A hurricane is a large rotating system of wind and water originating in the tropics with sustained surface winds of at least 74mph.
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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 which has influenced hurricane patterns causing them to form one after the other and become more destructive. 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.
Government organisations begin their ‘Hurricane Preparedness’ assessments in early May, before the summer storm season kicks off in the region. According to forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, the 2020 hurricane season is expected to be above-normal. This means that it is important to begin your hurricane preparedness sooner, rather than later.Read More
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1-5 rating based on the hurricane’s present intensity. This is used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall.Read More
You should start ticking off your hurricane checklist 2-3 days in advance of the storm in order to ensure that you have the necessary items for safety and survival. Keep in mind that supply may be limited as the demand for these products will be high.Read More
Hurricane shutters are a solid investment for home owners living in the Cayman Islands, where storms and hurricanes are prevalent. Having a home that is properly secure and storm ready will give you and your family peace of mind.Read More
Decide ahead of time where you will stay during a hurricane. If you don't believe your home is durable enough to withstand the winds, or on high enough grounds to escape potential flooding, it is advised that you seek shelter elsewhere.Read More
Insurance for Hurricane Damage
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. Document the contents and take photographs of furnishing and valuables in advance. Keep these on a digital memory stick or backup drive. If you sustain damage, these photographs will support your insurance claim.
Refer to our Property Insurance page for a comprehensive list of providers in the Cayman Islands.
Medical Assistance During a Hurricane
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.
Visit the Hurricane Shelters page for a list of the designated emergency medical centres so that you can plan ahead of time the best course of action for you and your family. Also check out our Health Services page for more on medical services in the Cayman Islands.
Caring for the Vulnerable in a Hurricane
Children & The Elderly
Young children and the elderly are vulnerable during a storm and, without support, can suffer great emotional distress. 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 if it has emergency plans. If accompanied by an elderly friend or relative, keep in mind that they may take daily medication. Ensure that they have a sufficient supply and that it is stored in watertight containers to avoid damage. Young children may need special need items, such as diapers, formula and bottles.
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.
There are only two pet-friendly shelters on Grand Cayman and there is limited capacity. Space will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Refer to our Hurricane & Pets page for helpful information on how to protect your pets during a hurricane.
Tips for the Aftermath of 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/Government 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.
- Avoid walking in settled water as it may be contaminated with bacteria.