Hurricane season: Take no comfort from rosy forecasts

 While the attention of Cayman Islands residents has been focused, quite rightly, on the public relations disaster that is the arrest and indictment of regional football leader Jeffrey Webb on suspicion of corruption and money laundering, we remind our readers not to forget about the natural disaster that may be lurking around yesterday’s turn of the calendar.

Monday, June 1, marked the beginning of “hurricane season” in the Atlantic basin. From now until the end of November, residents and visitors should remain on heightened alert that a terrible storm may develop and strike Cayman at any time.

Officials from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting a 70 percent likelihood of a below-normal hurricane season, with six to 11 named storms in the region, three to six of which will become hurricanes, and zero to two becoming major hurricanes.

Don’t listen to them — or take comfort from their rosy predictions.

Common sense tells us “it only takes one” — in other words, all the prognoses in the world will amount to naught if a hurricane does indeed land on our shores.

“As we’ve seen before, below-normal seasons can still produce catastrophic impacts to communities,” NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan said, referring to the 1992 season, which was largely uneventful — except for the Category 5 Hurricane Andrew that devastated South Florida.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle newspaper, U.S. National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb (who grew up near Houston but now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida) riffed on a variation of the “it only takes one” theme — saying, “It just takes a single headline … Even if we get all of those preparation messages out, a single headline that comes out and suggests hurricanes are going away, or are going to be less, or it’s going to be quieter, can erase all of that in one fell swoop.”

We concur. We at the Compass will postpone our celebrations until nearer to Christmas. We advise our readers to do the same.

Most people in Cayman, particularly those who were unfortunate enough to experience Hurricane Ivan in 2004, should know what to do to ready themselves and their property for a storm event. However, like CPR and snow skiing, it never hurts to refresh oneself on the basics.

A good place to start is (surprise!) the Compass. Included in last Thursday’s newspaper is this year’s Hurricane Guide, a comprehensive source of information about “what to know before, during and after a storm.” The glossy and attractive magazine includes everything you need to know going into hurricane season, including the creation of personal hurricane plans, locations of local hurricane shelters, consular contacts for expatriates, insurance coverage, emergency supplies checklist, Cayman’s history of hurricanes, and much more.

Additionally, in Monday’s Compass, Foster’s Food Fair IGA sponsored its own concise Hurricane Preparedness Guide, which (among other information) includes recipes for post-hurricane (i.e. no-electricity) cooking, a list of official storm names for 2015 and definitions of hurricane terms.

That way, if we do end up sitting in the dark after a storm, we can use the proper nomenclature and pronunciation to curse out the specific hurricane, while enjoying our meal of bottled water, four-bean chili, skillet cornbread and tuna-and-apple pilaf.

We can’t stop Mother Nature, but we can help ourselves to mitigate the effects of her wrath.

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