EDITORIAL – Hurricane season: Plan early to ensure safety

Buckle up, Cayman: We could be in for a bumpy ride during this hurricane season.

According to the Cayman Islands National Weather Service, experts predict the Atlantic Ocean basin will be socked by 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. They calculate a 52 percent chance one of those major storms will make landfall in the Caribbean.

That would make the 2018 season (which officially starts on June 1) only slightly less active than last year, when our region endured 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and 6 major hurricanes – making it the most active season since 2005, and the seventh most active since 1851.

There is no way of predicting if, where or when severe weather will strike Cayman, but forewarned is forearmed. Our low-lying islands are particularly vulnerable to severe flooding, storm surge and dangerous waves.

Severe weather is an ever-looming existential threat to our three little islands, as we well know from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Paloma in 2008. For a more recent reminder of the destructive potential each season brings, one need only look at the ongoing recovery efforts of our Caribbean neighbors who were walloped by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria last year – some of them slammed by not one, but two catastrophic events.

“We prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Danielle Coleman, deputy director of preparedness and planning at Hazard Management Cayman Islands told the Compass. “Predictions are just that, predictions, and they frequently change during the season.”

That is why it is important to start early preparations now, even before the official start of the season. It might be a bit early to start stocking up on bottled water and emergency food supplies, but this month is the ideal time to take advance precautions – purchasing necessary equipment and supplies to protect homes and property against strong winds and heavy rains.

It is not too early to survey your surroundings, particularly if you are in a new residence, to plan for shelter and make sure home and property insurance are up-to-date. Take photos of personal property and store them in a safe place. Collect official documents, cash and emergency contact information – and make copies.

Pay attention to advisories as they are announced, including last week’s recommendation from the Passport and Corporate Services Office, urging all residents to make sure personal official and travel documents are up-to-date, collected in a safe, watertight space that is easy to access in an emergency.

That includes passports, birth, marriage, naturalization, registration certificates and Caymanian Status and Permanent Residence documents. Further, the agency advised all residents to familiarize themselves with any visas or authorizations necessary to travel, should evacuation to other countries be required.

The Department of Children and Family Services and Hazard Management Cayman Islands are asking for people to register and train as hurricane shelter volunteers for the 2018 hurricane season. Mandatory training sessions will be May 8 and 9, from 6-8:30 p.m. For more information and to register, call the Department of Children and Family Services on 949-0290 or email [email protected]

Cayman may not experience the traditional four seasons of winter, spring, summer and autumn, but we have our own: Christmas, Easter and Hurricane Season. Unfortunately, severe weather cannot be tied to a calendar date. Prepare early to be safe.

For more information about preparedness, visit www.caymanprepared.ky, and refer to the Compass’s comprehensive hurricane preparedness guide when it is published in late May.