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Jamaica, Cayman Islands: After Hurricane Dean

Residents of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands spent last weekend bracing for the impact of Hurricane Dean. The first hurricane of the 2007 season passed through the Lesser Antilles on Friday 17 August, damaging infrastructure and crops in St Lucia, Martinique and Dominica, before continuing north-west across the Caribbean Sea, apparently making a beeline for Jamaica. Most Jamaican bloggers were probably busy boarding up their houses, buying emergency supplies, and anxiously remembering the catastrophic damage wrought by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, but a handful found time to post reports online.

Yamfoot found herself flying back to Jamaica from Grenada on Saturday, just in time to help her family with their preparations (she also managed to make a quck trip to the hairdresser, because “who knows what Monday will be like”).

A friend called me from Grenada tonight. He asked me if I was crazy to have left Grenada to come here, knowing Big Dean was approaching. He wasn't the only one…. They don't understand the concept that for me, it's better to be with my family, knowing what is happening with them, than me being safe far away.

At noon on Saturday, Moving Back to Jamaica reported, the Kingston sky was cloudless and blue: “perfect beach weather”. But:

Flights are filled with people escaping what winds, rains and destruction that is heading this way.

We are fully expecting to lose power, internet, phones and water and that roads will be closed until they are cleared of debris, and until the inevitable looting stops.

By Sunday morning, as Dean closed in on the island, Moving Back wrote that a 48-hour curfew was in effect in Kingston, and he expected to lose power shortly, as the authorities planned to shut down the national power grid as a precautionary measure. “So you might not be hearing from this part of the world in a few minutes, for what could be a while.” Not all bloggers were able to ride out the hurricane at home. Stunner's Afflictions was “forcibly drafted” into his employer's “hurricane team”.

I guess some of us have to make sure vital services like communication remains up during such a critical time. I would rather not be at work and at home to somehow protect my property… or at least feel like I am… somehow!

And USAID officer Robert Birkenes stayed at his office in New Kingston. He posted a series of photos taken from his office window, showing palm trees being tossed by the hurricane winds, signs ripped from buildings and flying through the air, and a foolhardy man standing out in the street in the middle of the storm.

Meanwhile, over in the Cayman Islands (north-west of Jamaica, and the next inhabited territory in Dean's path), Jamaican Mad Bull described his own preparations — “I think we are looking pretty good, all things considered” — and announced that he'd managed to fly his young son off the island in the nick of time.

Suppose you see people at the airport! It was mad, it was sick! And then all the flights were delayed for hours, and check in took FOREVER!

In the end, both Jamaica and the Caymans were spared a direct hit, as Dean skirted south of both countries, and damage, though significant, was not as severe as most had feared. “Bye Bye Dean”, Stunner's Afflictions cheerfully said this morning, reporting that his neighbourhood in Kingston still had running water in the mains. Bonita Jamaica posted a Flickr set showing fallen trees and blown-off roofs in some areas of the city. Charlene Collins posted images of a downed lightpole on Constant Spring Road, Kingston residents cleaning up debris, and the giant cargo cranes at the port of Kingston “still standing”. Don Giovanni's Dean Flickr set incuded dramatic images of a zinc roof wrapped around a lightpole in Meadowbrook and a small landslide in a residential neighbourhood in the hills. And from Grand Cayman, DocJelly uploaded post-hurricane images that showed grey skies and stormy seas, but little obvious damage.

But the worst of Dean may be yet to come. By the time it makes landfall on the coast of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo tomorrow, the hurricane is forecast to have picked up enough strength to be classified as category five.

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