50 years ago: Tornado wreaks destruction

cayman-brac-by-LilianIn the June 8, 1966 edition of the Caymanian Weekly, a precursor of the Cayman Compass, news from the Sister Islands included:

“Telegram received from D.C.: Tornado hits Cayman Brac. Regret to advise that freak tornado hit the Watering Place area this a.m. about two houses completely demolished. Many roofs off all boat houses in area down one boat smashed completely and one taken to sea. Majority of large trees uprooted and light poles and wires down stop damage extensive consider this a disaster area financial assistance will have to be given to poor persons to restore their homes. Constant rain making work on power lines etc. very difficult. Will keep you advised – District Commissioner.”

In the June 15, 1966 edition, Brac correspondent Lillian Ritch provided more details, among them:

“Sunday 5th through Tuesday 7th we shared the overcast skies and heavy rains off of Hurricane Alma. This was the culmination of a rainy May unprecedented in recent years. The heavy showers began on Wednesday and Thursday 25th and 26th, repeating with 5 1/2 inches on Tuesday 31st, and a full wet day on Thursday, June 2.

“Early on Tuesday morning the 7th we heard over the air that Winton Rich’s launch Steady Girl had parted her moorings in the Channel, West End, had driven ashore and bilged.

“At about 11 a.m. we heard of the tornado at the Watering Place. Going down to see, our photographer described inside the area in one word, ‘destruction.’

“At around 7:15 a.m. a tornado passed over, twisting and tearing off roofs, uprooting trees, smashing down kitchens and toilets, sucking up boats and dashing them into the sea. Power lines and poles came down.

“Mildred, Mrs. Nettie Scott, was frying fritters, giving the children breakfast. In a split second the roof was gone, frying pan – fritters and all – disappeared and the kitchen and everything in it was dashed against the house. The roof came down a little further away by Mr. Gladstone Dilbert’s house …

“Three boats right close together on the bay were sucked into the air and dropped at sea …

“From a distance at the Creek about a mile east of Watering Place, Alexander Dilbert being on the road in front of the bakery saw the big black cloud come up over the bluff and it seemed to send down a long tail. It moved quickly. There seemed to be hundreds of things spinning around in the air, then there seemed to be a big white object about 200 feet up and almost before you could think the spout was over the sea, travelled about a quarter mile out and disappeared. The area of the spout was about 50 feet in diameter. He took it to be over Lower Creek, it looked so near.”

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