A hurricane is a large rotating system of wind and water originating in the tropics with sustained surface winds of at least 74mph. A hurricane starts out as a tropical disturbance when a mass of organised and oceanic thunderstorms persists for 24 hours. The tropical disturbance becomes classified as a tropical depression when a closed circulation is first observed and sustained winds are less than 39mph. If these sustained winds increase to 39mph, it is then classified as a tropical storm and given a name. Once it reaches 74mph it becomes a hurricane.
Climate trends have changed dramatically, and the summer of 2017 showed this more than any other year with huge hurricanes including Harvey, Irma and Jose forming one after the other and two causing massive destruction. As the subtropics become more tropical, the ingredients required for hurricanes to flourish have multiplied. According to three of the world’s leading weather experts, the location where hurricanes were strong and destructive has shifted by an average of 35 miles per decade towards the North and South poles. This may be good news for Cayman, but we must still be very vigilant. Statistically the Cayman Islands get hit by a tropical storm or hurricane every 1.7 years, which is more frequently than any other country in the Caribbean. Hurricane season runs from the 1st of June to the 30th of November.
Cayman is a small, flat island so sea levels can rise during a storm surge. Storm surge is the number one threat caused by a hurricane and it is not confined to coastal areas. For example, if you live in a single story dwelling located inland and ten feet above sea level, it is possible for the storm surge to fill the house with water right up to the ceiling, and in some cases leave you trapped. Waves are a separate and very real threat for coastal residents. A wave can only be a maximum of 1.5 times the depth of the water offshore. If you live near where the water depth is approximately twenty foot, and there is a ten foot storm surge, then a forty foot wave has the ability to come ashore. This allows for a wave to comfortably reach the second floor of a coastal building. Additionally, it is important to bear in mind that a single cubic meter of water weighs a ton, and in strong hurricanes a wave can easily smash down concrete structures along the coast.
Hurricane season runs from the 1st of June to the 30th of November. Weather experts have predicted an active season this year, so get an early start on your hurricane preparedness by checking out Cayman Resident top tips on how to get ready. There is also important safety information and a handy link to the government agency that provides the public with invaluable hurricane information packs every year.
Decide ahead of time where you will stay during a hurricane. If your home is durable to withstand the winds, then it is probably the best place to stay. Ask your neighbours about the vulnerability of your neighbourhood in the case of flooding and wave threats. If you decide that it is safe to stay in your home, find the safest areas in your house to shelter and potential escape routes. Be sure to take shelter on higher ground at your work place or a friend’s house. Read on to find a list of available hurricane shelters
Install hurricane shutters on windows and glass doors to protect your home or business prior to a hurricane. Options vary considerably, including maximum security screens (Crimsafe), which unlike typical hurricane shutters, will safely allow breeze and sunlight in and prevent any intrusion attempts. Read on to learn more and to find a company that specialise in hurricane shutters.
Prior to a storm hitting, it is very critical that you examine the insurance for your home and/or business to ensure you are comprehensively covered and that the full value of the building(s) and contents are protected. Make a list of the contents and take photographs of furnishing and valuables before a storm hits. If you sustain damage, these photographs will support your insurance claim.
Jump over to our Property Insurance page for a comprehensive list of providers in the Cayman Islands.
Every district has a shelter that is specifically designated as an Emergency Medical Centre (EMC). If you have an existing medical condition (that might require treatment during a hurricane) then this may be the best place to seek shelter because there are medical personnel on hand.
For assistance in a medical emergency call 911. During high winds, however, ambulances will not move until it is safe, which could potentially be more than 24 hours later. Make sure that your health insurance is up-to-date so you are covered.
Check out our Health Services page for more on medical services in the Cayman Islands.
Children & The Elderly
Young children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable during a storm and can suffer great emotional distress without proper support. If you have an elderly friend or relative, consider offering your home as a safe-haven. If they are in a nursing home, be sure to confirm its emergency plans. Children’s reactions will be influenced by their parents’, so stay level-headed and calm.
Medically Challenged & Disabled
If you have someone in your family with a serious medical condition or disability, consider leaving the Island with them prior to a serious hurricane hitting. If this is not possible, consult with a medical professional who is familiar with your loved ones medical history in order to receive tips on how to keep them as healthy as possible during a high stress situation. Also, if they are reliant on special medication, ensure you have an ample supply on hand.
Refer to our Hurricane & Pets page for helpful information on how to protect your pets during a hurricane.
The aftermath of hurricane can be a stressful time, even though the worst is finally over. To remain healthy and safe after the storm, follow these helpful tips:
- Always assume that powerlines are live and never touch low hanging powerlines or objects in contact.
- Only turn on your main breaker once you are sure that every secondary breaker is switched off. Once you switch on the main breaker, check all the secondaries one at a time and call an electrician to fix any faults.
- Open windows and doors to ventilate your house and dry flooded or damp areas to mitigate damage from mould.
- Boil any water before consuming.
- Make sure you do not turn your water back on until the Water Authority has advised that water services have been restored in your local area. Once you turn on the water, inspect your home for damaged pipes.
- Be especially careful of pests, such as scorpions that are dispersed during storms.
- Check thoroughly for gas leakages before striking a match. Try to restrict the use of telephones to emergencies, so lines are left open.