The Prediction of Hurricane Hattie

In his book entitled “Trespassers will be forgiven”, the author, C.H. Godden, the assistant to the Colonial Secretary of British Honduras in the early 60’s, wrote an interesting story about Hurricane Hattie I would like to share . Here is the excerpt:

“WAS THE PATH Hurricane Hattie took to British Honduras in 1961 determined entirely by chance, a caprice of nature as it were, or was it predestined and written in the stars? The question arises because a Jamaican Cassandra’s prophesy earlier in the year had been realized.”

“On taking up my duties in the secretariat, Michael Porcher (The Chief Secretary) told me a curious story – a story, as it turned out, with a purpose. He said that while passing through Jamaica on his way to take up his current appointment as chief secretary about two months earlier, he met an old lady who, on learning of his destination, told him that a terrible hurricane would strike the colony (British Honduras) later in the year (1961). Although he confessed to me that he was not unduly superstitious, he added that his instinct was to take the oracle’s warning seriously on the grounds that obeah (witchcraft) was prevalent among large sections of the Jamaican population and that the old lady who had approached him was possibly someone who practised that black art. To heed her warning, therefore, was to adopt a practical form of insurance cover. In the light of this I was told to take down and dust off the existing hurricane precautions plan and to bring it up to date ……….”

“By August the hurricane precautions plan had been fully revised, with procedures laid down and potential shelters included, strengthened or discarded on safety grounds. It was not long before the plan was put to the test because the first hurricane of the season, Anna, would shortly be moving towards British Honduras ……. the oracle had been right about the territory but hopelessly wrong about the impact. ………. Then, on 27 October, the Miami Weather Bureau began to issue reports that suggested that a powerful storm was brewing up in the southwest Caribbean that threatened Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cuba. ………It now seemed inevitable that the hurricane would hit the colony and hit it hard – and it did. “

“As for the prophesy with which this chapter began, who can tell if the sudden and surprising shift in the direction of Hurricane Hattie on 30 October was attributable to chance or destiny, whichever you call the mystery that governs our planet and our lives? The fact is that each year hurricanes occur in a roughly defined corridor with varying outcomes. And even if it is maintained that a particular event such as a hurricane is predestined, is there any reason to suppose that the information is registered in some sort of retrieval bank ready to be tapped into by someone practised in the art of witchcraft, or with the ability to read the stars, a crystal ball or tea leaves? ………..”