Hurricane Mitch- Monday
The number for the "Belize task force" at the US State Dept. is 202-647-6614, 6616 and 6617 in case you want to call and demand help.
EVERYONE: contact your local news agencies, to try to pressure forces to get the people off the island. Give the news folks my email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and phone: 541-686-0277 if they need more information. ANY HAM OPERATORS IN SAN PEDRO OR THE BELIZE AREA THAT ARE ON THE NET, PLEASE CONTACT ME SO IF THE PHONES GO DOWN WE CAN CONTINUE TO SUPPLY INFORMATION. ANYONE know any ham frequencies in use currently?
In my flight out of San Pedro, we flew less than 1000 feet to Municipal and there were a number of boats (water shuttle style) heading towards Belize - could not confirm whether they were in fact water shuttle services but they were loaded with individuals. There were also three heading back towards the northern cayes.
On the way from Municipal to International, heard a press release on the radio by the head of the BDF who stated that they were initiating evacuation procedures from San Pedro - using both aircraft and water vessels. In fact, a Defender aircraft did land on the island right before we took off. I would assume that this would continue as long as the conditions allow.
To tune in to get pics, tracking forecasts, and up-to-date storm info if you are on the island and still have power, Chetumal Channel 7 is doing an excellent job!! And you don't need cable!!
The little beaches we have are almost all washed away even though Mitch is still 300 hundred miles away. We just got back from taking a last tour of our home island before heading for the mainland tomorrow. San Pedro looks like a ghost town, almost everyone has evacuated and all businesses are closed. The homes have been sealed up with plywood, etc. and the streets are practically flooded and a lot of sea grass is beginning to show up all over the beaches. We went to some of the shopping centers this afternoon to get some supplies and the shelves were empty. Everyone seems pretty well prepared at this point and I hope San Pedro is not to devastated after this humongous hurricane.
Tropic Air moved over 1000 passengers, Maya Island probably moved another 600, my the Thunderbolt ran 3 trips with 55-60 passenger, the Andrea ran a couple of times, water taxis from Caye Caulker were transporting passengers all day, the Maritime Wing took 5 boat loads and individual families with bigger boats headed to Belize City and Corozal, so I guess this can give you an idea that people were not kidding in terms of getting off this island. My Dad's yard where the boat is kept was filled up and so were the other places where people could get on a plane or boat to evacuate.
Planes stopped flying as of yesterday. People were lined up on Texaco pier and Tackle Box Pier waiting for boats which never came today. They are expecting 3 boats tomorrow. His son, Chris, is still there. At 1PM I spoke with Melly Kumel and she said it was confusing- they didn't know how they would get out with all the lines at the docks. She told me the TV had been cut off and they have no news about the hurricane on the island. That's all I know. Everyone else I called seems to be gone.
The weather at 5PM Monday was rainy, waves and no wind.
Not expecting much of an increase in wind tonight. 3/4ths of the island's population (tourist and resident) evacuated. I am still here. If Mitch does turn to the North we will stay, if not, then we will go.
It's one VERY impressive storm. I'm still answering emails about tee shirts and diving, though, even though the business is shut down for the storm!! What a total professional I am!! I might not HAVE a business (or anything else for that matter) in 3 days!
Looking VERY closely at all forecast models for Mitch, hoping for the northward turn.
If we come out of this relatively unscathed I will post that information accordingly on the message board. If the storm hits us close or dead on, I won't be able to post THAT information! There will be nothing left.
It's like looking down the barrel of a gun, except this "gun" releases the power of a large atomic bomb...every second.
Caye Caulker was experiencing some equally weather on Sunday, believed to be an outer, outer band from Hurricane Mitch. Most of the residents of Caye Caulker village, just a mile inside the barrier and 21 miles from the mainland coast have cable television and were and are able to see the weather and photos on television in their homes. So, they are well informed.
However, this morning, there was panic as a strong set of outer feeder bands hit the Cayes and barrier reef islands this morning, but not the mainland. Front street in many places was under water with the tidal surge and this from a Hurricane that is still a long way away. About two hundred miles. Though it could reach Belize in 6 hours, if it suddenly speeded up, like Hurricane Andrew did to Miami, when it was in the Atlantic the other side of the Bahamas some 300 miles away.
Needless to say, the water taxi operators were having a field day. Chartering a boat was the only way to get off the island and town. You better have money. The town itself is over 300 to 400 houses and commercial tourist places. The population is about 1000 to 1500 people, though this is the tourist off season and many of the Rastafarans and other mainland short term competitors leave the island when the tourist season is dead. Only the residents stay through the offseason, year round.
There was a big concerted rush this morning to get out of the island. Everybody had planned to do so Monday anyway, but with the higher wind gusts from the mornings real feeder band from Hurricane Mitch and a first tidal surge rise, flooding the front beach lots up to Front Street and across, the residents decided en masse to leave.
Three friends are going to Ladyville to stay with an Aunt, this is about 11 miles up the road on the northern highway, near the radio towers. Probably not a good choice, but better than the island. The sea could reach there, but unlikely.
