Cayman marks sixth anniversary of Hurricane Ivan

| 11/09/2010

(HMCI): As Igor rumbles across the Atlantic from its birth place south of the Cape Verde Islands, Cayman is also remembering another storm that came from the same place. It is six years this weekend since the infamous Hurricane Ivan hit these shores and it remains one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the Caribbean in recorded history. On September 2 Ivan developed into a tropical depression, it became a tropical storm on the following day and reached hurricane status on 5 September. Eventually it made its way to the Cayman Islands when on Sunday 12 September the eye passed 21 miles South West of Grand Cayman with winds of 150 mph and gusts of 220 mph.

On September 7 and 8 Ivan had already damaged 90 percent of the homes in Grenada and killed 16 people. By Thursday morning on September 9, Ivan’s sustained winds reached 160 mph making it a rare category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. On September 11 Ivan began affecting the Sister islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman with tropical storm winds and Grand Cayman began experiencing tropical storm winds later that afternoon.
According to information from the National Weather Service the centre of Ivan was located 113 miles SE of Grand Cayman by 10 pm, and at that time hurricane force winds of over 100 miles per hour were already being experienced on the island. At 5am on Sunday the storm surge from the North Sound was peaking at 10 feet (National Weather Service). 
The hurricane made its closest approach at 10 am on Sunday when the eyepassed 21 miles SW of the Grand Cayman with winds of 150 mph and gusts of 220 mph. As the storm continued on its track, storm surge and battering waves heavily affected the south coast of Grand Cayman. Ivan was a slow moving hurricane which increased the exposure of the Island to hurricane force winds as well as increased the total amount of rain.
Hurricane Ivan took the lives of two persons on Grand Cayman and it temporarily displaced significant proportions of the population. All persons experienced the loss of electricity, water and access to telecommunications for some period immediately following the disaster.
The three most affected districts were George Town, Bodden Town and East End. Together these three districts account for 75% of the total population on Grand Cayman. 402 people were treated for lacerations, wounds, removal of foreign bodies, fractures and burns as a result of the disaster.
However, the general health and well being of the population was good and was well maintained by dedicated health care professionals, first responders and the kindness of neighbours.
The total economic impact to the Cayman Islands was estimated by the United Nations ECLAC team to be 3.4 billion (183 % of GDP). Approximately 83% or 13,535 units of the total housing stock in the Grand Cayman suffered some degree of damage. Dwellings which were situated on the sea shore, in low lying, or swampyareas suffered the most severe damage. Older and less well constructed housing was also severely affected.
Four per cent (4%) of homes that were affected were so severely damaged that they required complete reconstruction. 70%, or 9, 475, dwellings suffered severe damage which resulted from sea surge or damage caused by winds to roofs, windows and doors.  
The remaining 26% or 3,519 dwellings, suffered minor damage caused by partial roof removal, low levels of water inundation, or flying roofs and floating objects such as containers. The total financial effect on the housing sector was estimated at CI$1,444,868,244. (1.4 billion) The financial effect on the finance (commerce) and tourism sectors were estimated at around CI$ 460 million each.
Insurance coverage while it was widespread for both the private sector and government infrastructure only covered part of the assets damaged or destroyed and in most cases did not cover income lost or the business interruption. The ECLAC team estimated that the amount of per capita damage and losses was US$75,700 per person. This figure is the highest ever encountered by ECLAC.
The direct physical damage to the Cayman Islands was estimated to be CI$ 2.4 billion – a figure that far exceeded the best previous (annual) construction performance of the Cayman Islands (which stood at  CI $ 400 million). Recovering from the damage therefore stretched capacity and posed enormous challenges in terms of importing large amounts of labour and building materials over a relatively short period of time.
The value of imports increased in 2004 by 30.5 percent and increased by afurther 94.8 percent in the first quarter of 2005 (ECLAC Report). The dramatic increase in imports gives a good indication of the huge amount of raw materials and finished goods that were imported as part of the rebuilding effort. With so many properties rendered uninhabitable, and that combined with the increase in imported labour required for the rapid re-build, the demand for rental properties surged and inflation quickly followed. 
Statistics show that consumer inflation for the month of March 2005 was 11.1 percent higher than March 2004 (Economics and Statistics Office). Gradually the housing stock was repaired, new accommodation was constructed and at the same time the demand for labour decreased as construction activity returned to more normal (pre-Ivan) levels.
Not surprisingly, the Cayman Islands was left with a glut of rental accommodation which drove down prices and this effect was compounded by a slowing global economic environment.
Since Hurricane Ivan the Cayman Islands have enhanced their hazard management programme and strategy. In keeping with post Ivan impact recommendations and sound international strategies the Government established an office to be the focal point of disaster risk management. This office, Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) was launched in 2007 and became fully operational January 2008.
The office assumed the responsibilities of the former National Hurricane Committee and also took on additional responsibilities relating to all hazards that pose a threat to the Cayman Islands. HMCI is also responsible for the management of the National Emergency Management Center (NEOC). Since the inception of the office HMCI has activated the NEOC for response to Hurricane Gustav 2007 and Paloma 2008, coordinating the national response to these events.
The recovery from Hurricane Ivan was a national effort and the subsequent effort to make the Cayman Islands better prepared and more resilient to hurricanes has involved every sector of the community, from Government agencies, to the private industry, to charitable donors and volunteers from a range of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as the Red Cross and the Adventist Disaster Relief Agency (ADRA).
Some significant strides made in enhancing the preparedness and response mechanism for the Cayman Islands include:
The retrofitting and strengthening of shelters, and upgrading their level of self  sufficiency (so each shelter can operate in isolation for extended periods of time)
Erection of directional signs for the shelters
The development of a storm surge atlas to assist in the identification of flood prone areas the retrofitting of the hospital to reduce the impact of flooding on the hospital grounds
The protection of road infrastructure through the construction of sea walls and increased elevation of new roads
The development of a hazard focused, informational website
The development of a national hurricane plan
The mandatory requirement that all government agencies develop contingency plans to deal with the effects of a hurricane
New technology andequipment for the national response teams to monitor and coordinate response to any event
Increased community participation in preparedness and response activities within the districts
Hurricane Ivan Summary
Maximum sustained winds: 150 mph
Peak wind gusts: 220 mph
Rainfall 12 inches: (7 pm 11/09/2004 to 7 am 13/09/2004)
Pressure: Below 970 mb
Storm surge: Estimated 8 to 10 feet
Wave heights (observed estimates 20-30 feet)
Duration of winds greater than 100 mph: 7 hours
Damage assessment: $1.5 to $2 billion in building damage
School days lost: 25 to 40 days
Approximately 6,500 people sheltered in formal shelters, the hospitals and large office buildings
Approximately 10,500 people left the Island by plane from September 9 to 30.
Approximately 8500 cars were destroyed
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  1. noname says:

