Weather Nerd

Hurricane Paloma devastates Cayman Brac

Cayman Brac, the small island of roughly 2,000 people that bore the brunt of Hurricane Paloma as the storm was in the midst of intensifying into a monster Category 4 hurricane Saturday morning, suffered “catastrophic damage” that is being compared to Hurricane Ivan, the 2004 monster that caused nearly $2 billion in damage to the Cayman Islands. reports:

Damage across the Brac has been described as “Ivan like”, with some houses completely obliterated. An estimated 90 per cent of properties have suffered mild to severe damage and many on both Sister Islands [i.e., Cayman Brac and nearby Little Cayman, population less than 200] now face a long and painful rebuilding process. . . .

“We’ve got catastrophic damage here in Cayman Brac,” [Deputy District Commissioner Mark] Tibbetts said. “I would say 90 per cent of properties on the Brac are damaged and, if anything, that is probably being a bit conservative.

“You are talking about buildings that are totally demolished, roof damage from shingles blown off to rooves being completely ripped off, all along from one end of the island to the other.

“There will be lots of [people left homeless] for a long–term period,” he said.

Schools have been damaged by the storm, two hurricane shelters were themselves breached and the Cayman Brac police station has lost its roof. All that is left of the warehouse at the Government dock is a frame, Mr. Tibbetts said. . . .

As for nearby Little Cayman, damage there is reportedly extensive, but “not…as bad as many had feared.” Grand Cayman, meanwhile, was spared the worst of the storm by a well-timed right turn (which, unfortunately, but the smaller islands in Paloma’s bullseye).

Storm Carib has lots of reports and some aerial photos of damage in the Caymans. Also, here‘s a great satellite view of “what hit them” — the first visible photo of Paloma’s eye on Saturday, just after it hit Cayman Brac:

Meanwhile, in Cuba:

Hurricane Paloma leveled hundreds of homes along Cuba’s southern coast . . . Crashing surf and a powerful sea surge sent waves almost a mile (1 1/2 kilometers) inland as the storm ravaged Santa Cruz del Sur, the coastal community where it roared ashore Saturday night.

Javier Ramos said he rebuilt his simple wood-frame house in Santa Cruz del Sur after Hurricane Ike struck in early September, only to watch Paloma flatten it again.

“At least we’re alive, but my wife hasn’t seen this yet,” Ramos told The Associated Press as he scavenged bits of clothing and smashed dishes in his front yard. “I don’t know how she’s going to react. It’s going to be terrible.”

More than 10-foot-high (3-meter-high) waves washed away nearly all traces of about 50 modest houses in Santa Cruz del Sur. Civil Defense authorities said altogether 435 homes in the community were destroyed.

More here.

Oh, and the National Hurricane Center has issued the final advisory on Paloma — and perhaps the final advisory of the 2008 hurricane season.