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Be Prepared, Stay Safe – Basic Hurricane Survival Tips

When it comes to weather, the Cayman Islands really only has two seasons: Hurricane Season and, well, not Hurricane Season. June 1st marks the official first day of the Hurricane Season on island and as we approach the end of May, we at Baraud thought it would be a good time to review the most important hurricane tips for you and your family.

*Although severe hurricanes are rare in Cayman and storms have been especially mellow over the past few years, it’s certainly better to be safe than sorry.

Firstly, let’s learn the difference between some commonly heard expressions. What is the difference between a tropical depression, a tropical storm and a hurricane?

  • A Tropical Depression, like all storms, is characterized by rain, strong winds, thunder and lightning of varying degrees.
  • It becomes a Tropical Storm when the wind speeds sustain a minimum of 39 mph.
  • Similarly, a Tropical Storm becomes a Hurricane when wind speeds sustain a minimum of 74 mph.

These categories are important to understand when preparing for the severity of an impending storm. Moreover, it is important to note that storms change daily and have been known to quickly ramp up from Tropical Storm to Hurricane as well lessen from a Hurricane to a Tropical Storm, before making landfall.

As we move through Hurricane season, it’s imperative that we in the Caribbean stay up to date on developing weather systems. The a great website for this is: http://www.stormcarib.com/

Now that we understand some of the important terminology, it’s time to plan for the worst case scenario: a full-blown hurricane. Unfortunately for us here in Cayman, we live on a very flat island! As sea levels rise, this can create problems for people, homes, business and vehicles that are less than 10ft above sea level. For this reason, you and your family will need to decide where you will stay during a hurricane.

Your own home – if you live in a hurricane proof home/apartment that is at least 10ft above sea level, you may decide the safest and most comfortable place for you is to stay put.

A friend/family member’s home – some may have a close friend or relative that has a safer home than their own and this is of course is a viable option to ride out a hurricane (just be sure it clear it with them before the hurricane hits!)

Your workplace – many businesses on island have been safeguarded and built to withstand hurricanes. Often much larger than a single home (and possibly equipped with a back-up generator), your workplace may offer the best place for you to stay during the hurricane.

Evacuation – you may decide that in the event of a hurricane, you’d rather leave island and head inland. Although potentially the safest option, it is one which requires prior planning. You will need to ensure that all of your family’s travel documents are prepped and ready to go, tickets are purchased and that you don’t leave the evacuation too late—the airports will get very crowded.

Emergency shelter – if all else fails, there are 16 emergency shelters designated on island. The full list and locations can be found here:

http://www.caymanprepared.gov.ky/portal/page?_pageid=3701,6816520&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

In addition to knowing where you will be riding out the hurricane, it is important to have the right supplies. The official Cayman hurricane preparation literature outlines that we should be prepared for a minimum of 5-7 days without power or water. It should be noted however, during Hurricane Ivan (the worst hurricane suffered by Cayman in recent history) many parts of the island went without for 8 – 13 days. Although not an exhaustive list, below are some of ideas for your Hurricane Supplies Kit.

● Drinking water (allow 1 gallon per person per day – also used for washing face, teeth and hands) and water purification tablets
● Non-perishable foods stored in air and water tight containers – at least 1 week’s worth for each person
● Oil and petrol for generator (optional)
● Portable gas cooker and refills
● Charcoal, lighter fluid
● Flashlight, lantern and oil
● Matches/lighter in watertight bag
● Battery operated radio & extra batteries
● Battery operated fan & extra batteries
● First aid kit, personal medication, sun screen & feminine supplies
● Candles (including citronella candles as mosquitoes will be around after a storm)
● Mosquito coils and/or spray
● Life vests, galoshes & whistle
● Rope/strong twine, duct/packing tape
● Shut off wrench, pliers
● Plastic sheeting to cover furniture
● Tarp for roof
● Surgical & yard gloves (for clean up after hurricane)
● Paper towel, toilet paper, napkins
● Disposable plates, plastic glasses, plastic forks and spoons
● Aluminum foil, plastic freezer bags
● Can opener/knife
● Clorox wipes (for cleaning cutlery)
● Chlorine bleach (for sterilizing water) and Dettol (for disinfecting hands and feet)
● Hand sanitizer (such as Germ X), and baby-wipes (for personal hygiene)
● Ice chest and ice
● Broom, mop, bucket & rubbish bags
● Pet food
● Baby supplies: diapers & wipes
● Books, magazines, games

Remember, June 1st is the official start to hurricane season – start preparing today! For more detailed information, go to: http://www.caymanprepared.gov.ky/