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Published 9th September 2016, 3:14pm

Hurricane Ivan was a “classical” long lived Cape Verde hurricane. It has been categorized as one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the Caribbean. 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 Hurricane Ivan began affecting the Sister islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman with tropical storm force winds and Grand Cayman began experiencing tropical storm winds later that same afternoon. According to Cayman Islands National Weather Service (CINWS) at 5am on Sunday the storm surge from the North Sound was peaking at 10 ft. and this surge entered many homes. The hurricane made its closest approach at 10 am on Sunday (12 September) when the eye passed 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 storm surge, hurricane force winds as well as increased the total amount of rain.

Hurricane Ivan took the lives of two persons on Grand Cayman and temporarily displaced a significant proportion of the population. All persons experienced the loss of electricity, water and access to telecommunications for some period after the storm and many persons (402) were treated for lacerations, wounds, removal of foreign bodies, fractures and burns as a result of the disaster.

The total economic impact to the Cayman Islands was estimated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) 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 swampy areas suffered the most severe damage. Houses that were of a sub-standard nature were also severely affected. Four per cent (4%) of homes were so severely damaged that they required complete reconstruction. 70%, or 9, 475, dwellings suffered severe damage which resulted from sea surge and wind damage to roofs, windows and doors.

Following the passage of Hurricane Ivan, the Cayman Islands revamped its 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 was launched in 2007 and became fully operational January 2008. The office assumed the responsibility of the former National Hurricane Committee and also took on additional responsibilities involving the management of all hazards that pose a threat to the country. HMCI is also responsible for the management of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC).

Significant strides have been made in enhancing the preparedness and response mechanism. Emergency shelters have been retrofitted to improve resilience and increase their ability to be self-sufficient for extended periods of time; directional signs for the shelters have also been erected. Road infrastructure has been hardened through the construction of sea walls and the building of new roads that travel inland rather than hugging the coastal corridor. The website Caymanprepared.ky has been created to increase awareness of hazards and to provide preparedness and response information. Disaster plans have been produced for a full range of hazards that the Cayman Islands is vulnerable to, and the Hurricane Plan is updated every year. This updating process involves incorporating ‘lessons’ learned’ from both exercises and actual activations to events. All Government agencies are now required to develop contingency plans to ensure core functions resume as soon as possible following an impact, and these Continuity of Operations Plans (COOP) are updated and re-submitted every year. New technology and equipment has been acquired for the national response teams to monitor and coordinate the response to any event. There has also been a significant increase in community participation in preparedness and response activities within the districts, with incorporation of volunteer groups and the establishment of Community Emergency Response Teams. Dopplar radar has been established in the Cayman Islands and a new disaster resistant Government Building has been constructed at a height of over 14 feet above mean sea level and with category 5 rated windows.

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