Cayman’s Chief Meteorological Officer, Kerry Powery Linwood, has two important messages for residents as we prepare for another above-normal hurricane season starting in a few days on June 1st. Be prepared. Rely on Cayman’s weather experts.
This timely advice was prompted by issues raised with the weather expert when he appeared on Cayman Conversations with host Ralph Lewis, publisher of Caymanian Times newspaper.
As obvious as the first line of advice is, given Cayman’s hurricane history of near misses and direct hits, Mr Linwood feels it’s a message worth repeating given recent experiences in Cayman, none no more vivid that the experiences of the CPVID-19 pandemic.
“You should already start preparing. If you look back at the onset of the COVID pandemic, you will remember the panic and the rationing of supplies that were experienced in supermarkets. Not to alarm anybody but you should be able to start collecting one or two items every so often so you don't have to deal with the stress of rushing to the supermarket when dealing with a storm. So preparation is something that should be well in gear and if not, some last-minute revision of your personal plans . Those are the considerations that should be taken place at this time, and not during the middle of an imminent storm.”
His second bit of advice came in response to a question raised by Cayman Conversations host Ralph Lewis about the proliferation of social media and the prevalence of opinions, much of them ill-informed and misguided, when it comes to the threat of storms.
Given the life-and-death and economic implications at stake, Chief Met Office Linwood says it's vital for the public to rely on the information, advice and directives from the Met Office, the National Weather Service(NWS) and Hazard Management Cayman Islands(HMCI), the local agencies responsible for disaster preparedness.
“That's a very key point,” he stated noting that even some forecasts from the United States tend to prioritise how storms might affect their country over places such as Cayman even though the local area might be more exposed initially.
This of course excludes the general expert predictions from reputable organisations such as the University of Colorado Hurricane Centre and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“Previously, we get a lot of our broadcast media from the United States…and before they've mentioned anything about the Caribbean, they're already talking about potential impacts to the United States. So they leave you guessing what's going on. There's a lot of information out there. We at the National Weather Service, look at them all. But we have to take them with a grain of salt as well. We need to compare them to what's actually happening and make a judgement as to whether or not we are confident that this probable situation could occur, and that's where the human element comes in. And you analyse that to try to give you the best possible forecast.”
And it’s that local knowledge combined with the expertise of Cayman’s meteorologists like Mr Linwood that’s crucial in ensuring that the public gets accurate and relevant information.
“We have to take into local consideration the sort of topography. We know certain areas are more prone to flooding. Certain areas of the islands might be more impacted by storm surge or battering waves. So with the local know-how, we would be able to give information to residents in those areas so they can make a more informed decision as to whether they will ride it out in your homes or find a shelter.”
(Listen back to the full interview with Cayman’s Chief Meteorological Officer, Kerry Powery Linwood, on Caymanian Times website, Facebook page and YouTube channel)