Before I went to live in Grand Cayman in 1980, I felt that I had some idea of what a hurricane would be like – high winds, plenty rain, houses boarded up, stores closed, and, in the case of low-lying islands such as Grand Cayman, a few feet of sea-water coming ashore. My first hurricane was Gilbert in 1988 where I spent an anxious night in the house but lost only a short piece of guttering from the roof facing east, so that wasn’t all that bad. And then came Hurricane Ivan in 2004. That storm hit Grenada as a Category Three, more or less by-passed Jamaica as a Category Four, and then stalled over Grand Cayman for over 24 hours as a Category Five with winds gusting at 195mph. A hurricane is a diverse set of horrors and circumstances, and in a song I later wrote about the storm for the annual theatre show I did in Cayman, I highlighted the feeling of helplessness and fear during those first hours:
The sky close down and the sea jump up, Ivan.
The wind say ‘Look, ah comin’ and I don’t play.’
Mash up Grenada, bounce Jamaica, Ivan.
Yuh crouch in yuh house believin’ is Judgement Day.
The last line in that verse truly described that first night. With my own family and that of my friend Henry Muttoo, we were indeed crouched in the house wondering if we would survive. The house was ….