If you happen to be in Cayman Brac and strike up a chat with an older resident, we can pretty much guarantee that the conversation will, at some point, turn toward the horrible, unnamed storm of 1932.
In other words, the devastating and deadly hurricane is perhaps the landmark event in the memory of anyone who lived through it. By virtue of its magnitude, consequence and trauma, the legendary storm has indelibly seared itself into the fabric of the Brac’s culture.
A parallel relationship exists between the residents of Grand Cayman and the great hurricane of 2004, which did have a name, and an appropriately terrible one — Ivan.
This weekend we mark the 12th anniversary of the landfall of the Category 5 hurricane. The power and the fury of the storm — which caused 10-foot tidal surges, billions of dollars in property damage and destruction that set our country’s economy back for months (even years) — reverberates to this day … as evidenced by the fact that the occasion merits front-page treatment in today’s Cayman Compass (and this very editorial).
Just as Western history is divided into two grand epochs — B.C. and A.D. — Cayman’s modern history is also bifurcated — “before Ivan” and “after Ivan.”
Apart from the stories from the storm and its aftermath (and, yes, everyone who was here has an Ivan story or two), the memory of Ivan does serve a practical and constructive purpose, that is, as a reminder that late summer hurricanes can and do arise, and accordingly our islands cannot let down our guard just because we’ve been lucky so far this hurricane season.
The Atlantic hurricane season lasts six months. In our reckoning, the first three months (June, July and August) are merely a “dress rehearsal” for the real “season within a season” of September and October.
As National Weather Service chief John Tibbetts says in today’s news story, “The peak of the hurricane season means storms are usually created faster, there are more of them and they tend to come in spurts.”
Simon Boxall, awareness and communications officer for Hazard Management Cayman Islands, is rightly concerned that the quietude of the hurricane season thus far may imbue residents with a false sense of serenity.
“As we approach the peak of the hurricane season it is important that individuals take their family, individual and business preparedness seriously … it only takes one to create a disaster and possibly put residents’ lives at risk,” he said.
Like memories of great natural disasters, some words of advice never fade into inconsequence. Accordingly, we hope our readers have kept in their possession the Compass’s “Hurricane Guide 2016,” a special publication included in the June 9 edition of the newspaper. If you have lost track of your physical copy, the definitive hurricane preparedness guide can be viewed for free here on our website — which always contains up-to-date information on the latest developments in tropical storm activity.
Ideally we won’t need to act on the contents of the manual, but it is important that we all know what to do before, during and after a catastrophic storm. In the meantime, we’ll monitor the weather, report what we learn, and hope that come December, we as a country can breathe a collective sigh of relief and relax, at least until next year.
***This editorial has been updated from the original.***