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#207845 - 09/12/06 06:36 AM 75 years ago - Hurricane 0304
Marty Offline
1931: Belize Storm Toll in the Hundreds

International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON: Five hundred persons are reported to have lost their lives and hundreds more to have been rendered homeless by a hurricane of unusual violence which swept over Belize, chief town and port of British Honduras last night [Sept. 10], and which today was moving slowly along the coast toward Yucatan. San Juan, Porto Rico, in the path of another tropical storm, also suffered extreme damage. Scores of dwellings are reported to have been unroofed by the high winds. The second storm was reported to be heading in the direction of Haiti. From its consular agent in Belize the state department has received this telegram: - "Authorities advise casualties unascertained, but should run into hundreds. Few buildings left intact."



The worst hurricane in the country's recent history demolished Belize Town on September 10, 1931, killing more than 1,000 people and destroying at least three-quarters of the housing. The British relief response was tardy and inadequate. The British government seized the opportunity to impose tighter control on the colony and endowed the governor with reserve powers, or the power to enact laws in emergency situations without the consent of the Legislative Council. The Legislative Council resisted but eventually passed a resolution agreeing to give the governor reserve powers in order to obtain disaster aid. Meanwhile, people in the town were making shelters out of the wreckage of their houses.

Angel Nunez:

Hurricane 0304 of 1931 struck Belize on September 10". The hurricane center carried winds of 130 miles per hour and the eye hit land some 25 miles north of Belize City, around Caye Caulker and San Pedro. In Belize City, people were dragged out to sea and some 3000 persons lost their lives. In San Pedro, six thatch houses remained standing.


In the year 1931, hurricanes were not named but referred to by the year and month. That year Belize was getting ready to celebrate the 10th day of September, The Battle of Saint George’s Caye. There was a beautiful sky, and all the people, adults and school children, were on the streets of Belize City getting ready for the big parade. Suddenly, the lovely blue sky turned gray and threatening, and a storm brew up. In a short while, the hurricane of 1931 was ravaging Belize City and again in San Pedro most thatch houses were flattened.

This one was unpredictable because there was no effective communication with weather stations to forewarn us of the approaching hurricane. And how come the sky can be so clear and lovely and suddenly a storm is upon you? Hurricanes are indeed unpredictable.



The 1931 season was below average in terms of tropical cyclone formation. Nine tropical cyclones formed during the year, but only two reached hurricane status, and one reached major hurricane status. This one reached 125 mph, a category 3 hurricane, and hit Belize, killing approximately 2,500 people. Another tropical cyclone hit Belize and continued into Mexico.


#207846 - 09/12/06 07:25 AM Re: 75 years ago - Hurricane 0304
Short Offline
Was checking out the new Google News Archive search the other day, and came across this:

What Spiders Know

Posted Monday, Sep. 21, 1931
The big silk spiders of Bermuda have been weaving their skeins on low bushes and shrubs this summer instead of up in the trees and telephone poles. Any sapient Bermudian knows what that means: a hurricane season.

As early as two weeks ago the national observatory at Havana announced that there was a big blow brewing in the Caribbean. No one at Belize paid any attention to the warning. Instead, one afternoon last week the citizenry turned out to watch a parade of school children marching in a pageant to celebrate the 133rd year of Honduran independence from Spain. While the children, black and white, with happy faces and stiff white clothes, filed up the sunny street, a whirling havoc of wind was winding up over the southeastern horizon at a deliberate gait of 35 m. p. h. Then the wind increased in velocity, contorted, smashed into Belize at 2:30 p. m. with the vindictive shriek and speed of a racing plane.

Black constables shouting cockney rushed among the people, trying to get them indoors. The first impact struck the Jesuit mission on the shorefront, lifted it, sifted it through its invisible hands like a pack of cards. There perished ten priests. They had come a long way to die: from St. Louis, from Buffalo, Cleveland. Cincinnati, Superior and Racine (Wis.), Reading (Pa.), from Ireland, from Spain.

Manager Beattie, local agent of the far-flung Royal Bank of Canada, was out riding. The blast lifted his horse from under him. Manager Beattie crawled on the ground, clung to groaning trees. A liquor warehouse burst. Bottles of whiskey rolled into the door of the nearby U. S. consulate. Consul G. Russel Taggart was stunned by a falling piece of roofing metal.

