We realised the jinx of the Caribbean GIS conferences had hit again. The first had been disrupted by 9/11, the Barbados and Bahamas conferences by hurricanes in the region stopping delegates attending and this one was now due to be directly hit by a hurricane on its third day. Delegates had already not bothered to travel to Cayman, more were arranging an early exit.
My colleague, Edsel and I were sharing a room. He had arrived in only on the Sunday night, and by Tuesday he was twitchy about getting out again. A lot of the US delegates had already gone home and others were looking in to options. It was a good job we had taken a day to hire a car and head around the island to sightsee, taking in the Turtle Farm then driving way out to the windswept east of the island, dropping in on the botanic gardens and seeing the blue iguanas, and wrapping around the lagoon for a burger lunch at Rum Point. We looked out over the lagoon and saw several boats playing around on the sandbank known as “Sting Ray City”. More of that another time.
I looked at a bunch of scenarios. First the hurricane was not forecast to be that strong – a category 2 at worst. But Cayman had experienced the full force of hurricane Ivan the year before and was not prepared to take any chances. Tourists in particular were being evacuated as fast as possible. At some times planes from Cayman Airways were departing for Miami every hour. I felt it would be easier to ride the storm out in the hotel.
Second, my options for leaving did not put me in a good position. BA had given up flying into Cayman for a few days – there were only about 3 flights a week anyway, and by the time the storm had gone through and the airport was reopened I would be OK to take my scheduled flight back home. Looking at the Miami option I would still not be able to get a flight home till after the time the airport in Cayman was bound to reopen.
Third, I had a sneaking wish to go through a hurricane. When in Dominica, a forecast hurricane was downgraded to tropical storm as it reached landfall. In two years in BVI I had only experienced the tropical depressions and all their rain but they had only turned into nasty hurricanes when they reached the USA. So I was still to see the full effect.