NEW: RCIPS officers head to Irma-stricken BVI

Lightning strike closes Kingston airport

A team of 16 Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers left Grand Cayman Saturday afternoon, headed for the devastated British Virgin Islands to bolster a bare bones police force in the storm ravaged British territory.

This photo from Thursday, Sept. 7, shows boats washed ashore in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. – Photo: Jalon Manson Shortte via AP

Head of the Cayman Islands Governor’s Office Matthew Forbes is joining the RCIPS on its BVI mission.

Meanwhile, the RCIPS police helicopter arrived in the Turks and Caicos Islands Saturday morning to assist with storm recovery efforts there.

“Many of us remember Hurricane Ivan [in 2004] and the help our sister territories provided to us during that difficult time,” Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis said Saturday. “It is our duty to honor and reciprocate and do whatever we can to improve the situation.”


The RCIPS police helicopter crew poses at Grand Cayman’s airport before deploying to areas hit by Hurricane Irma.

According to reports on the ground from BVI, law enforcement presence is thin and the situation is unstable at the moment with looting and some incarcerated prisoners going free. RCIPS officers will fly a Cayman Airways jet to Barbados, where they will meet up with U.K. defense forces, including the amphibious lander Mounts Bay, which is providing supplies and repair vehicles to BVI.

The RCIPS helicopter, which was in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba during Friday’s storms, has landed in storm-stricken Turks and Caicos Islands in the eastern Caribbean. The TCI was hit by Irma’s full force early Friday.

The RCIPS helicopter at the Guantanamo Naval Base yesterday at the end of the passage of Hurricane Irma before deployment to Turks and Caicos Islands.

“Clearly the BVI and TCI require significant assistance following the passage of such a devastating hurricane,” Mr. Forbes said. “The Cayman Islands has responded swiftly in coordination with the U.K. to provide essential and practical support.”

Irma, which had weakened to a category 3 hurricane – with top wind speeds of about 125 mph, was looking to be just about done with Cuba’s northern coast Saturday afternoon. It was expected to turn northward, coming ashore along Florida’s western coast near Tampa Bay. State officials urged any remaining residents in the southern and southwestern counties to make last minute preparations and clear out.

Flights cancelled

The local airline Cayman Airways had already cancelled some flights to Miami and had added some Tampa flight cancellations to that list.

Florida National Guard amphibious vehicles make their way through downtown Tampa on Saturday. The National Guard is expected to help after Hurricane Irma makes landfall in Florida. – Photo: AP/Chris O’Meara

Those cancellations included: Cayman Airways’ Tampa flights KX200 and KX201 on September 11. The airline added “recovery flights” for Tuesday September 12. Those included: Flight KX3200 departing Grand Cayman at 11:45am Tuesday, arriving in Tampa at 2:30pm Tuesday. On the return, flight KX3201 will depart Tampa at 3:25pm and arrive on Grand Cayman at 4:10pm.

Making matters even more confusing for the airline, a lightning strike took out radar at Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport Friday, forcing the airspace around Manley to be closed on Saturday. It’s not known if the lightning strike was related to Irma, or just bad weather in the region.

According to Cayman Airways, Kingston flight KX600, which was scheduled to depart Grand Cayman at 7am Saturday, and KX601, which was scheduled to depart Kingston at 8:55am, were delayed while awaiting an update Manley Airport. The Kingston airport later reported that it would remain closed until at least 7pm Saturday, which led CAL to officially cancel flights KX600 and KX601.

Cayman Airways added recovery flights for Sunday morning September 10, 2017 to accommodate all affected Jamaica passengers:

Flight KX3600 will depart Grand Cayman at 11am and arrive in Kingston at 12pm.

Flight KX3601 will depart Kingston at 12:50pm and arrive on Grand Cayman at 1:55pm.

Insurance payouts

Some eastern Caribbean islands hit early last week by Irma will be receiving insurance payouts from the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility [CCRIF SPC].

Those payments, totaling US $15.6 million, will go to the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, according to a press release from the fund.

The insurance fund, which was set up in Cayman during 2007 to assist smaller Caribbean islands recover quickly in the event of a significant natural disaster.

Hurricane Irma severely damaged buildings on the small Caribbean island of Barbuda, as this photo from Thursday shows. – Photo: AP/Anika E. Kentish

Florida braces for Irma

Associated Press

Forecasters expect winds of more than 110 mph from Hurricane Irma to smack the Florida Keys around daybreak Sunday.

Irma was lingering over the northern Cuba coast on Saturday. Its forward speed has slowed to 9 mph and it has yet to make the expected big northward turn toward Florida yet. Its maximum sustained winds were 125 mph.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast — which still can change a bit and has a margin of error of dozens of miles — projects Irma’s potent eye to make three landfalls into Florida.

First, there’s a projected Sunday morning hit in the Lower Keys. Then later, after moving over water, Irma is expected to come ashore around Cape Coral or Fort Myers. From there it is predicted to steam inland go over the highly populated Tampa Bay region.

After Tampa, Irma is projected to briefly go back out to the Gulf of Mexico and then hit north of Homosassa Springs for a third landfall. In the following days, Irma is forecast to head through Florida and Georgia into Tennessee.

Watch the storm live

Associated Press

A number of webcams are showing live feeds as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida. Please note that livestreams may go down as weather conditions worsen. Here’s where you can watch the storm:

— Southernmost Beach Resort Beach & Pier in Key West:

— Rooftop of Two Friends Restaurant in Key West:

— Cruise ship docks in Key West:

— Marathon, Florida:

— Sanibel Causeway in Sanibel:

— Sanibel Island Beach Cam in Sanibel:

— Fort Myers Beach:

— University of Florida teaching zoo in Gainesville:

— Siesta Beach in Sarasota:

— Downtown Orlando:

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