Hurricane devastation and how to prepare

Hearing of a tropical storm or hurricane forecast is one thing; living through it, however, is an entirely different matter. Consequently, each person is encouraged to learn more about hurricanes and their impacts, preferably before they occur, so that proper preparations can be made. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which delineates various categories of hurricanes, is helpful in this regard.

The wind scale of Hurricane Saffir-Simpson

According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, hurricane intensities are rated 1 to 5, primarily based on the maximum winds sustained at any one time. For example, a Category 1 hurricane like Hurricane Danielle became a hurricane once Danielle crossed 73 mph, as explained in the video below.

Despite the general illustration of damage above, the wind scale of Hurricane Saffir-Simpson is not intended to absolutely predict the impacts of maximum sustained winds in several categories.

Indeed, the wind scale of Hurricane Saffir-Simpson has limitations. For example, the actual damage Cayman could suffer could be affected by many factors. Some of these are:

  • the age of the relevant structures
  • building codes applicable to such structures (and regardless of whether they are applied or not)
  • how slowly the system moves or sits above you (such as Hurricane Ivan, which pounded the Cayman Islands for over 24 hours in September 2004)
  • floods, storm surges and other factors

How to prepare

Given the social, economic and environmental devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 (the historic peak of the hurricane season) and the potential for this to happen again, it is important that communities and businesses have adequate business continuity plans and disasters in place, long before a threat.

Additionally, it is critical that communities establish Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), which are members of each community trained by Cayman Islands Hazard Management (HCMI). (If you are not familiar with the CERT program, you can learn more on the HCMI website at )

Ideally, you should also get to know the CERT team members for your area before a disaster as they will evaluate the resources in your community before a hurricane and assist HCMI and other emergency responders after the disaster. To obtain this information, you can contact HCMI at 945-4624 or email [email protected]

With this knowledge in hand, residents should not, however, relax or become complacent thinking that all nooks and crannies are covered. Instead, residents should remain alert to the announcement of a hurricane or tropical storm, stay prepared, and test hurricane preparedness plans from time to time, even when there is no threat.

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