By Staff Writer
With the 2021 Hurricane season expected to be one of above-normal activity, Cayman Islands government and non-government agencies responsible for disaster management have been stepping up their preparedness.
And none too soon as the 2021 season is off to an early start with storm Ana developing last weekend off Bermuda.
However, the system had weakened and was downgraded to a post-tropical storm as it encountered cold waters out in the Atlantic well north of Bermuda.
It’s the 7th year running in the recent trend of pre-season named storms developing. The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said: “We might expect that hurricane season will start earlier and end later in coming decades, as warming of the oceans allows more storms to form when ocean temperatures are marginally warm for tropical cyclone formation.”
The hurricane season officially starts on June 1st and runs until the end of November.
In its updated outlook for the season, NHC forecasters predict a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. However, experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020.
The predictions for 2021 suggest 13 to 20 named storms, with six to 10 hurricanes and three to five major becoming hurricanes.
This forecast is above the 30-year average (1991 to 2020) of 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
"With hurricane season starting on June 1st, now is the time to get ready and advance disaster resilience in our communities," said Deanne Criswell of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA).
HMCI leads on preparations
Already in Cayman, Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) has been stepping up its preparations for the upcoming season with a series of activities ranging from staff training to community outreach.
Updating on their ongoing preparations, HMCI reports that staff have been out in the community distributing emergency preparedness kits to a number of elderly persons across Grand Cayman.
That initiative is a joint effort with the Needs Assessment Unit (NAU) and Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) with assistance from the Cayman Islands Regiment.
HMCI says it recognizes that elderly persons are disproportionately impacted by hurricanes and other disasters.
“Recognizing the additional challenges that many elderly persons face following an impact, HMCI has teamed up with DCFS and NAU to provide some essential supplies to help elderly persons cope in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane or earthquake event,” it stated in a social media post.
The agency has also been engaged in training programmes.
HMCI has hosted its 2021 Shelter Management Training Course for volunteers in conjunction with DCFS and involving the Department of Environmental Health, Public Works, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the Health Services Authority.
For the first time, members of the newly formed Cayman Islands Regiment also took part in the training.
HMCI says the Emergency Shelter program is a critical component of its disaster management mechanism.
Mass Casualty Management Training for first responders has also taken place with sessions in the Sister Islands.
The course aims to streamline coordination amongst first responders from multiple agencies.
The expertise of personnel from Fire, Police, Community Emergency Response Teams, Red Cross, Customs and Border Control, Health Services Authority has been utilised in that programme.
Crews from the Public Works Department (PWD) and National Roads Authority (NRA) have been conducting the annual Shuttering Exercise of Government Buildings. The PWD exercise also includes physical inspections of emergency shelters to ensure they are ready for the upcoming hurricane season.
In addition, 18 volunteers recently completed the first phase of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training.
HMCI has also been teaming up with several businesses in raffling emergency supplies for hurricane season.