    Ivan was awesome!

  2. S. Wong says:

    Ivan brought the Cayman people together through its devastion. It was a real horrific experience. I can remember the sound of the wind and rain beating our home and how scared our family was for our lives.

    That day was the longest 24hrs I have ever witnessed and shall never forget the values it brought to my life.

    Tales of the 1932 hurricane is real to me now, no longer a story told to help pass time.

    One Love!


  3. yup… that was a storm!  The eye of it didn’t even passed over us, was 20 miles off South Sound, and we was spared much because of the direction it came. We can only give God thanks for this experience. I know it taught me alot!  I recall for the first time, I saw neighbors looking out for neighbors. Folks bathing in the rain, because there was no water, and for the first time, I could see the stars in my neighborhood – the lightpoles before hid them from our view. An experience like that taught me how fragile we as human beings are, and how the secular world has gotten us so preoccupied with our own little worlds that we forget to show love and attention towards other people, including our children. I recalled after the storm, how a group of young Caymanians with rope and machettes, came to my yard to check if I was alright, and how I joined them to walk from house to house with flashlights to check folk who had no roofs and if no body was dead. That was an experience. No one can tell me how it is like being through a category 5 hurricane and its aftermath. When I was small, I use to dream about being in one, and my grandmother would always tell me stories which I thought where fairy tales. Now… lol… I wise up, and I make sure I am prepared for the worse