Once Upon A Time
by Emory King
Some new stats on the 1931 Hurricane
Two important events occurred on the 10th of September. The first, of course, was the Battle of St. George’s Caye in 1798, which guaranteed that Belize would be for us and not for Mexico or Guatemala.
The second was the disastrous hurricane that hit Belize Town on September 10th 1931. It killed 2,000 people, wrecked the Colony’s economy and forced us to accept veto power by the Governor over the Legislative Council.
We were prepared and ready for the Battle of St. George’s Caye. We were not prepared or ready for the hurricane.
For more than 50 years we have heard that the hurricane came without any warning. The storm hit while thousands of people were in the streets preparing for parades to celebrate St. George’s Caye Day.
We have been told a lie all these years.
Two weeks after the storm, on the 24th September, the Superintendent of the Wireless Station wrote a letter to the Colonial Secretary:
“…… First intimation of the storm was received on Tuesday the 8th, when a warning was broadcast that a tropical disturbance had appeared 150 miles south of Jamaica, moving west-north west.
“On Wednesday the 9th an advisory from Washington confirmed that the storm was heading west-north-west. At 10:45 p.m. Wednesday, New Orleans reported that the storm had become a hurricane and would pass over British Honduras Thursday afternoon. I took the information to the Telephone Exchange to warn the southern towns.
“On Thursday morning, the 10th, at 6:45 Washington advised that the hurricane would strike British Honduras. At 8:20 several ships reported they were fleeing into Puerto Castille and La Ceiba. At 9 a.m. the hurricane was reported off Honduras and heading west.
“Copies of these reports were sent to the Harbour Master and various shipping companies. Copies were also posted at the Bridge Foot.
“At 10:30 a.m. advice was received that the hurricane would reach Belize in the afternoon. It was then sent out by telephone to all possible authorities.
“The wind began to increase; by 3 p.m. it was 132 miles per hour.”
At 3:44 p.m. the wind gauge blew off the building.
This serious information could have saved many lives if the authorities had warned the people, but they decided not disrupt the celebrations.
Bishop Joseph Murphy reported afterwards: “Officials, businessmen and clergy were notified and the news made them anxious and nervous. It was thought better to defer the announcement to the public and the day’s programme was not called off.”