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Remembering Hurricane Ivan

hurricane ivan anniversary2Nine years ago the eye of Hurricane Ivan passed 21 miles southwest of Grand Cayman, leaving in its wake two dead people and millions of dollars in damages.

Ivan had winds of 150mph with gusts of 220mph that produced a maddening, screeching noise that people endured from 11 to 13 September, 2004.

Ivan’s hurricane-force winds extended 70 miles from its centre and tropical storm force winds extended 175 miles from the centre, which meant the storm spread 350 miles across.

Unfortunately not everyone was prepared for such a major event.

“We now are in the most active month for hurricane activity. Hurricane Ivan taught us to not be complacent and to always be prepared,” said Deputy Premier Hon. Moses Kirkconnell. “If you will recall, we all thought the Sister Islands were going to get the damage from Ivan, but they were spared; that time.” Many people from Little Cayman and Cayman Brac had travelled to Grand Cayman to weather out the storm, thinking they would be safer on the biggest of the three Islands.

But sometime during the night between Friday and Saturday, Ivan began wobbling to the west. By 4am Saturday, 11 September, the National Hurricane Center in Miami had adjusted Ivan’s predicted path south, from a direct hit on the Sister Islands, to going about one-third of the way between Little Cayman and Grand Cayman.hurricane ivan anniversary1

Those who had gone to bed with little concern for the storm Friday night on Grand Cayman awoke Saturday morning to the bad news that Ivan’s path had changed. Sustained winds increased to 35mph around 3pm Saturday. The National Hurricane Center in Miami issued an updated projection of Ivan’s path an hour later, showing the hurricane making a direct hit on Grand Cayman Sunday morning. Conditions grew worse into Saturday evening. Steady rain began falling just after dark and the winds picked up. By 9pm waves were washing onto parts of South Sound Road, tree limbs were falling and debris was flying.

Many who had decided to ride out the storm in their homes ventured out to seek shelter after 9pm, the time that shelter wardens had been told to lock the doors. In the end, most of the people in government shelters had arrived after 9pm. Throughout the night and into the next day, Radio Cayman personalities kept people updated on the storm and took calls from frightened listeners as seawater surged into homes and buildings and winds howled.

A little after 6am Sunday, North Side Member of the Legislative Assembly the late Edna Moyle called into Radio Cayman saying she estimated the winds were gusting up to 200mph. “We’ve never experienced anything like this before. Let us ask God’s mercy on these Islands,” she said over the airways.

Not too long after that, Radio Cayman went off the air, leaving residents on Grand Cayman wondering how the rest of the country was getting through the storm.

The storm came closest to the Island around 7am Sunday bringing the worst damage to the south side of Grand Cayman

Whole developments – Bonnie’s Arch, Mariner’s Cove, Ocean Club and Dolphin Point – were wiped out. Huge waves, estimated at 50 feet or more, wiped out mansions and old Caymanian homes alike. The storm made no class distinctions; it was no respecter of persons whatever their station in life. Even the dead were mistreated in the storm as sea surge destroyed seaside tombs.

As Hurricane Ivan began pulling away from Grand Cayman Sunday evening, the large storm would still keep pounding the Island. In the end, it was estimated that Ivan caused US$3.5 billion of damage and massive trauma for those who stayed on the Island to ride it out.

In the days that followed, looting became a problem and there were vast queues at banks, petrol stations, supermarkets and building supply stores. Residents had to endure weeks and months of hardship. And electricity wasn’t fully restored for months.

But within a week the financial industry was back up and running and in November we welcomed back our first cruise ship visitors. By the end of November, tourists began coming back by air.

Despite the damage throughout the Island, the strength and compassion of the Caymanian people was on display daily as everyone did what they could to offer assistance and a caring heart to those in need.

“Hurricane Ivan was a terrible blow to Grand Cayman, but we learned many lessons from that storm,” said Mr. Kirkconnell. “The most important thing we learned is that we have to be prepared at all times for any kind of a disaster. If you don’t have a hurricane plan for your home or business, please put one in place.”

Residents should also ensure they have plenty of up-to-date hurricane supplies, including tinned food, prescription medications and fresh water. People are also urged to know where the nearest shelter is and decide whether they need to evacuate if a storm is coming.

For a full listing of things needed to survive a hurricane, visit


Once residents received the All Clear after the dangers of Hurricane Ivan had passed, they ventured out to see the destruction on Grand Cayman. Photo: Office of the Premier



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