Grand Cayman than originally forecast, said Cayman Islands National Weather Service Meteorologist Allan Ebanks on Monday morning.  

“As it grows, the rain bands will spread farther,” he said. “We’ll see cloudy and overcast skies and frequent showers through Tuesday afternoon.” 

Although the rainfall models were showing an inch to and inch-and-a-half of rain possible, Mr. Ebanks said storms with extending spiral rain bands often bring more rain than the models show. 

Hazard Management Cayman Islands warned that the rainfall could cause flooding of low-lying areas. 

The storm is expected to bring windy conditions – with sustained winds of up to 28 miles per hour – and rough seas of six to eight feet, especially along the east and south coasts. “All marine interests should remain in safe harbour until further notice,” Hazard Management said in a release Monday morning. 

Because the centre of the storm was not expected to come any closer than 216 miles south of Grand Cayman, at 10am Monday the government discontinued the tropical storm watch for the Island that had been in effect from Sunday. Government offices and schools were open normal hours on Monday. Ernesto proved to be very difficult to forecast, even for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. 

When it formed, many of the forecast models showed Ernesto either turning northwest toward the United States East Coast or dissipating in the Eastern Caribbean Sea. Once it entered the Caribbean Sea and didn’t dissipate, the National Hurricane Center forecast it would become a hurricane over the weekend somewhere south of Jamaica. When that didn’t happen, the Hurricane Center predicted the storm would not strengthen into a hurricane at all and instead make landfall in Central America as a tropical storm. Then after its strengthening Monday morning, the Hurricane Center once again forecast the storm would strengthen to a hurricane and make landfall near the Belize/Mexico border on the Yucatan Peninsula.  

Ernesto

Ernesto remained south of the Cayman Islands. Photo: File