Cayman crews ready to assist storm-hit Bermuda

CUC, others on standby after Hurricane Gonzalo

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Work crews from the Cayman Islands are on standby to travel to Bermuda to aid the recovery effort following Hurricane Gonzalo, which caused extensive damage and power outages over the weekend. 

The strong category 2 storm barreled into the tiny Atlantic island on Friday evening, uprooting trees and downing power lines. Some roofs were ripped off and several buildings were severely damaged, but no injuries or loss of life were reported. 

The Bermuda regiment was assisted by British Navy officers from the HMS Argyll, which traveled to Bermuda following its visit to Cayman earlier this month, to assist with the cleanup. As many as 6,000 homes were still without power Monday morning, while thousands more were without Internet access. 

Cayman crews from the Caribbean Utilities Company and telecommunications firm Logic, which is headquartered in Bermuda, have been put on standby to assist. CUC said it had advised CARILEC, the regional umbrella body for utilities companies, that it has a four-man team available. At a press conference Monday, the Bermuda Electric Light Company announced that support crews would be coming in from across the Caribbean, but did not reference Cayman specifically. 

Bermuda Cablevision, which is majority owned by Logic’s parent company KeyTech and is the main cable television provider in Bermuda, suffered extensive damage during the storm, according to news reports. 

Other companies with a dual presence on both islands seemed to have escaped relatively unscathed, with several reporting that they were back to business as usual on Monday. 

For Graham Pearson, CEO of Ignition Group, it was a blustery welcome to Bermuda, following a transfer from Cayman this month. Shortly before he arrived, the island had been hit by Tropical Storm Fay. 

He said he had just moved into a condo on the west side of the island when the news came through that Hurricane Gonzalo was heading right for Bermuda. For the first few hours of the storm, his home was well sheltered from the winds, but as the hurricane passed directly over the island, things changed. 

“As the eye passed, looking outside, there was not a breath of wind; you could see clear sky and stars. But then 40-50 minutes later, the winds returned, this time from the west, and for the next two hours we bore the full brunt of the storm. 

“Our neighbor’s roof came off and an unoccupied condo on the other side lost all of its windows.” 

He said his business – an IT cloud hosting service – utilized bunkers in Bermuda, Cayman, Curacao and Halifax to keep clients’ data safe, so preparations had been minimal. 

At insurance management company Horseshoe Group, Cayman-based executive Steve Britton said the Bermuda office had closed Thursday afternoon but was back up and running early Monday. Robert Pires, of Bermuda Investment Advisory Services, which is based in both territories, said the damage to the island was extensive, but business was largely unaffected. 

“Business was not disrupted. You would not have known that we had a hurricane,” he said. 

He said the Cayman office had shouldered the burden of the workload while the Bermuda office was shut from Thursday afternoon. 

Some homes in the west of the island were seriously damaged, and there was some damage to the roof of the island’s legislature and central hospital. Images from Bermuda showed damaged yachts that had been flung onto land during the storm, as well as gaping holes in roofs. The island’s homes, most built of stone, remained largely intact, though one less sturdy house had an entire wall blown off. 

The Bermuda government was allowing applications for temporary emergency work permits to assist with repairing and rebuilding following the storm. 

Premier Michael Dunkley said the island “took a licking” from Gonzalo but had fared better than many imagined. 

“We are a bit bruised. But we will recover from this,” he said. “All in all, we came out of this storm much better than we expected.” 

Initially a category 4 hurricane as it approached the island, Hurricane Gonzalo weakened and was downgraded to a category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour when it made landfall on Friday.