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While Grace may have felt stronger than a tropical storm to some — and it did eventually become a category one hurricane — the weather system did not cross the threshold to graduate to hurricane status even at its peak contact with Cayman Islands, National Weather Service officials have confirmed.
There has been discussion within the community and on social media regarding Grace’s intensity and whether it was in fact a tropical storm when it touched local shores.
NWS Meteorologist Shamal Clarke, in response to queries from the Cayman Compass on official status of the storm, put the debate to rest saying on Friday that officially, based on sustained winds speed recorded, the Cayman Islands was affected by Tropical Storm Grace with gusts in excess of Tropical storm force conditions.
“When the system was 65 miles west of us as a Category 1 Hurricane, we would still have been feeling its effects. However, officially the maximum sustained winds recorded does not indicate Hurricane force winds and conditions over the Island. In short we had Tropical Storm Grace as a very strong tropical storm and barely missed experiencing Hurricane Grace,” he said in his emailed response.
Grace, at its closest point, was 20 miles southwest of Grand Cayman at 7am on 18 Aug., Clarke said. The pressure and winds recorded at that time were 993mb with winds speed of 65 miles per hour – official from the National Hurricane Center.
“The system then moved 65 miles west of Grand Cayman 10am [18 Aug.] and was recorded to have winds speed of 75 miles per hour (Category 1 Hurricane) with a pressure of 992mb,” he said.
At that point, Grace had cleared the Cayman Islands but the storm’s effects were still being felt at tropical storm strength.
Under the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind scale, which is used to determine a storm’s status, maximum sustained winds from 74-95 miles per hour — or 64-82 knots — is category one hurricane status and 96-110 miles per hour — or 83-95 knots — is category two.
The NWS main wind measure clocked 57.5 miles per hour or 50 knots winds gusting to 94 miles per hour or 82 knots.
This was the final report just before the system failed due to wind damage.
“When the main system failed the storm had just passed its closest point of approach and had began moving away from us. We also have another system that is installed and those observations of winds did not exceed Tropical Storm force conditions,” Clarke added.
The storm dumped 7.59 inches or 192.9mm of rainfall over Grand Cayman, which was accumulated between 11pm 17 Aug. to 8pm 18 Aug.
Following its passage near the Cayman Islands, Grace was upgraded to a category one hurricane, but lost steam near the Yucatan Peninsula and then regenerated to a hurricane near Tuxpan, Mexico.