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Cayman Islands Government

Paloma Reveals LC's Unique Blend

Despite stormy skies, Little Cayman Beach Resort was a hive of dive activity a mere month after Hurricane Paloma.

Little Cayman had a busy summer - but it wasn't tourists that created the unprecedented workload for this laidback, world-class diving destination.

Instead, it was the weather.

First, Hurricane Gustav came through - ripping up docks, blowing water through resorts and dumping 40 ft dive boats on the beach as if they were children's toys. The island had just cleaned up and recovered when barely two months later, Hurricane Paloma hit.

Stronger than her brother, Paloma's category four-strength winds blew down power lines; damaged some homes; and destroyed a few others. And even though it was spared from a destructive storm surge, Little Cayman was littered with hurricane debris. Its trees were left with bare branches.

However, on an island whose resident population (which numbers no more than 200 in peak season) are used to being self-sufficient, the recovery started the moment after the worst winds subsided.

Government staff took up diversified duties. District Administrator and Customs Agent Larry Foster became shelter warden and relief distributor. Nurse Mary-Allen Cutts, who before the storm had shifted her clinic to the shelter, continued to operate it without fail. But she also jumped in as a relief worker, distributing food packets to neighbours in need.

Little Cayman Power and Light linesmen Waide Moore and Philburn Ayton immediately started restoring power. Resort staff cleared debris, rebuilt docks, and repaired roofs to ready their properties for tourists.

Meanwhile, Hazard Management Cayman Islands - the Grand Cayman-based government department that coordinates the public and private-sector hazard response for all three islands - helped bring together relief supplies and recovery teams. HMCI also assisted with efforts in Cayman Brac, which is recovering quickly from Paloma's force as well.

This coordinated effort allowed Little Cayman to open for business less than two weeks after Paloma passed, and in time to receive guests for Thanksgiving weekend.

Now, just a bit more than a month after impact, power has been restored to most properties. Only a few residents are still without landline telephone service. Generally, it is business as usual, and residents are glad that life is pretty much back to normal.

Talking to government employees, shop owners and resort managers about the speed of the island's recovery, most give credit to their preparedness and unwavering self-sufficiency.

However, with weather delaying the arrival of emergency and repair supplies in the immediate aftermath, stockpiling more emergency supplies such as tarpaulins, fuel, and nonperishable food will be high on the agenda for next year's hurricane season.

But apart from inspiring improved checklists and better procedures, and as Little Cayman Beach Resort Manager Jason Belport pointed out, the storm also revealed a truth about this tiny island community that most take for granted far too often:

"When it matters, Little Cayman's diverse population - resort staff, part-time residents, and locals - come together in a unique blend of can-do spirit."

For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver