When ‘king tides’ sweep across Grand Cayman, the residents of North Sound Estates often find the ocean at their doorstep.
Heavy storms or high tides can bring saltwater gushing through the storm drains and leave the streets of the canalside community flooded for days.
Residents say their cars frequently suffer rust damage because of frequent incursions of seawater. Some have built walls or raised the level of their driveways to fortify their homes.
Now the National Roads Authority is working to raise the level of the roads that are most severely affected.
According to Alva Suckoo, the legislator for the area, the development was not built high enough above sea level and is vulnerable to even mild storms.
“It was not really filled to the level it should have been,” he said.
In some places, the side roads, which spread out from the main canal in a root and branch structure, were built less than 2 feet above mean sea level. The recommended building level to avoid flooding is more than twice that.
The NRA is in the process of raising the public road to around 2.5 feet above sea level. This is expected to reduce the number of occasions when seawater comes through the storm drains, but is unlikely to eradicate it totally.
Suckoo said the NRA has warned that going to greater heights would risk raising the road above the level of existing residences.
He said the roadwork was a “small step” towards fixing an ongoing problem in the estate. He said Roads Minister Joey Hew had responded to residents concerns and the NRA was examining other engineering solutions.
Adding to the concerns are reports that the canal walls are deteriorating. The Rackley canals, which line the streets of North Sound Estates, were built in the 1960s and ‘70s and have eroded over time.
Suckoo said the canal walls offered very little protection against king tides and storm events, and the water often surges over the top.
He said the issue was a difficult one for government to resolve because the lots are in private ownership.
Sonya Hydes, who lives on Faye Street, one of the worst-affected areas, said the residents had been having problems for more than a decade.
She said she was happy to see the road level had been raised.
“I am still concerned about the water. Where will it go?” she added.
She said her husband had built their driveway up several feet to keep it clear of seawater. But she said hers and her neighbours’ vehicles had suffered damage from frequently driving through salt water.