September 25, 2020

Remembering Hurricane Ivan

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PHOTO: © CourtneyPlatt.com

Seven years ago Hurricane Ivan came and changed the face of Cayman.

For 34 hours, the storm ripped across the country leaving total devastation and destruction in its wake.

It took months for the people of Cayman to get back to normal. But thanks to the community spirit that was witnessed in the aftermath, the country eventually got back on it’s feet.

Marking the anniversary of Ivan, we speak to residents and experts who tell us what the storm meant to them.niversary of Ivan, we speak to residents and experts who tell us what the storm meant to them.

Hurricane Ivan and the lessons learned

When Hurricane Ivan struck the Cayman Islands on Saturday 11 September 2004, few people were able to imagine the devastation that followed.

What many people will never forget is the storm’s relentlessness  34 hours of battering from winds that reached over 200mph at their fastest, with sustained gusts of 150mph – one of the strongest hurricanes on record in the region. It was like a nightmare that didn’t seem to end.

Everyone who lived through it has their own ‘Ivan Story.’

Christopher Webb, an officer with the Cayman Islands Fire Service, said:

“I was at home on Prospect Drive when Ivan hit. I had just been helping the other firemen board up their homes.

“I had a truck I use for removals and I parked close to the back of my house for protection. My kids were scared. I said, go ahead and sleep, everything will soon be over, but they didn’t go to sleep.

When morning came I looked outside and noticed the cars were submerged. Water was coming in through the eaves, I looked out, and saw that the plywood on my neighbour’s roof kept peeling off and flying away- one piece after another.

“On Sunday I saw a young man with a garbage bag over him. He said he was going to see his family at South Sound, but I said: ‘You’re not going to make it – there are too many projectiles. Go back.’

“Ivan was a very frightening experience. I’ve been through two hurricanes before, Hurricane Alan and Hurricane Gilbert in the ’80s, but they weren’t like Ivan.”

Residents of the Belford Estates in Bodden Town believe they have learned some lessons from Hurricane Ivan. 12 homes on the estate sustained serious damage to their roofs and the estates were covered in five feet of water.

Team Leader of the Belford Estates Community Emergency Response Team, Errington Webster

One of those residents, Mr. Errington Webster, set up the Belford Estates Community Emergency Response Team (BECERT) after hearing about the idea of community response teams through the Cayman Islands Red Cross:

“The experience from Ivan made us take the idea from the International Red Cross seriously and in 2006, I started my team,” Mr. Webster said.

Currently, there are 25 members in BECERT and all have a vital role to play in case of another hurricane.

“Our aim is to assist the residents in any such catastrophe that occurs that affects our community,” he said.

“If a resident has special medical needs such as having to take insulin, we will ensure they have sufficient insulin to ride the storm out and for the aftermath of the storm.”

According to Mr. Webster, the Cayman Island Hazard Management office began a programme to recognise the need for Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), based on the Belford Estates’ plan.

“We are hoping from there that communities throughout our islands will be more motivated to install these teams in the community,” Mr. Webster added.

“One thing it takes for them to form these teams in the communities is to be conscious of their surroundings, exercise solidarity and be concerned for each individual living in their community.

“I am very open to any members of the communities of the Cayman Islands to contact me for advice in forming such teams on 326 3463 or 916 7642.”

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