Hurricanes for new residents

When you made the decision to move to the Cayman Islands, you probably knew there was a threat of hurricanes. What you probably didn’t know was that you were moving into some prime real estate in Hurricane Central. 

According to the website hurricanecity.com, since 1871 only three locations in the entire Atlantic Basin have had more tropical storms and hurricanes pass within 100 miles than the Cayman Islands. When that distance is lowered to 40 miles, the Cayman Islands is at the top. 

In the past decade, the Cayman Islands has felt the brunt of three major hurricanes, with Grand Cayman getting walloped by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and the Sister Islands got hit twice in 2008, first by Hurricane Gustav and then terribly by Hurricane Paloma. In addition the past decade has brought damage and scares from hurricanes like Michelle in 2001, Charley in 2004, Dennis and Emily in 2005 and Dean in 2007, plus lots of wind and rain from several other tropical depressions and tropical storms that passed close by. 

Chances are, in this multi-decadal cycle of increased tropical cyclone activity, the Cayman Islands will come under at least one tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning during any particular hurricane season, so all people new to the Islands should know what to do. 

Hurricane season runs from 1 June through 30 November, with the peak of the season running roughly from August through October. It is important to begin preparations for hurricane season before 1 June; those who wait until a storm is approaching to do things like buy necessary supplies will often find long lines and certain important items out of stock – in addition to adding untold stress to an already stressful situation. 

 

Some of the things to do in advance of hurricane season include: 

Purchase hurricane supplies (see list elsewhere in this booklet) 

Renew or secure homeowners or contents insurance 

Learn what the various watches and warnings mean, and determine where you will get your hurricane information 

Clear yard of debris and other things (like coconuts in trees) that could become projectiles during a hurricane 

Determine how you will protect the windows of your home in the event of a hurricane and obtain the necessary materials 

Ensure travel documents are in order for all members of your family, just in case you need to leave 

Register with the local consulate or nearest embassy for the country of your citizenship so that they know how to contact you and where you live 

Test generators, flashlights and other mechanical/electronic equipment to ensure they are in working order 

Prepare a hurricane plan for you, your family and any pets you might have; know where you will all go if a hurricane is coming 

Determine if your home is in a low-lying area or flood zone; if so, determine an alternative place to stay during a hurricane 

Figure out how you will keep children occupied during and after a storm if there is no power 

If you take the above preparedness steps in advance of a storm, you will be able to concentrate on more immediate things if a storm is advancing toward the Cayman Islands and you plan to ride it out here. These steps include: 

Fuel your vehicles and park them on known high ground 

Employ your window protection system, whether it be shutters or plywood 

Get extra cash (ATMs might not work after a hurricane and merchants might not take credit cards). 

Fill bathtubs and other containers with fresh water 

Put important documents like passports, cash, etc. in a sealable plastic bag that you can take wherever you go 

Seal off ways of water ingress like exterior electric outlets, dryer vent holes, etc. with duct tape. 

Turn the refrigerator and freezer down to coldest settings so that they stay colder longer if the power goes out 

Turn air conditioning down so that your home will stay cooler longer if the power goes out 

Make sure all cellular telephones and other chargeable electronic equipment are fully charged 

Contact relatives overseas to let them know where you will ride out the storm and give them alternative contact numbers if possible 

Because an approaching hurricane closes most businesses, some new residents see the time off as a chance to have a hurricane party. This is not a good idea, because it will likely lead to people driving in dangerous conditions when they’re supposed to be off the roads. If alcohol consumption is involved, it can also impair judgment at a time when quick, life or death reactions might be needed. Hurricanes are dangerous weather systems that can, and do, kill people. When you are on a small, flat island surrounded by an angry ocean and being whipped by hurricane force winds and pelted by a deluge of rain, good preparation can not only save lives, it can make the experience of going through a hurricane and its aftermath less frightening and more tolerable. 

Post Ivan GCM people rush

Residents stock up on hurricane supplies. – Photo: File