The Cayman Islands has entered another hurricane season, this time marking almost 10 years after the destruction of Hurricane Ivan and six years on from the devastation left on the Sister Islands by Hurricane Paloma.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last month predicted a “below-average” season, but residents are being urged not to become complacent in their hurricane preparations.
NOAA forecasts eight to 13 named tropical storms, and one or two major hurricanes, meaning storms with winds greater than 110 mph, during the six-month season. In its 2014 Atlantic hurricane outlook, the administration suggested a 50 percent chance of a below-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season.
U.S. forecasting service AccuWeather highlighted the western Caribbean region as the area to watch for storm activity early in the season. Forecasts indicate that conditions around Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula will become more unsettled with the potential for heavy rain this week.
Delivering a public statement to mark the beginning of the 2014 hurricane season, Premier Alden McLaughlin said Friday that people needed to remember the devastation left behind by previous hurricanes, and must ensure they stock up on hurricane supplies and have an evacuation plan.
“While the early predictions are for a quiet 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, I would urge everyone to be prepared. Do not be lulled by the suggestion that there will be nine tropical storms but only three becoming hurricanes as it is predicted this year.” Mr. McLaughlin said.
“Annual hurricane predictions are merely a best estimate of expected hurricane activity in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.”
Hazard Management Cayman Islands has warned residents against being unprepared this season, stating violent hurricanes are still a very real threat.
Simon Boxall, Hazard Management’s awareness and communications officer, said Hurricane Ivan could have caused many more fatalities if there had been more storm surge.
“It’s not impossible that we could get storm surge that is in excess of 16 feet, or twice what we experienced in Ivan,” Mr. Boxall said.
“People need to prepare for that sort of possibility and not think that they have necessarily seen the worst that nature can throw at them. People lost cars, computer hard drives, and things like photographs, often irreplaceable items. None of these things needed to have been lost if people had prepared properly.”
Hazard Management hosted its graduation and establishment of the West Bay District Community Emergency Response Team on Sunday.
The program trained 34 volunteers in shelter operations, CPR, first aid, fire safety, search and rescue, initial damage assessment, and disaster psychology.
“This is a significant milestone in building national resilience at the grass roots level,” Mr. Boxall said. “It is a big deal.”
Community Emergency Response Teams are also operational in North Side, Bodden Town, and North Sound Gardens. Mr. Boxall said Hazard Management hoped volunteers would come forward to establish a team in each district.
Joe Nimmich, response and recovery associate administrator for the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, said it would only take one hurricane or tropical storm to reach landfall to create a disastrous impact on our communities.
“Just last month, Pensacola, Florida saw 5 inches of rain in 45 minutes – without a tropical storm or hurricane,” Mr. Nimmich said. “We need you to be ready. Know your risk for hurricanes and severe weather, take action now to be prepared and be an example for others in your office, school or community. Learn more about how to prepare for hurricanes.”
The names of this year’s Atlantic hurricanes are: Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred.