“Sometimes I feel like all we have been doing this year is moving from one serious event to the next and now we are into June and the official start of the hurricane season.”
The words of Premier Alden McLaughlin as he marked the start of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Cayman, like many other countries in the region, is grappling with the crippling economic and public health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s hurricane season is forecast to be more active than normal.
“We are told this year’s Atlantic Hurricane Season is likely to be extremely active, so I make my usual plea to you to make sure your hurricane supplies are stocked up, that you have a plan for your family and business and that you stay safe,” the Premier said on Tuesday.
But he noted, “my usual plea goes a bit further this year because we still have to be concerned about the impact of COVID19.”
With Cayman still reeling from the economic setback of COVID-19 especially how it has triggered unemployment and hit family finances, Mr McLaughlin offered these words of comfort to residents.
“I know that there are many people out there right now who are out of work, so just getting the necessary 3 to 5 days of non-perishable food, water and perhaps plywood for shuttering may be difficult. Government is keenly aware these are very challenging times and we will continue to assist where we can.”
He said Government’s National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) is working to ensure that appropriate social distancing protocols are in place in all emergency shelters and that there will be stocks of masks and Personal Protective Equipment available for everyone.
“We are also aware that normal evacuation options are not readily available, so that will likely result in additional demand for shelter spaces.
Social distancing measures also reduce available shelter space, so we have been actively seeking additional shelter capacity."
The Premier said additional shelter buildings have been identified and are currently being assessed for suitability with the list of approved shelters expected to be updated in a few weeks.
He advised: “If you do plan to go to a shelter, please do take masks, sanitizers and a stock of food and water - but you won’t be turned away if you don’t have these supplies.
“Whilst shelters are available if needed in the event of a storm, given the shortage of shelter space and the need for social distancing, we ask that you also consider any other sheltering options that may be available to you.”
Mr McLaughlin suggested going to strong elevated structures of friends or family members, or to resilient office buildings if those options are available.
The extended activation of the NEOC in the national response to the Coronavirus pandemic has added to the state of hurricane season readiness.
"In some respects (it has) created an environment where we are as ready as we have ever been for any threat we face, including a hurricane," the Premier said.
“Here in the Cayman Islands we know we can weather storms; we have a long history of doing so.
We are a strong and resilient people and we are at our best when we are helping one another during a difficult time.”
There is also reassurance that the National Weather Service is part of a regional network monitoring storm development.
However, Mr McLaughlin said while those warnings give ample time to make preparations, residents should not wait to prepare their own disaster plans.
“I ask you not to wait to prepare. If we do find ourselves facing another storm this year, I beg you to please pay attention to Government announcements and bulletins.
All of our media outlets – Radio Cayman FM89.9, the Breeze FM105.3, Cayman Islands Government TV, Cayman Islands Government Information Services and http://www.caymanprepared.ky – will carry information to tell you what to expect and what to do. Hazard Management Cayman Islands also works with private media houses that have been diligent each time we have faced a storm to get out the important, necessary information.”
The Premier said “the memories of Hurricanes Ivan and Paloma still weigh heavily on the mind as do those of the major earthquake we experienced in January this year.”
All of these events, he added, taught Cayman the importance of being prepared and having a plan.
“So most of all, please make sure you are prepared, have a plan and join me in my prayer that God will once again spare our three beloved Islands this 2020 Hurricane Season.”
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