Memories of Ivan from CI government

| 11/09/2009

(CNS): As tropical storm Fred trundled quietly across the tropical Atlantic thousands of miles from Cayman on Friday, memories were turning to a considerably less benign weather system—Hurricane Ivan. Five years ago the category 4 (possibly 5) hurricane began its catastrophic assault on Grand Cayman, the most powerful storm to hit the Cayman Islands since the 1932 hurricane and certainly the most destructive storm in the islands’ history. Donnie Ebanks said he remembered well preparing for what could be a devastating event.

Ebanks, who was at the time Chair of the Hurricane Committee and Deputy Chief Secretary, recalled, “Inside the Emergency Operations Centre, we were especially concerned for residents of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman as they battened down in expectation of a direct hit. However, as warnings had suggested it might, Ivan’s direction changed and the storm set its sights on Grand Cayman.” He said, “We were not unprepared: leading up to the storm, some 10,000 residents and visitors had been evacuated and indeed, a similar number left ravaged Grand Cayman soon afterwards.”

Ebanks added that he used “ravaged” deliberately as Ivan was a devastatingly powerful weather system which severely damaged local infrastructure and tested emergency plans to the limit.

“Add last year’s Paloma to Ivan and, without fear of contradiction, I can say that we all have had enough hurricane memories to last a lifetime,” Ebanks said. “Invariably, positive memories outweigh the negative. Certainly our heroes comprise one of our most outstanding Ivan legacies.  Their actions and our collective sense of responsibility helped to take us safely through and these characteristics also bode well for the future. Much of our success in overcoming adversity has resulted from our preparedness levels, our faith and our spirit of optimism.”

He said while we had been fortunate this hurricane season we should not forget it still has three months to run, and that the latter half of the season is well known for systems that develop rather quickly and close to us, particularly to the south.

Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush who was also Leader of Government Business when Ivan struck said he too had memories not just of fear and loss but of compassion, unity, cooperation and survival.

 “As a people, we truly demonstrated our resourcefulness and resilience in the face of what seemed to be an impossible situation. The devastation was incalculable and there seemed to be very few options regarding a way forward,” he said adding that the people of Cayman are no strangers to hard work and finding creative ways to hurdle obstacles that threaten to derail our careful plans.

“Ivan brought this community together in a way that was reminiscent of days past, when neighbours knew they could depend on each other for help,” he said. “As the storm approached, people volunteered to help others prepare their homes for impact. As the weather worsened, there were those who risked their lives to rescue neighbours in difficulty; many worked to secure surroundings during the darkest hours — even when they were unsure of their own families and properties. And in the aftermath, many shared food, generators and homes with those who’d experienced severe losses.”

Bush also recalled what he said were the good Samaritans who travelled to Cayman from afar, to help restore utilities, the infrastructure and the economy.

”Today, who can tell that such a devastating event even took place? Looking around, our recovery was indeed remarkable. It stands as a testament to the will and strength of so many,” Bush added.

Ever the politician he stated that as the country faces other serious challenges, the determination, drive, and ingenuity with which we approached post-Ivan recovery are the exact attributes needed to rise above the current economic storm. “Already many have made, and still are making, their contributions. Suggestions and possible solutions to help us navigate these unknown waters are still being submitted,” he added. “For this is yet another period in our history when we must pull together, putting all differences aside to find the means to survive – just as we did with Hurricane Ivan.”

The Governor Stuart Jack who was not here during Hurricane Ivan said that when he arrived just over one year later, the recovery was already remarkable.  As Chairman of the National Recovery Fund he said he had met people who were still suffering and claimed to have come to understand how Ivan had affected people and how much had to be done to recover fully.

 “In spite of personal losses, workers from all branches of government responded with sacrifice and determination to the tasks at hand,” the governor said. He added that the Cayman of today has internalised the lessons of hurricane preparedness and recovery and he urged everyone to check their hurricane plans.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Donnie sure did an excellent job and has throughtout the years as Hurricane Committee Chairman…..he has such a calming and reassuring presence…..I always felt so comforted knowing that he (and most of the other Members from the original Committee) were in charge during such a crisis as Ivan. Not sure that i’ve liked the new set up headed by Darby etc….things seemed much more chaotic and dis-jointed last couple of years with no real sense of who is in charge – Donnie needs to remain as the man in charge – updates and warning messages locally and to the international community need to come from one source….ie Donovan Ebanks!

    • Anonymous says:

      You are so right my friend. The dept now headed by McCleary Frederick-at least he is a Caymanian-is a complete waste of money. They all sit around thinking and talking about disasters that happen only rarely. What the hell do they do year round? Nothing! Especially their PR officer-yes they have one. It was all competently done by the old method of using existing civil servants led by Donnie.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Fred, remember that name….FRED

  3. Anonymous says:

    Donnie did a fabulous job

    . Mac was a sinister presence and some of the people "claiming" things-especially generators- in his name and in a very intimidating manner from those of us at the Customs Area were very dubious and threatening indeed-some West Bayers but also Hondurans working in groups. There should have been an enquiry into all of this but some of us were too intimidated to speak out and of course recovery was understandibly the name of the game. Some of us who worked there day and night remain traumatised by some of what we saw and the threats that were made to us.

  4. Jill Allott says:

     I remember ittoo – was on the phone to my son and I lost the connection and I lost all contact with my family for the next four days – it was so scary,being so far away and not being able to find them or to find out anything that was going on!


    May it not happen again. Now there is a little one as well and even greater need to know they will always be safe.