HURRICANES IN BELIZE
We have lived through five close hurricanes since we arrived here shortly after Mitch threatened Belize in Fall 1998. We wrote about the adventure of Hurricane Keith, which threatened and then crossed
Belize in the period 29 Sep - 4 Oct 2000. We briefly reported on Chantal (Aug 2001) and then produced a more detailed diary of our preparations for Iris (Oct 2001.)
See the 2001 Atlantic Storm Tracks here.
See a new 2006 hurricane discussion here.
Starting June 1, the "Hurricane
Season" opens, and the Government starts educating everyone on "What
To Do In the Event of a Hurricane." The newspapers give this a
lot of publicity, because it helps fill space! Belizeans start thinking
about Hurricanes. Unfortunately, so do Tourists. <sigh>
In Reality, Belize is not Hurricane
Central. That honor belongs to North Carolina, in the
US. Closely following NC are Florida, Texas, and Louisiana, none of which
advertise their hurricanes.
Most Hurricanes don't come anywhere close to Belize. Atlantic Hurricanes generally originate off the coast of Africa,
at about the same latitude as Belize. They track west for a while, and
then head off northwest toward North Carolina! (see the storm archives of the
National Hurricane Center.)
Some Hurricanes do devastate Belize. Hattie destroyed Belize City in 1961 -- 40 years ago. Janet
devastated Corozal in 1955 -- 45 years ago. Pretty ancient history, I thought. However, after a forty year break, many hurricanes have threatened Belize and some have damaged us. Of course, the Cayes are more susceptible to
hurricane damage than the mainland, just as the Florida keys are more hazardous
places to live than Miami Beach.
Late Season Hurricanes. If you study the storm
archives, you will find that most western Caribbean hurricanes occur in the
fall. My friend Mike Gallego theorizes that, as the jet stream dips lower
into the US, it creates pressure in the Atlantic which causes the hurricanes to
enter the western Caribbean. A new
theory suggests that these hurricanes may be exacerbated by warm water in
the coastal waters of Belize. New:
Hurricane 2006 is my update on the hurricane
Reality: Each hurricane is an independent event. Just because we've had five hurricanes in 3 years doesn't mean we've had our quota for the century! When you flip a coin, the odds are always 50/50, regardless of what just happened. Every year is a brand new adventure.
Some people claim to forecast the Hurricane Season. They are frauds.
Read one new forecast here, and my
explanation of why it's just a SWAG at the upcoming season.
The guys in Fort Collins just admitted that they are frauds. Read
Reality: Hurricanes are News.
The Weather Channel loves hurricanes; the pictures of people wading through water and
fighting a gale are a lot more interesting than charts of isobars. They
report that "a slow moving hurricane produces torrential rains."
In reality, most tropical rains are torrential compared with rain in the U.
S. In the flats of Belize, these torrential rains have less effect than
they had on the muddy hills of Honduras. Mitch dropped 35" of rain a day on Honduras for 3 days. This phenomenal rainfall devastated the
country, as it would any place on earth. But most hurricanes create far
less rain than this.
Reality: Hurricanes are Exciting. Just
like any medium-sized city in the US, there's not a lot of news in Belize, so
the papers start talking about the hurricane season as soon as it starts in
June. The government is quick to issue a storm warning, and the people are
quick to react. They go off to neighbors or shelters that are on higher
ground. The government closes down the liquor stores, but people have
already stocked up. Belizeans are quick to celebrate, and this is as good
an excuse as any.
Split Personality. Hurricanes are exciting, and if
there is some damage, Belize might be able to get some relief dollars, which we
can always use. (Can't anybody?) On the other hand, if we don't play down
the damage, we won't have any tourists at all. As a result, you will hear
a lot of conflicting press reports. (e.g. Reuters said there were 15
deaths as a result of Keith, the National Hurricane Center said 0.)
The Bottom Line. If you're planning to come to Belize,
call your local hotels) and ask them how it is right now. (If you can't get
through, that will tell you something.) If you're coming to Corozal,
you know that we're OK, at least for now. If there's another storm, write
us and ask us about it.
Keith wasn't as bad as it looked on the News. Read our diaries. Iris was terrible (category 4) but we watched it from a distance.
Fiction. For an engrossing study of the Florida Keys in the 70's read John D. MacDonald's Condominium. From sleazy developers, to sexy senior citizens, to Hurricane "Elle"-- a Category 5 hurricane which destroys everything in its path -- Condominium is a fascinating glimpse at what the Belizean Cayes could be sometime in the 21st Century. MacDonald did his homework, and he tells you more than you wanted to know about the physics and physical presence of a hurricane.
2005 was the worst hurricane season in history, caused by warm seas. (The
Caribbean got as hot as 86 degrees) However, all of the hurricanes passed
us by, with only hurricane parties and some "torrential rains" to mark
did a Hurricanes 2006 page, but the season was
pretty boring. The 2007 season is beginning ant is covered here.