High seas batter Grand Cayman’s west coast

Paradise Restaurant was badly damaged in the storm. – Photo: Jewel Levy

Cayman waterfront businesses were working Sunday to clean up and repair their premises after winds and high waves battered George Town, Seven Mile Beach and West Bay over the weekend.

Some restaurants and businesses reported major damage but said they nonetheless planned to be up and running over the Christmas public holidays.

Paradise Restaurant and Rackam’s bar on the George Town waterfront remained closed Sunday morning as they carried out repairs. Both businesses were badly hit by the high waves and staff were working Sunday to clean up the sites.

Rackam’s Waterfront Bar general manger Julie Allan said the business had sustained a lot of damage. The bar will be closed over the next couple of days, but she said she expects it to be open again on Wednesday.

“We are feeling positive,” she said. “All the staff is on board to get it all cleaned up.”
Ms. Allan said she had watched the huge waves roll in, ripping the coverings off tents at the back of the bar, uprooting bolted down cement pillars, tearing away decking and railings, and washing through the bar, clearing everything in its path.

“The waves were hitting the restaurant with 20 feet waves …,” she said. “The parking lot and road had up to three feet of water rushing through it, unbelievable.”
“We lost the restaurant ladders that went down to the sea. We’re waiting for it to be fixed,” she added.

Assessing the damage, Ms. Allan also said railings, a gate and ladders for Nautilus, the semi-submarine, were gone.

Cars at the dock were damaged by the onslaught of high waves overnight. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

“I have been here eight years,” she said, “and I’ve never seen cement pillars be moved by the water. Usually by the time [the waves] hit the deck, they just flow through.”
A boat tender ramp next door to Rackam’s was scattered with debris on Sunday.

Paradise Restaurant supervisor Sam Pillai said he hoped the restaurant may be able to reopen Monday.

He said a Christmas party on Saturday had been canceled because the restaurant was flooded with seawater.

Assisting with the cleanup Sunday, he said the restaurant’s outdoor patio was smashed, tables and chairs were damaged and railings were torn down. “It was terrible, we were damaged badly. We had to close for two days, Friday and Saturday,” he said.

Sunset House and Sunset Divers on South Church Street were open for business Sunday morning after being lashed by high waves on Friday and Saturday.

The cleanup begins: A bulldozer operator removes sargassum seaweed and debris from Harbour Drive Saturday afternoon. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Sunset Divers general manager Mike Pennington said they were one of the lucky ones. “We had huge waves washing up to the dive shop,” he said. “Only a section of railing over the swimming pool was destroyed and we are having that replaced.”
Further along the street, Grand Old House restaurant’s indoor dining area was open Sunday, while workers outside replaced railings and decking and fixed electrical outlets. Some railings had been removed in anticipation of the storm, before the waves came crashing through, but those that were left were severely damaged.

Grand Old House General Manager Luciano De Riso said all repairs would be done by the end of Sunday. The restaurant should be fully functional by Monday and all Christmas Day events would go ahead as planned, he said.
The fish market and the adjacent parking area at the downtown waterfront also sustained damage. The fish vendors were working with neighboring Cayman Cabana staff to clean up the restaurant and car park area.

Fisherman Robert Prendergast said, “We had three tents on the seafront and all were destroyed.”

One lone bag of lobster for sale could be seen on the fishermen’s tables, which were moved into the Cayman Cabana parking lot as fishermen worked to clear the debris from the area.

High seas battered the George Town waterfront on Friday night and throughout Saturday. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

“It has kind of really slowed down our operation with the fish, but we will rebound and come back again …. It was a natural thing and we can’t do anything about it. We just have to enjoy the bad and the good times,” Mr. Prendergast said.

He said he expected the fish market to be back in operation by Monday.

“The parking lot is for Mr. [Luigi] Moxam [of Cayman Cabana next door], but we use it as fishermen, so we are just volunteering our service to get it cleaned up … there’s nothing wrong in returning the favor in getting the place back together,” he added.

Although its back deck area was damaged, Cayman Cabana was open on Sunday. The establishment was forced to close their doors on Saturday because of the weather conditions.

“We had water washing up into to the bar … the dock is ruined, all the fencing and railing is practically gone; we lost two staircases on the upper and lower deck, and we also lost the handicap ramp to the huge waves that came crashing through,” bartender Daniella Jervis said.

High waves slam into the George Town waterfront on Saturday. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Meanwhile, government workers were on Harbour Drive with big machinery, cleaning up debris along the street where high waves had spilled over the wall, bringing swathes of brown sargassum seaweed with them.

Police shut down the waterfront road on Friday night. A section of North Church Street, all of Harbour Drive and part of South Church Street was closed throughout Saturday. By Sunday morning, as the high waves and surge receded, a shorter section of road was closed. By lunchtime, the area had reopened fully to traffic.

Along Seven Mile Beach on Saturday, Christmas vacationers were hard pressed to find somewhere to lay their towels or beach chairs, as the waves covered the width of the beach.

At Royal Palms on Seven Mile Beach, sea water and sargassum spilled into the bar’s large parking lot. Staff shored up the beach entrance to the bar with sandbags and wooden barriers to try to keep the tiled bar and restaurant area clear of water and seaweed.

Waves surge through Macabuca bar in West Bay on Saturday. – Photo: Hamish Hamilton

At George Town Port, harbor patrol officer Clinton Jackson said staff were busy cleaning up and working to have the port fully operational for cruise ships on Monday.

In West Bay, Macabuca bar and restaurant also sustained damage as huge waves smashed into the tiki bar, which remained closed on Sunday as staff carried out repair work.

In the meanwhile, container ships and other boats were on standby on the horizon, waiting for the seas to calm down enough to allow them to come to shore.

According to the official forecast from the Cayman Islands National Weather Service late Sunday, rough seas are expected to continue for at least the next five days.

Seas are expected to be 5 to 7 feet into Monday. A small craft warning was in effect Sunday and was expected to continue on Monday.

Paradise Restaurant was badly damaged in the storm. – Photo: Jewel Levy

“We are expecting to discontinue the small craft warning but maintain a small craft advisory for Tuesday and basically increasing it back to a small craft warning by Wednesday,” meteorologist Shamal Clarke said.

The northeasterly winds and rough seas that have been affecting Cayman are the result of a high pressure system over the southeastern United States.

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