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Director General of Cayman’s National Weather Service John Tibbetts said the encroaching Tropical Storm Delta appears to be drifting west of the Cayman Islands and, on its current path, the islands will be “spared significant impact”.
Speaking at a press conference to address the storm and Cayman’s preparations for it, Tibbetts said the storm, which is forecast to develop into a hurricane after passing Grand Cayman, is likely “to brush the west coast” of the island for a few hours on Tuesday, from about 8am.
“While the forecast path has moved west,” he said, “the part that might alarm people is the system has strengthened and is fairly close to becoming a hurricane. That being said, tropical-storm-force winds from the system will remain west of the area.”
He said tropical-storm-force winds were likely to impact the island for about two hours Tuesday morning.
Premier Alden McLaughlin urged the public to continue to pay close attention to weather forecasts and alerts until the storm has passed the island.
McLaughlin said all public-service employees would be working from home Tuesday, and he encouraged employers to allow their staff also to work from home so that travel on the roads would be minimised. “Once the storm has passed, there will be debris, such as fallen trees and downed power lines, so I urge everyone to please stay off the roads until the all-clear is given.”
This was echoed by Governor Martyn Roper, who urged motorists to stay off the local streets tonight and tomorrow morning, as he said strong winds, heavy rains and flying debris would make driving hazardous. He also asked members of the public not to go to the shore to view sea conditions, and to refrain from putting inaccurate information on social media.
The governor said the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service helicopters would be deployed as soon as it was safe to do so on Tuesday to monitor damage.
Roper said London was “watching developments very closely”, adding that he had spoken to UK officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence to discuss potential assistance if Cayman needs it. He added that Royal Navy ships, Argus and Medway, were in the region and could provide help if necessary.
Officials also addressed concerns about people who are in mandatory quarantine during the storm. More than 320 people are in isolation, either at government facilities or in their own homes.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said one person isolating at their home had asked to move into a government facility, while a number of other people who had been on the ground floor of government facilities had been moved to higher floors or to other government facilities to ensure their safety in the case of flooding or sea surges.
Home Affairs Minister Tara Rivers said geofencing technology being used by those in home isolation was “robust and capable of withstanding weather conditions far more intense than is expected to impact our shores”.
Rivers added that the National Emergency Operations Call Centre will be activated from 9pm Monday evening. Anyone with non-emergency enquiries can call 949-6555. All emergency calls should be directed to 911. Rivers said a second shift of call takers would be working at the 911 call centre to deal with emergency calls.
All of Grand Cayman’s 15 hurricane shelters are on standby and can be activated quickly if needed, according to Danielle Coleman, head of Hazard Management Cayman Islands.
Anyone opting to stay at a hurricane shelter is urged to bring their own personal protective equipment, such as face masks and hand sanitiser, as COVID-19-prevention measures.
Coleman said Hazard Management had been working for the past 10 months to carry out flood mappings of various districts, to prepare for potential flooding.
The Health Services Authority advised that all its outpatient services for Tuesday had been cancelled.
All schools and government offices in Cayman will remain closed on Tuesday.
Manderson outlined some of the steps government had taken once it became apparent Cayman was likely to be impacted by the storm. These included closing the Port Authority to the public from 1pm Monday, closing the airports for 24 hours from 3pm Monday, preparing the activation of hurricane shelters, and prepping damage-assessment crews who will be deployed once weather conditions improve on Tuesday.
He said the National Roads Authority had also carried out preparatory work, such as trimming trees and clearing wells in high-risk areas. The NRA will also carry out any clearance work for fallen debris or trees once the all-clear is given, he said.
The deputy governor added that utility companies had indicated that there are no plans to cut off their services, “but that could change depending on the severity of the storm”.
He said the police and Prison Service had activated their plans, and that all prisoners were secure.