50 years ago: Remembering the great storm of ‘32

Cayman-brac--50-years-finalThe hurricane that hit the Cayman Islands in November 1932, known as the 1932 Cuba hurricane, or in the Cayman Islands as the 1932 Storm, hit Cayman Brac on the evening of Nov. 8 wreaking widespread destruction and death.

The National Trust website states: “Hurricane #10 developed Northeast of Barbados on Oct. 31 and began its perilous journey towards the Cayman Islands, cruelly doubling back on itself to hit Grand Cayman with devastating consequences on the evening of Nov. 7, 1932. Packing winds of approximately 150-200 miles per hour, the Category 4 hurricane wreaked havoc, finally hitting Cayman Brac on the evening of the following day. Local residents have estimated the storm surge to be in the region of 32 feet.”

In its Aug. 17, 1966 edition in the “From Teacher Hill’s Clippings” column, the Caymanian Weekly began publishing excerpts of the story of the condition of the Cayman Islands after the 1932 storm as told to the Assembly of Justices and Vestry by Mr. E.A. Weston, the Commissioner at that time. In the Sept. 13 edition, the Commissioner’s account of the toll on the Sister Islands was recounted as follows:

“I paid two visits to [Cayman Brac and Little Cayman] since the storm, one by the M.S. Nunoca and the second by the schooner Wembley though owing to contrary winds, I have not been able to spend as much time as I wished.

“Our first news of the terrible disaster which had befallen the Lesser Islands was received by the Husvik on Saturday morning, the 12th of November. The Nunoca, which had been chartered to take me to East End, was diverted and sailed at once to the Brac, with the Government Medical Officer, nurses, surgical and general supplies and 500 gallons of fresh water. The weather was rough, but we were able to make the Brac on Sunday afternoon, just in time to connect with the Royal Mail steamer Loch Katrine and to take her stores on the Nunoca. On board the Loch Katrine I met Mr. A. S. Rutty, the Collector. Mr. Rutty, with the whole responsibility of the island on his shoulders had been through a very trying time, but his energy and work both during the storm and since are worthy of the highest praise.

“Landing at the Brac was only possible at the southwest end of the island – that is the Channel. In fact, the weather at the Brac has been such that only on four days since the hurricane has landing been possible at Stake Bay and the Creek. Fortunately, those days coincided with the visit of H.M.S. Dragon and later of the Cimboco on her recent return from Kingston.

“It was therefore necessary to establish the main supplies depot at the West End. The medical base was placed by the Government Medical Officer at the upper west end, which was most suitable for access to the injured in that part of the island.

“At so short a notice, the Government of Jamaica had been able to send only one doctor, Dr. Murray, by the Loch Katrine, and he still has his headquarters at that point, where since his arrival he has treated 98 cases.

“Access to the eastern end of the island was impossible until the weather moderated and that occurred on the following Thursday, the day of the arrival of the Dragon, so that the injured at the East End received the earliest possible attention. There is no record of the number of cases treated by the surgeons of the Dragon in that area.

“Though there was a heavy toll of life [at the time of writing the death toll stood at 68 on the Brac] the number of seriously injured was small, not at any time exceeding twelve. By far the greater number of injuries were in the nature of abrasions, cuts and sprains to the feet and legs, incurred when fleeing for safety through the debris. In the circumstances, however, such injuries were particularly disabling.

“Four serious cases have been evacuated from the Brac, one to Jamaica and three to George Town, and when I left the island last Saturday, there was no case there that was causing anxiety. Lotions and dressings have been supplied to the depots at Stake Bay and West End and the Government dispensary at Stake Bay has been fully re-equipped with the usual medical drugs, etc. The Government Medical Officer anticipates that in the absence of any unexpected developments, Mr. Murray can safely return from Jamaica by the Cimboco, due to leave the Brac in the middle of next month. Dr. Overton will pay another visit to the island in January.

“It has to be remembered that it is almost impossible to get from one part of Cayman Brac to another by land. The road is lost under rocks and stones on the beach, and the general debris of houses, trees and other vegetation.

“On my first visit I could not myself get any further than Stake Bay, but more recently I spent two days at the East End.”

Read more of the account next week in the Cayman Compass’s Sister Islands District Days section.

 

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