The inhabitants of Cayman have been watching the path of Hurricane Irma with dread and trepidation, but the latest advisories have given them relief. The Category 5 storm arced northwest over the last few days, putting Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands farther out of the menacing swirl of destruction.
Irma, the first storm in the Atlantic or Eastern Pacific oceans to maintain a maximum wind speed of 185 mph over a 24-hour period, wreaked havoc on the islands of Saint Martin, the British Virgin Islands, and Antigua and Barbuda on Wednesday, and as of press time it was hitting Puerto Rico.
Avalon Porter, a meteorologist with the Cayman Islands National Weather Service, said Wednesday that the heaviest local activity would hit the Sister Islands Friday afternoon and extend through the weekend. Wind speeds could reach 15 and 20 knots, and wave heights could be between six and nine feet.
“About half-an-inch of rain” is likely on both Saturday and Sunday, Mr. Porter said, with “heavy clouds, spiral [rain] bands, sitting across from us.”
For people who have planned travel to or from the Cayman Islands, American Airlines issued an advisory stating that it will waive change fees for anyone traveling through Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando or a host of other Florida airports. That applies to all travelers who booked their flights before Sept. 5 and who were scheduled to be traveling between Sept. 5 and Sept. 12. Those affected customers can change their origin or destination city within 300 miles without paying any additional fees.
Tara Rivers, Cayman’s minister of Home Affairs, issued a statement Wednesday telling Cayman residents to maintain vigilance and to be prepared for the next storm that may threaten the region.
“There are still almost three months left until the end of the 2017 hurricane season, and I urge that all residents prepare with energy and dedication,” Ms. Rivers said Wednesday morning. “We must not let our guard down, and for every potential storm threat I ask that you please be safe, be smart and ensure that you undertake sufficient preparation. Mother Nature is truly unpredictable, and we must all be cognizant of the importance of being ready at all times during hurricane season, as a storm could quickly develop and be upon us with relatively little warning. We must remember that no two hurricanes are the same, and each storm has the potential to bring its own devastating effects.”
Another storm, Hurricane Jose, is traveling on Irma’s earlier path but appears to be arcing away from Cayman and toward the Atlantic Ocean.
With hurricane season in full swing, McCleary Frederick, director of Hazard Management Cayman Islands, wants Cayman residents to remain aware.
Up-to-date information, he said, can be found on www.caymanprepared.gov.ky and on social media.
“We keep up to date on Facebook with all the preparedness information. We use Twitter to send messages out,” said Mr. Frederick. “Go on Facebook and like our Facebook page. You can keep up to date with what’s going on. We post all the information that the National Weather Service is providing us on our Facebook and on our website. There’s a lot of good information on there.”
Cayman Compass reporter Tad Stoner contributed to this report.