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Published 3rd December 2010, 3:2pm

November 30 marked the final day of 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. While there were some close calls, the Cayman Islands was fortunate to suffer no significant impacts. Overall it was a very active season with 19 named storms of which 12 developed into hurricanes with 5 being major hurricanes. The 12 named hurricanes put this year in a tie with 1969 for the second most hurricanes ever recorded in a season.

The first tropical system to enter the Cayman Islands ‘watch arc’ this year was ‘Karl’ in the middle of September. It began as ‘Invest 92L’ and moved south of Grand Cayman, bringing only light gusts of wind and intermittent rain showers. As the wave tracked off towards the west it strengthened into Tropical Storm Karl about 196 miles southwest of Grand Cayman. ‘Karl’ then continued to strengthen and slammed into Mexico, leaving hundreds of thousands of persons homeless and 22 deaths.

The next system to cause some concern in the Cayman Islands was Tropical Storm Matthew. ‘Matthew’ attained storm status on September 23rd, 276 miles south of Jamaica. The storm remained well south of the Cayman Islands and went on to impact eastern Nicaragua, Honduras and then Belize.

On September 28th Tropical Depression # 16 formed 116 miles northwest of Grand Cayman. The depression became Tropical Storm Nicole on September 29th and a Tropical Storm Warning was issued for the Cayman Islands. The remnants of Nicole caused flooding of some low lying areas, rough seas and gusty winds. As a result of these effects the government found it prudent to carry out and activate necessary precautionary measures for safety and emergency response by closing schools, government entities and dispatching the National Roads Authority to clear drains in residential areas. Further to that, the Shelter Operations subcommittee was activated and shelters placed on standby for any possible dislocation of residents due to flooding. However, the use of the shelters was not required as the flooding did not displace any residents. ‘Nicole’ goes down in the history books as one of the shortest lived tropical storms, but it had the most significant impact on the Cayman Islands for the 2010 season.

On October 11th an area of low pressure 285 miles southwest of Grand Cayman became Tropical Storm Paula. ‘Paula’ then set a record for the fastest intensification of a storm moving from a tropical weather disturbance to a hurricane. This occurred within twelve hours of the first advisory. No storm has ever intensified into a hurricane that quickly. ‘Paula’ moved northwest and became a hurricane 276 miles south west of Grand Cayman. The National Weather Service issued a marine warning for the Cayman Islands and swells in the harbour made it somewhat challenging for tender boat operations.

On October 19th weather charts indicated that there was a broad area of low pressure "Invest 99" covering the northwest Caribbean. By the following day the low pressure became better organised and the National Weather Service issued local flood warnings in anticipation of the possible effects from the system. The National Hurricane Centre in Miami declared the system Tropical Depression 19 centred 197 miles south of Cayman Brac. Later that same day Tropical Depression 19 strengthened to Tropical Storm Richard located 245 miles south of Cayman Brac. The cyclone initially took an unusual track heading south southeast and away from the Cayman Islands. Richard’ went on to become a hurricane on 24 October making landfall south of Belize City, the most populous city in Belize, as a Category 1 hurricane. Although there were no reports of deaths there were reports of significant damage to infrastructure and homes.

The last cyclone of the season ‘Tomas’ entered the ‘watch’ arc for the Cayman Islands and was monitored closely as it progress westward. However the system moved north as forecasted and did not threaten the Cayman Islands. The Hurricane continued on its northward track and passed between Haiti and the Western tip of Cuba. ‘St. Lucia and St. Vincent and Grenadines incurred the greatest damage from the impact of the system resulting in 22 deaths, numerous landslides, destruction of infrastructure and massive losses to the agricultural sector.

Postscript

On the final day of the 2010 hurricane season the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami was still monitoring an area of disorganized thunderstorms located about 600 miles south of the Cayman Islands. The NHC gave this broad area of low pressure a 10 percent chance of developing into a cyclone.

With the close of the season HMCI encourages the population to maintain a high level of preparation for any possible disaster event. Restock and recycle your emergency food supplies in order to keep them fresh and up to date. They will be required for other disaster events.

Remember that just because the hurricane season has ended it does not mean you should completely forget about disaster preparedness. The Cayman Islands is vulnerable to a number of other hazards such as earthquakes, fires and floods and these can occur at any time. The end of the hurricane season is merely an opportunity to reevaluate, reassess and review your business, family and individual preparedness and response procedures and plans, ensuring that they will meet your needs for the next hurricane season.