Belize was founded by British pirates. The name Belize was unaccountably derived by Spaniards from the name of the Scottish Settler Wallis. Legend relates that the city was built in a swamp on a foundation of gin pots and mahogany chips. If this is so, it would have been better if the city's fathers had thrown in a few more pots and chips, for Belize is only a few inches above sealevel. Out of this circumstance came the second and far more horrible tragedy.

There was a lull in the storm. The superintendent of police went about warning the city that another, more vicious blow was expected momentarily. It came sooner than he expected. With it came a tidal wave. It poured over the city its mammoth salty blanket. It knocked the police officer's car spinning, drowned him. It seated a 200-ton vessel on the customs house roof. It demolished nearly every house in town.

As usual in Central American catastrophes, Pan American Airways got the news out to the world first. The dead were originally reported at 150, then at 400, later at 700. When the known toll reached 1,000 (Belize had 13,000 inhabitants), the authorities stopped counting, looked for corpses no longer. It would have been impossible to bury them before they started spreading disease. Bodies already found were dumped into convict-dug trenches. The rest were thrown on pyres made of badly demolished buildings, including the Jesuit college where many unidentified victims must have been killed.

Up from Nicaragua roared two U. S. Marine planes carrying medical relief. They had a hard time landing in the rubble. Out of Colon sped the U. S. cruiser Rochester. The gunboat Sacramento set out at once from Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, and the minesweeper Swan steamed up from Trujillo, Honduras, with food, water, bandages. Out of Kingston, Jamaica, raced H. M. S. Danae to help her own people.

At Belize, Governor Sir John Burdon surveyed his demolished town, pondered abandoning it, building a new city farther back from the bay on a piney ridge. As soon as the Belize river could be cleared of bodies and debris, native inhabitants in small boats started upcountry. Through a fetid atmosphere of stranded, rotting fish, whole families made the journey to escape threatened pestilence and famine in the ruined city. Better, they thought, take a chance in the jungle.

Most of the recent big blows from the Caribbean have been in September. It is not unusual for an equinoctial storm to beat the calendar by a week or so (autumnal equinox: Sept. 22). Florida's last two bad ones (1926, 1928) came in September, also Porto Rico's (1928), Santo Domingo's (1930). Cuba's last serious hurricane struck in October 1926.

Less than seven hours after the Belize blow, a second hurricane bore up from the southeast on San Juan, P. R. Governor Theodore Roosevelt Jr. had just left for the U. S. The wind lasted 45 min., killed two, knocked out communications for a day, slightly damaged the grapefruit crop, burst in the windows and thoroughly soaked "La Fortaleza," Governor Roosevelt's mansion.

For a while Cuba thought she might be struck. But the hurricane bumped off the mountains of Haiti, spun up and out, vanished and spent itself over the tumbling Caribbean.

A third hurricane, off the western coast of Mexico, threatened, did not materialize.

Live and let live

#207847 - 09/13/06 05:01 AM Re: 75 years ago - Hurricane 0304
Short Offline
In one of my pic searches (I collect old digital Belize and AC pics - started way back as a bet with a friend), I found this Bradley-album online about the aftermath of the 1931 hurricane.

Live and let live

#207848 - 09/13/06 05:02 AM Re: 75 years ago - Hurricane 0304
Short Offline
And these are the last one's (can't post more than 8 at the time)

Live and let live

#207849 - 09/13/06 01:58 PM Re: 75 years ago - Hurricane 0304
JZB Offline
Thanks for sharing! Great photos. I can't imagine what it would have been like to go through that back then. WOW.

#207850 - 09/13/06 11:50 PM Re: 75 years ago - Hurricane 0304
Marty Offline
WOW is right. thanks for finding those short.

#207851 - 09/16/06 12:58 PM Re: 75 years ago - Hurricane 0304
GailM Offline
Short, can you provide me with a link to the photos you found online? They look familiar, including the handwriting on some of them.
PS I am a Bradley and remember hearing my parents and grandparents talk about Parrish Hall and the '31 hurricane.

#207852 - 09/16/06 01:53 PM Re: 75 years ago - Hurricane 0304
Short Offline
Live and let live

#207853 - 09/16/06 10:14 PM Re: 75 years ago - Hurricane 0304
GailM Offline
Thanks Short, I sent the link to my sister and she said the same thing about the handwriting on some of the pictures...it looks like my grandfather's.


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