In September 2004, Hurricane Ivan pummeled Grand Cayman with 155-mile-per-hour winds, submerged more than half the island in seawater and, in total, caused billions of dollars in damage and destruction.
In the minds of longtime residents, there is a clear distinction between the Cayman Islands “before Ivan” and “after Ivan.” To say that the memory of the most destructive storm in our lifetime is fading, even a dozen years later, would be false. The truth is, the recollection of Ivan is still fresh for all the adults who lived through it, and will remain so for long into the future.
Accordingly, as the annual Atlantic hurricane season begins today and runs through the end of November, it is perhaps unnecessary for us to attempt to remind many of our readers of the necessity of preparing for the worst.
However, Cayman’s population is a transient one. Since Ivan struck, many residents have moved away, and many other people have settled in Cayman. While thousands of current residents have experienced one or more hurricanes – and so do not really require any information on shutters, supplies and evacuation plans – thousands more may never have been through a cataclysmic event.
So our one piece of advice to veterans of hurricanes past is this: Once you have prepared yourself, your household and your home for an approaching storm – turn your attention to your neighbors and friends, who may not know any better, and pass along the wisdom you have accrued.
For the “uninitiated” – and for anyone who would like a refresher course on hurricane preparation – the Compass will once again publish our annual hurricane preparedness guide. Look for your free copy of this special publication within the Thursday, June 9 edition of the newspaper.
The hurricane guide will include a message from Hazard Management Cayman Islands, the local outlook for this year’s hurricane season, the schedule of storm names, as well as plans, supply lists and contact information for emergency entities in case of an approaching storm. The guide also contains suggestions on measures to take long before the skies turn dark-gray, including “hurricane-proofing” your home and obtaining the necessary insurance coverage.
Hurricane Ivan caused an immense amount of devastation (severely damaging 70 percent of Grand Cayman homes) and suffering, but it also brought with it a number of significant lessons – philosophical (such as the enduring power of the human spirit, the cohesiveness of community, etc.) as well as practical (such as the usefulness of having a generator, and the importance of ensuring safeguards are in place before a storm strikes).
The lessons from Ivan we gladly accept and take to heart, but since no one is eager to experience that painful sort of tutelage ever again, we urge everyone to make sure they’re ready to prevent and mitigate as many of the negative effects as possible in case of a major hurricane. In two words: Be prepared.