By Staff Writer
After meandering across the Caribbean Sea Category One Hurricane Ian veered dangerously close to the Cayman Islands in the early hours of Monday.
In an uncomfortable reminder of the horrific devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan 18 years ago - and just two weeks off the actual anniversary date of September 12th - the wide expanse of Ian buffered the islands with strong winds and some occasionally heavy rainfall.
The extent of damage inflicted by Hurricane Ian is not expected to be even close to the scale of Ivan or other serious storms since then. Any damage was expected to be relatively minimal by comparison with reports of extensive beach erosion in some areas and some localised flooding. Several roads were made impassable and others closed as a precaution. Electricity remained stable overnight with only minor outages reported and water supply was not disrupted.
By most accounts, Cayman seems to have been well prepared, responding in a well-rehearsed and practiced choreography of preparedness and response with emergency agencies deployed early and the public taking the necessary precautions as advised.
The all-clear was issued by the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) around 3pm on Monday.
In a recorded message, Hon Premier Wayne Paton commend the public for its response to what could have been an even more serious situation.
“I am extremely pleased to have seen the efforts made by the public to prepare for the worst while praying for the best. In this situation, this is the safest and most strategic thing to do.”
His Excellency Governor Martyn Roper also issued a statement.
“Fortunately the impact across all three Islands has not been as bad as expected, but it is always right to over-prepare. It has been a great test of our systems,” he wrote in a social media post.
“HMS Medway is now in our waters, having arrived here at incredible speed in challenging seas following our call for support. It is reassuring to know how fast the ship can get to us for any future weather events. The ship will be visible off Grand Cayman for the next couple of days. The troops may come ashore tomorrow (Tuesday) and assist with relief efforts.”
Commenting on the efforts of the emergency response teams, Mr Roper said: “We have a tried and tested crisis response team that we can all be proud of. They get better each time, learning lessons from previous events. Thank you also to the general public for being prepared and to Government Information Services and the media for keeping us well informed.”
He also reminded the public that “although the all clear has been lifted there still remains a threat from waves and rain so please continue to exercise caution.”
The preparations for the passage of Hurricane Ian triggered a mini-boom for some businesses as residents rushed early to stock up on supplies. By Monday afternoon most services were starting the gradual return to normal.
Ian, which passed just off the west of Grand Cayman on early Monday as a Category One hurricane was no comparison to the ferocity of Category Five Hurricane Ivan, although more developments along the coastline since that monstrous hurricane’s passage in 2004 could affect the overall damage estimate. However, stricter building codes may have also minimised the extent of property damage.
Further disaster from Hurricane Ian may have also been mitigated by the long advance notice and preparation time since it emerged as a tropical depression in the Atlantic east of the southern Caribbean islands last week and wobbled across the Caribbean Sea.
Now past Cayman, the hurricane was expected to rapidly intensify possible up to Category Four cutting across the western tip of Cuba before reaching Florida later this week as a Category Two hurricane, according to forecasts.
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