By Christopher Tobutt
Everyone was relieved on Friday morning though, as the sweet sun came out and a gentle breeze blew. “What storm? There was nothing. Not even any rain, really,” one lady commented. It was the Sister Islands caught the worst of the storm which passed between the Sister Islands and Grand Cayman, but even there things hadn’t been too scary, and although the flood and marine warnings remained in effect, on Friday morning it was really ‘business-as-usual.”
Musician Ron Kol who lives in a boat at the edge of the North Sound, was very relieved. Grace had been pretty scary, especially with the 3ft swell in sea level. “As a person living on a sailboat, the last storm that came by still burns in my memory so today’s non-happening storm was just wonderful and I am celebrating with a coffee,” he said.
But ‘business as usual,’ wasn’t the story the previous evening, with lots of panic-buying, long lines, and traffic congestion at all the supermarkets which all closed early along with nearly all the other shops, just to be on the safe-side. Once bitten by grace, twice-shy with Ida seemed to be the motto. But didn’t they already have about 12 gallons of water and 50 cans of Grace corned beef, left over from the previous panic-buy? Yes, but it’s always good to take storms seriously, because anyone who lived through Ivan will tell you that however many experts tell you about projected courses of storms, they often like to change their minds about who they are and just where they are going, and it’s better to moan a little over last-minute panic buying than be left in an unsafe or unsure situation. And with more storms on the way, everyone needs to remember to prepare and be on the safe-side.
Hazzard Management and the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) weren’t taking any chances either, and the people there were up all night monitoring the storm’s progress and looking out for anything that could go wrong. The National Emergency Operations Centre is divided into four ‘clusters,’ each with a different focus, Support Services, Emergency Response, Infrastructure, and Human Concerns.
On Friday Morning, after the official ‘All-Clear,’ Stephen, who works for the Health Services authority, was just one of many who had been up all night long, because he had been called away to work for the Human Concerns Cluster (after doing his regular shift with the Health Authority the day before). “I have been up for 24 hours,” he said as he sipped a super-strong coffee, “I hope this wakes me up. I cannot go home now and rest because I have to attend another meeting this morning.” It’s really wonderful that so many people here in Cayman are watching over us to keep us safe, even while we are sleeping.
The previous evening, too, just after Ida had decided to change from being a tropical depression to a tropical storm, Deputy Governor Hon. Franz Manderson, who chairs the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), urged members of the public take the storm seriously. “These storms can be very unpredictable so my message to everyone is ‘stay safe, continue to prepare, stay off the streets and let us do our jobs here,” he said. Four hurricane shelters were opened on Grand Cayman including: Sir John A. Cumber Primary School in West Bay, the Red Cross building on Huldah Avenue, Clifton Hunter High School in Frank Sound, and the Elliott Connolly Civic Centre in Gun Bay, East End, and the Aston Rutty Centre on Cayman Brac as well as the Public Works Department Building on Little Cayman were both ready to take people if they didn’t feel safe remaining in their houses.
“I was worried yesterday because I thought we would have flooding and psychologically it was difficult because of Grace last week,” said Arlene, a mother of three as she did her morning shopping following the storm. Barefoot Man, George Nowak, was probably the only one who didn’t seem to have been worried at all, “I went out fishing last night,” he said, “My fishing buddies kept on saying, ‘Hey, shouldn’t we be going inside now, this storms going to come over at about midnight,’ and I just said, ‘give me some more bait,’” he said.