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Irma pummels Eastern Caribbean, Cayman’s shelters ready if needed

Hurricane Irma is showing no signs of slowing down after pummeling the Leeward islands.

Roofs were torn from buildings and homes were flooded in St. Martin and other French Caribbean islands. Video clips showed some of that damage, including flooding in the streets, with boats and debris strewn about.

Meanwhile, trees were stripped bare in video clips emerging from the twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, which was expected to take the brunt of the storm. Reports said daylight revealed the damage was thankfully less than expected, at least in Antigua.

But as Antigua and Barbuda Senator Colin James told Cayman 27, the picture in Barbuda remains far less clear.

“There’s still some great concern about the sister island of Barbuda because the communications links to Barbuda. I have gone out and people cannot communicate with their families and friends and relatives over in Barbuda. But the communication links have been out for a considerable amount of time now and we are hoping that the damages in Barbuda aren’t as severe as we are anticipating because the eye of the storm actually passed over Barbuda,” said Mr. James.

Reports into the Cayman 27 newsroom late Wednesday (6 September) evening indicate Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne is urging voluntary evacuations. He called the island ‘practically uninhabitable.’

Of course, we are watching Irma’s path very closely here at home.

The latest data from the US National Hurricane Centre shows Irma on the move to the west-northwest, creeping along at about 16 miles an hour.

Hurricane force winds extend some 50 miles from the storm’s center, and tropical storm force winds up to 185 miles, most likely putting us on the edge of the action.

Department of Children and Family Services Director Felicia Robinson told Cayman 27 if the storm turns our way, the shelters will be ready.

“We are ready,” said Ms. Roibinson. “We are part of a bigger system, we are the human services cluster, the red cross is ready, our committee in terms of environmental health, public works department, medical services, education, police, DCFS, we are ready.”

Ms. Robinson told Cayman 27 168 shelter volunteers received training in July. Two managers plus an alternate were named for each shelter, many of these individuals are long-served in those roles.

“All of our staff know where they are supposed to be assigned in the event that they need to be called out to provide this service, those are some the preparations that we’ve put in place,” said Ms. Robinson.

Ms. Robinson said if conditions warrant, the shelters will open. She said those who come need to remember to bring some basics.

“Essentially, at least three days of supplies, your water, be sure that you’ve got your documents together, your change of clothing, if you’ve got medication pack your medication, make sure you’ve got enough canned food, if you need a blanket, those sort of basic things to tide you over,” said Ms. Robinson.

She said while the shelter is hardly a 4-star resort, it can be bearable if everyone brings along the right attitude.

“We all have a responsibility to make it work for each other, and really that’s the message I think anyone who goes to a shelter needs to understand,” said Ms. Robinson.

It’s important to be familiar with your shelter locations and how to get there. Here is the complete list, as published at the Hazard Management Cayman Islands website:

George Town

  • Cayman Further Education Centre – Assembly Hall (Formerly John Gray High School)
  • John Gray High School Gymnasium(Formerly George Hicks High School)
  • George Town Primary School Assembly Hall (Available October 1st)
  • University College of the Cayman Islands Hall
  • Red Cross Building
  • Prospect Primary School (EMC)

West Bay

  • John A. Cumber Primary School Assembly Hall (EMC)
  • John Gray Memorial Church Hall
  • John A. Cumber Primary School (Part Classrooms)

East End

  • William Allen McClaughlin Civic Centre (EMC)
  • Gun Bay Community Hall

North Side

  • Craddock Ebanks Civic Centre (EMC)
  • Clifton Hunter High School Gymnasium (EMC)


  • Breakers Community Hall

Bodden Town

  • Bodden Town Primary School Multipurpose Hall (EMC)


  • Savannah Primary School Assembly Hall (EMC)

Cayman Brac

  • Aston Rutty Centre (EMC)
  • West End Primary School
  • Day Care Centre

Little Cayman

  • Public Works Department Building (EMC)

Nine of these facilities double as Emergency Medical Centres (denoted by the EMC designation). Those with medical needs may want to make a note of those locations.

It’s important to note that, depending on the severity of the current threat and other factors, the HCMI could open some instead of all of the shelters.


About the author

Joe Avary

Joe Avary

Joe Avary has been with Cayman 27 since 2014. He brings 20 years in television experience to the job, working hard every day to bring the people of Cayman stories that inform the public and make a difference in the community. Joe hopes his love for the Cayman Islands shines through in his informative and entertaining weather reports. If you have a story idea for Joe or just want to say hello, call him at 324-2141 or send an email to josephavary@hurleysmedia.ky

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