The Cayman Islands is likely in for stormy weather this week as a result of a tropical cyclone forming a few hundred miles south-southwest of Jamaica on Monday morning.
Tropical Depression No. 18 was expected to reach tropical storm strength by Monday evening and it will likely be called Sandy if it does. However, there’s a possibility Invest 90L in the Atlantic Ocean could reach tropical storm strength first, which would result in Tropical Depression No. 18 being named Tony.
Based on the forecast track of the United States National Hurricane Center from Monday afternoon, the storm will turn north-northeast toward Jamaica by Tuesday and then make landfall near Kingston, Jamaica as a strong tropical storm on Wednesday.
However, some of the computer forecast models continued to show the cyclone’s centre tracking west of Jamaica, with some predicting a path that would take it close to the Cayman Islands.
A tropical storm watch was issued for Jamaica on Monday morning, but the National Hurricane Center in Miami said a hurricane watch and/or a tropical storm warning could be required late by the end of the day.
Based on current forecast track, the main effect of the storm for Grand Cayman will be scattered rain showers, windy conditions and rough seas that are expected to peak at 5 to 7 feet on Wednesday and Thursday. A small craft advisory will be in effect from today through Thursday.
Conditions in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman could be worse since the centre of cyclone is expected to pass closer to the Sister Islands. However, both Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are well out of the National Hurricane Center’s three-day forecast cone.
Historically, late October and early November have produced some of the most intense and destructive hurricanes in the western Caribbean Sea. During the second week of November 2008, major Hurricane Paloma brushed by Grand Cayman to the east and then brought devastation to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. A Category 5 storm in November 1932 – before hurricanes were named – caused the death of 110 Cayman Islands residents, all but one in Cayman Brac, which experienced storm surge in excess of 30 feet.
More recently, Hurricane Wilma spun up in the area close to where Tropical Depression No. 18 formed and rapidly intensified to become the strongest hurricane on record in the Atlantic Basin.
In 1998, Category 5 Hurricane Mitch briefly threatened the Cayman Islands before turning toward Central America, where it killed nearly 19,000 people.
In 1991, Category 4 Hurricane Michelle stayed about 150 miles southwest of Grand Cayman, but still caused more than $20 million of damage, including extensive damage to the Cayman Turtle Farm.