The Cayman Islands in the Caribbean were on high alert on Wednesday as hurricane Wilma swirled into the most intense Atlantic storm ever recorded. Wilma is a category 5 monster whose 175 mph winds and rain were blamed for killing at least 11 people in Haiti and one in Jamaica.
Authorities urged businesses to close early on Tuesday to give employees time to prepare for the storm. Schools were ordered to close on Wednesday.
The storm is expected to pass southeast of the islands, which were already badly damaged in hurricane Ivan last year. Many islanders still have storm shutters up from last year's hurricane Ivan, which destroyed 70 percent of buildings on Grand Cayman, the largest island in the three-island British territory of 45,000 people.
But Wilma wasn't expected to keep its record strength for long, as disruptive high-altitude winds in the Gulf of Mexico should weaken it before landfall, said a meteorologist at the hurricane center.
Steven Hayes, director of operations of Tropical Trade Group of Restaurants said, "People were 'greatly relieved' the storm was not not going to hit Grand Cayman as predicted by weather forecasters."