2015 storm season slow at peak

The historic peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is Sept. 10, but it has been a very slow season so far this year.

Thursday is also one day before the 11th anniversary of Hurricane Ivan, when a much busier hurricane season wreaked havoc in Cayman and around the region.

The quiet storm forecast is due to a combination of cool Atlantic water temperatures off Africa, El Niño warming waters in the Pacific, and this year’s wind patterns breaking up storms, according to forecasters with the National Hurricane Center in the United States.

In a recent interview, Cayman Islands Weather Service Chief Meteorologist Kerry Powery said, “El Niño disrupts overall global patterns and depresses tropical activity.”

So far this year, there have been seven named storms. The Hurricane Center downgraded Grace, the latest storm, to a tropical wave Wednesday morning. The storm, now with 30 mph maximum sustained winds, continues to head west into the Caribbean at 18 mph, according to Wednesday’s forecast from the Center.

Despite Grace’s downgraded status, many in the northern Caribbean are looking forward to the rain to help ease the severe drought in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cuba and other islands in the region.

U.S. forecasters predict that the tropical wave will have some impact on parts of the region, but not enough to fill the nearly empty reservoirs in places such as Puerto Rico.

A tropical wave passed through Cayman at the beginning of last week, the remnants of Tropical Storm Erika, dropping almost an inch of rain in 24 hours at Owen Roberts International Airport, with wind gusts up to 42 mph, according to the Cayman Islands Weather Service. Erika caused serious flooding in Dominica, killing at least 31 people and causing more than US$226 million in damage, according to the Associated Press.

According to the Cayman Islands National Weather Service hurricane data, there have been 74 direct hits by hurricanes and tropical storms on the territory since 1852. Of those, 21 hit in September, including Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

Ivan passed over the Cayman Islands on Sept. 11 and 12 with 155 mph winds, leaving flooding and destruction in its wake. The Category IV storm killed two and damaged buildings, the remnants of which remain standing to this day. Sixteen years before, almost to the day, another Category IV storm hit the islands – Gilbert hit the Cayman Islands on Sept. 13, 1988, with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.