A friend from Dangriga, whereabouts currently unknown. She was at the International Airport on standby, and all the flights were full. Whether from regular scheduled bookings from Honduras and Salavador, I don't know. But since these countries are further away from Miami and pay more for their tickets, Belize usually gets a minimal allocation of seats anyway and often in high season, get hardly any at all. So whether the flights were full because of people fleeing the projected disaster area, or just because the airlines make more money by selling to Honduras citizens, is a moot point. Expect to hear shortly what happened.
In the meantime, Hurricane Mitch now the fourth strongest storm to be recorded in 118 years of recorded history, either in the Pacific, or Atlantic had tightened up to a Category 5 with wind gusts clocked at 205 mph.
The Hurricane is now about level with Belize City or close to it in latitude. That means if it continues north west, the Yucatan would get hit. But Hurricane Hattie in 1961 followed the same path, on the same dates and bounced off Cuba and reversed, or was pushed down by a norther in the Gulf of Mexico and came back to wop Belize City and a big section of Belize very hard. So there are no guarantees for a long time yet, until this thing gets into the Gulf of Mexico.
They are evacuating Consejo tomorrow. Here in Xaibe, the old couple that are my neighbors (in their 80's); who live in a veritable lean to; have been gathered up and taken to safety. So social order is still the rule of the day here in Xaibe.
I just finished sailing Ray's old boat up the New River lagoon -- to the Ranchito cut-off.
There was supposed to be a number sail boats going together. With one 26 ft skiff to bring us all back. It kept postponing and I continually checked during the day. Finally I notice that the principle "movers" were all getting drunk!! In fact, there seems to be more people drinking -- this Monday -- than there was for Independence day. By this time, one had to drive very carefully, -- plenty of stumbling drunks.
By 3:00 PM, I was still sober and motivated. Many folks had convinced themselves that the hurricane is not a threat to Corozal. The hell!! I powered up the Honda machine and sailed the boat out with my two son-in-laws -- towing my 12 ft aluminum "pond fishing" skiff behind.
The Mouth of the New River Lagoon was really a torment. Waves splashing over side of the boat, and this great sucking into the depths by the fierce currents of the seriously flooded lagoon. Strange -- we had no heavy rains here!!
The water was full of mud -- just swirling like huge clouds. There were little whirlpools spring up all ever. The mangrove roots were all tilted at pronounced angles with the water surging through. Once I stopped the boat -- just to listen. A low background sound, like a 747 taking off with no mufflers 5 miles away. Very softly, almost in the background -- but strangely, coming from all directions. That was the current passing through the mangroves.
Once we reached the Ranchito cut-off and traveled up that branch, the current ceased. But water levels are high. I scouted out a good spot -- but what do I know about it?? I was supposed to do as the rest!! We chopped out way into this thick grove in deep water to the bank. This included getting the mast in. I then tied (with my standard "granny" knot -- these 3/4 " nylon cords from four points at about 6 ft above the water line to the trunks of big mangroves.
Now, nearing total darkness, 1/2 way across the bay we see the beginning of a fleet of fishing boats -- heading up the lagoon. Boy, I wish them luck in the Dark!! The darkest! With a tricky current. Go figure!!
We then wrestled the machine from the boat to the very light skiff. Back we went. It was now 5:10 PM -- and getting dark -- especially with all the heavy cloud cover. These light skiff flip so easily in tricky seas. But is was down current and into the sea with just the right speed. The sunset (yes -- the Western Skies were Clear) had to be the most spectacular I ever have seen.
As of mid-day Tuesday, communications with Honduras, Guatemala and Belize were difficult, as telephone lines were down or circuits clogged.
A mandatory evacuation order for San Pedro was ordered on Monday, according to reports from Belize quoting the head of the Belize Defence Forces. Late Monday the BDF was providing some airlift from the Barbados-size island which is separated from the Yucatan by only a narrow channel. San Pedro is Belize‰s most-popular resort destination. Including tourists, the island has a population of more than 3,000.
Residents of Sarteneja and other areas of northern Belize also were told to evacuate to safer inland areas. Channel 7 television in Chetumal, Mexico, has been providing regular reports on the storm‰s progress.
Residents of the Bay Islands, low-lying coastal areas and flood-prone zones of Honduras also have been ordered evacuated. However, Honduras, one of the Western Hemisphere‰s poorest nations, does not have the resources to evacuate and protect all those in danger areas.
Reports from the Caribbean Coast on Monday and early Tuesday indicate that there is concern but no widespread panic. In Belize, as many as 60,000 people were trying to get to higher ground in western Belize.
TACA reportedly has added additional flights out of Belize City, and Continental is using larger equipment. The U.S. Embassy has chartered a special flight to get U.S. citizens out of the country before the storm hits.
At least one cruise ship, the M.S. Phantome, which had been along the coast of Honduras, had deposited its nearly 100 passengers at the international airport in Belize City where on Monday they were waiting for flights, according to reports from Belize television station Channel 5. The ship then put back out to sea to ride out the storm.
The Belize and Honduras governments appear to be doing what they can to protect the lives both residents and tourists. Evacuations so far have been orderly. The new Belize prime minister, Said Musa, is out of the country, on a visit to Taiwan.
By Lan Sluder, BZEFIRST@aol.com Belize First Magazine