In October, it rains in Belize. Two weeks ago some visitors to Belize remarked about the rainy season here. When it rains in Belize, it rains! They complained. Most people who know Belize didn’t see anything extraordinary about the weather; until the rains really started falling.

On the banks of the Upper Belize River, farmers watched and waited for the rains to abate. In years past, even though it has been a wet year, for fear of floods they probably would already have harvested their corn. But, since the construction of the Mollejon, and recently the Chalillo Dam, the district has not seen a flood large enough (eight years, farmers say) to threaten their valuable crops. With the cost of energy (for drying) so high, farmers, secure in the knowledge that floods were no longer a problem, leave their crops in the field for as much sun drying as possible.

But, the weather has not been so cooperative this year. It has been raining off and on for about a month. Farmers couldn’t wait any longer, so last week they started taking in their corn. Then the rains started fu real.

Tropical Depression # 16, which formed near the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras last week, opened its clouds over Belize at a bad time.

On the 16th of October, the BAHA Met Station at Central Farm recorded 29.9mm of rain. On the morning of the 17th they recorded 85.5mm. On the 18th they recorded 12.8mm, and on the 19th, 33.4mm. In just four days, from the 16th to the 19th of October, 161.6 mm, or approximately 6.3 inches of water, fell at Central Farm.

With the country already at “field capacity”, saturation, the earth could not take any more water. The Chalillo Dam, already at the high water mark, couldn’t take any more. The rivers and creeks, already full, couldn’t take anymore.

The Mopan Branch, from Guatemala, swelled up. By Friday noon, October 17, Benque Viejans in San Ignacio and Santa Elena and other points east of home were warned that the Macal had climbed its banks and was inching over the Western Highway at Succotz.

The Macal Branch, from the Maya Mountains, also swelled up. It overflowed its banks in San Ignacio and Santa Elena and submerged the “other” bridge linking the Twin Towns. On the weekend the bridge at Bullet Tree Falls also went under.

The two swollen rivers met at the regular confluence at Branch Mouth, dumping tons of water into the Belize River. With the ground not able to take any more water, the rainfall from Depression # 16 raced across the ground, in sheets, into Iguana Creek and Barton Creek and Kingston Creek and Quaco Creek and Roaring Creek and a hundred other creeks, all emptying into the Belize River.

By Friday night, farmers along the Upper Belize River knew that it was the worst for their crops.

On Friday, the bridge at Iguana Creek which links Spanish Lookout and Blackman Eddy near the Western Highway, went under the flood, shutting down the flow of oil and farm products from that area. On Monday the oil tankers still were not running, but Calvin Reimer of Spanish Lookout was crossing frozen chicken parts in a motorized skiff over a “lake” a little more than five hundred yards across. While over two dozen farmers stood on the south bank (the Blackman Eddy side) waiting to cross over to the other bank.

Across the swollen river, on the north bank (the Spanish Lookout side), the last standing part of an ill-fated bridgehulked more than ten feet above the murky waters. Less than two months from completion, the bridge went under when an early flood roared down. The massive pillars standing in the center of the river tumbled to the river floor. Giant trees uprooted by the raging river smashed into and destroyed the incomplete foundation on the south bank. And the dream of an all-weather bridge spanning the Belize River at Iguana Creek was no more.

The Belize River started backing up into Roaring Creek early last week. By Sunday night the one bridge linking the greater part of Cayo with the rest of the country, was under one foot of water. At noon on Monday the water over the Roaring Creek Bridge was rising slowly, but it was still passable for light trucks and bigger vehicles.

A few miles to the northwest of Roaring Creek, the massive Agripino Cawich Bridge (114 meters long) at Young Bank on the Belize River, remains the only bridge in Cayo, besides the Hawkesworth (which links San Ignacio/Santa Elena), that is riding clear of the river. On Monday noon it was still clear of the flood by over ten feet.

The flood of October, 2008, is not yet over. It is still raining in the Cayo District and the Met Service has cautioned that more weather might be coming our way. To the moment this flood is not the biggest tap gyalan (top gallant) Cayoans have seen since Hurricane Hattie, but the economic damages will be huge. Hundreds of acres of crops along the river bank have gone under. In the days to come we will learn the sad story in dollars and cents about the extent of the damage to our corn, citrus and other fruits, ground food, and vegetables.

Across the country flood waters are rising. In the Lower Belize River Valley, and elsewhere in the land, farmers also expect the worst for their crops.