Tonight Mahahual and surrounding communities - including Corozal - are preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Ernesto.
The Category one storm is packing winds of 85 miles per hour and will make landfall later tonight - in the next few hours.
Luckily for Belize, the strongest winds are concentrated to the north of the storm - which is good for Corozal and San Pedro - those communities presently lie to the southeast of it.
And thinking of storm skirting past northern Belize in August - one has to think of Hurricane Dean in 2007. That was a monster: a category five storm that - again - landed at Mahahual and flattened it, even crumpling steel girders. With winds of 175 miles per hour you'd expect that - and Corozal was at the tail end of it. Jules Vasquez and cameraman Alex Ellis spent an intense night there when Dean was making landfall - and for some context on this storm - we go back to that 2007 report:..
5 years ago tonight, category 5 storm Hurricane Dean made landfall just
north of Chetumal. It was a vicious storm, and hurricane force winds ripped
through Orange Walk and Corozal. Our team was in the center of the fury and
looking back at that night, here’s what it was like.
Jules Vasquez Reporting,
It's a scene captured at 6:00 this morning, and it looks almost placid - sheets
of rain billowing across Corozal Town and coconut trees lashed by gusts from
Hurricane Dean. And while it may look pretty - these are 75 mile an hour winds
with gusts of 100 miles an hour or more - and if you don't believe just look
at the fallen zinc sheets. By 6:00 am when these images were taken those very
powerful winds had been going for 3 hours. We first felt the tropical storm
force breeze picking up at about 2:00 am when I first felt its sting.
It's 2:15 am in Corozal Town and this forecasters say is not the worst
of the breeze. They say the worst of the breeze will be here in about an hour to two hours time but right now, it is almost unbearable. One can hardly stand
in it, the rain is coming in sheets, and we're going back inside.
A few minutes later - we were at the bay.
We're here at the Bay and what residents have been talking about for hours
is that the water has actually receded from the Bay. If we shine the light down
there, you can actually see where the waters have receded. You can see the money
sea bottom surface where the water has receded. Usually water is up here, it
is rolling with waves on any average day but actually, as I said earlier, the
breeze is blowing in the opposite direction and it is actually blowing the water
back away from the shore.
And while the Bay looked ominous - on the roadways it was scary.
It's ten minutes to three. This is the San Andres Road and this is the
strongest wind we've felt so far. As you can see, branches are starting to break
off here. These are from a tree on the road. Any tree that overhangs the road
is likely to have branches broken off and they are strewn across the road. But
again its only ten minutes to three and landfall is not expected until about
3:30 or 4 so we are still an hour away and these strong winds are already snapping
But it was calm inside the DEMO Office where Major James Requena was in charge.
Major James Requena, Corozal - DEMO
"In Corozal we are experiencing winds in excess of 75 miles an hour
and these are still remnants of the tropical storm winds. Within the next half
an hour to an hour, we should start experiencing hurricane force winds."
Three hours later those hurricane force winds would continue to bear down on
Corozal they had diminished slightly but we could see the effects of three hours
of pounding in shattered roofs, fallen trees, zinc shorn from rooftops, and
other curled back like pieces of paper.
It was supposed to have been a fast moving storm. It was supposed to have
flashed over Corozal Town in a quick time but it didn't. These winds, and in
fact winds much stronger than this, have been battering this town for three
solid hours. In fact what you see behind me now is the subsiding of these winds.
We've been inside for the past two and a half hours because we simply could
not come outside because the winds were too strong.
And even after 6:00 with those subsided winds, walking down the corridor to
get to the street was hard with the wind's tunneling effect. And when we did
get down, the sting was worse.
While the storm beat this town for three hours last night, the fact is
that many of the lampposts, most of what we can see here in Corozal, are still
standing. This is four hours after the strong breezes starting coming. Its 7
in the morning and there are still pounding. Residents say Chantal was not nearly
as strong as this. Let's go.
Those very strong winds would continue until 7 am.
Again, that was Hurricane Dean on August 21st 2007 - tonight we are at August 7th, 2012, just short of five years later and the Category one Hurricane Ernesto will soon make landfall - again, at Mahahual.
We have a team in Corozal at this hour - though things are still calm in that northern town right now.
We'll have a full report of all that happened and didn't happen in tomorrow's news.
Join us then - and until then stay safe and count your blessings - and keep watching channel 7 for regular weather reports….
Join me back here tomorrow.