Hurricane Ivan Remembered

10th. Anniversary of Category 5 storm, Grand Cayman,

Sept.11 and 12, 2004

10pm Sat. Sept.11 18.3N 80W 105 miles (170 Km) SE of Grand Cayman 165mph WNW 8mph 26.87in.910 mb. 4am Sun. Sept. 12 18.6N 80.8W 55 miles SSE of Grand Cayman. Cat.4/5 155mph WNW 9mph 27.11in./918mb 5am Wind from NE. Storm surge from North Sound 7am Sun. Sept.12 no update available from Radio Cayman 10am Sun. Sept. 12 19N 81.5W 30 miles SW of Grand Cayman 155mph, higher gusts 170 mph and higher, another storm surge – from South Sound. 8 – 10ft storm surge, plus 20 – 30 ft waves on top of 10 ft surge, WNW 9 mph 27.14in./919mb Centre of EYE within 21 miles SW of Grand Cayman, EYE-WALL 7 miles off our coast. Grand Cayman in the NE quadrant – the worst. Hurricane Hunter plane. Hurricane Force winds extend 90 miles from centre Tropical Storm Force winds extend 175 miles from centre 4pm Sun. Sept.12 19.3N 82.5W 225mile SE of W. tip of Cuba 150 mph WNW 10 mph 27.05in./916mb

Emerald Eyes Hyatt, NS Oct29-04 tFirst storm surge, from North Sound

Sun. Sept. 12, 2004 5am The wind came from the NE, the first storm surge came from North Sound.
Emerald Eyes party-boat that was moored in the Hyatt canal, rose with the storm surge from North Sound and, when the water receded, come to rest atop about 6 cars in the Hyatt Hotel staff car-park, squashing some of them.

SS car on wall,  Oct.10-04 tSecond storm surge, from South Sound

Sun. Sept. 12, 2004, 10am 19N 81.5W 30 miles SW of Grand Cayman wind 155mph, gusts 170 mph and higher, WNW 9 mph 27.14in./919mb. There is a second storm surge, this time from South Sound. 20 – 30 ft waves on top of 8-10 ft surge.

Hurricane IVAN 2004   more photos….

Hurricane IVAN Dec. 5, 2004

a personal account by P. Ann van. B. Stafford

2004 Hurricane Season

2004 was a very active hurricane season, the pattern has changed from that of the previous 5 or so years. We prepared well for Hurricane Charley, it was heading straight at us, but passed 20 miles to the north of us on 12 Aug. with 90 mph winds. ‘Cayman dodged the bullet’ said Dr Steve Lyons of the US Weather Channel.


Hurricane Ivan was a different story. We prepared solidly again – for 3 days. As it approached us with 165 mph winds, and the 6th. lowest recorded barometric pressure of Atlantic basin hurricanes – 910 millibars/26.87 in., it was forecast to go north of us again, but it didn’t. The centre of the eye was within 21 miles SW of Grand Cayman, the eye-wall 7 miles off our coast.

Catastrophic Destruction

We were in the NE quadrant, (the worst). Ivan caused catastrophic destruction; it also spawned tornadoes. 95% of homes were damaged to a greater or lesser extent, a quarter beyond repair. Surprisingly, only one or two people died during the storm, but a lot of people have died subsequently. Surviving the hurricane is one thing, surviving the stress of the aftermath is another. Some people have lost everything, their homes, clothing & belongings, vehicles and livelihoods. There were many damaged roofs, salt-water flooded houses and businesses, boats where they shouldn’t be, ripped up roads, or sand dunes covering roads. There was extensive flooding, no electricity, no running water, (except from leaking roofs), no food to buy, no telephones, no internet, no TV, no connection with the outside world, no banks nor shops functioning, no traffic lights, no street lights, downed power lines, fallen trees everywhere, no leaves, no shade, fewer vehicles, homeless and jobless people, and debris everywhere.

Storm surge, first from North Sound, then from South Sound

At 5 am on Sunday the storm surge came from the North Sound, then 5 hours later from South Sound, 8 – 10ft storm surge, plus 20 – 30 ft waves on top of 10 ft surge, the storm came from WNW at 9 mph and the pressure rose to 919mb/27.14in. Some places were affected by both surges as well as by sewage. There were tons of sand in houses & on roads.

Cayman Sister Yacht Dr Sep26-04

Damage, survival, insurance

Tyres punctured, there were no repairers initially. Businesses had to change location, like musical chairs, cell phone replaced landlines, but there’s no directory for cell phones. Life focused on survival, insurance estimates, claims, adjusters, and hopefully payments. Our insurance adjuster has adjusted after 16 hurricanes. I asked him how he would rate Ivan. He said it’s right up there with Hurricane Andrew – southern Florida, 1992.

No schools

Accommodation for the homeless, rich & poor alike, was, and still is, a problem. Out of a population of some 45,000 people, 15,000 people left, many not returning. No schools were functioning, many children left the island to go to school in different parts of the world, many, including our three 14 yr old granddaughters, to Canada.


There is a shortage of supplies and repairers. When people asked me how we fared, I say as a family, both good and bad. One son & his family were very badly hit. His house had his neighbour’s roof puncture his roof & let in the hurricane, so it’s uninhabitable. Repairs have begun, but it’s a painfully slow business. The sea gutted his rental apartments and damaged the Sailing Club and boats at his workplace. He’s been finding boats that floated far away. We got our electricity back 2 weeks after Ivan, but some people have only just got theirs restored, after 3 months. Some wiring is still too badly damaged to restore yet.


It’s going to take a lot of money to repair the island. It won’t return to how it was before, expanding too rapidly. Like the trees, it’s been severely pruned and will grow back stronger, but more compact, I think. Cayman has been ivanized (my word) – a greater resilience to life’s corrosiveness. One thing we all have been acquiring is patience. Repairs on our house won’t start until next year. We will have to move out of our house for a while.

Birds and ButterfliesQueen on Red Top Nov.21-04 AS

There’s almost no birdsong, there are so few birds, either they didn’t survive the hurricane or died of starvation – no fruits or nectar flowers or bugs to eat. One Bird Club member said that as high as 95% of our resident birds have perished. We get a lot of migratory birds in the fall and spring. The heavy rains after Ivan washed away the salt. After a while, new leaves appeared from the bottom of the trees upwards and outwards along the bare branches. Flowers began to bloom. Butterflies appeared one by one, and now there is an explosion of butterflies, it’s just amazing and a joy to see. There are fewer birds to eat them or their caterpillars and less insect spraying. All the big trees in our garden fell, you couldn’t see any lawn. After a lot of chain-sawing and weeks of clearing away, some are growing back, some are gone for good, so now there’s more light and space for other, more desirable plants, especially indigenous small trees/shrubs that don’t grow too big or too fast. Our garden is looking different, but is colourful and blooming. The weather is delightful, sunny and windy and not too humid.



Recovery is a long, slow process. Cruise ships have started coming back. Some hotels are opening for our tourist high season – mid-December.

2004 IVAN Furore Oct29-04The storm surge came first from the North Sound. The surge came down the Hyatt canal. Furore at the Hyatt Hotel. Photo: Ann Stafford, Oct. 29, 2004.

2004 IVAN SS road, trench, Casuarina Sep21-04South Sound Road was washed away by the second storm surge, this time from the south. The road reverted to beach. A trench was cut across to drain the land. Photo: Ann Stafford, Sept.21, 2004.

2004 IVAN track Sept 2-24Hurricane Ivan track Sept. 2 to 24, 2004.

Hurricane IVAN 2004   photos

Deep Blue Images – Hurricane Ivan Remembered   photos



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