The flood waters in the Grace Bank area rose steadily at a rate of about 0.5 inches per hour during the week leading up to Thursday 23rd. October 2008. Between Thursday morning and Monday morning the waters rose a little more than 3 feet and between Monday morning and Wednesday morning the water rose by a total of 0.75 inches and has been holding steady up to Thursday afternoon. The water has been rising on the western side of the northern highway and flowing through culverts (mainly through the Mexico Creek Culvert at Mile 20 1/4) into the catchment area on the eastern side of the Northern Highway (Mexico Lagoon - the area between the NEW Northern Highway and the OLD Northern Highway i.e. Maskall, Bomba, Lucky Strike area). On Monday culverts could no longer handle the volume of water and the water started flowing over the highway in the Mexico Creek culvert area. On Monday there was a difference of about 18 inches between the water on the Water on the Eastern and Western sides of the highway. That differenial as been decreasing as the Eastern side continues to rise - yesterday the differenial was less than a foot. The net result of this event has been that the water on the western (river) side of the highway has been holding steady while the waters on the eastern side (Maskall area) has been rising. When the two sides level off (which should be soon - i.e. within the next day or two) it is possible that the water level on the western (river) side will begin to rise again. My next report will be on Saturday 1st. November. I expect these flood waters to take at least a month to flow of.
Many of the city dwellers, city slickers, expats, and non-resident members would not, and indeed could not begin to appreciate the extent of the devastation to these communities mostly in the "Belize River Valley".
The upshot of all this is the general positive demeanor of the people of the river valley. They seem to be happy and if i may add, even cleansed. You have to have lived the rural life to understand what i mean.
Second, do you really give this thing a month to regularize? I've seen and lived thru the "top gallon" flood some 30 years ago in the Belize River Valley as i was a student living with my parents in Boom. Getting to school (BTC) was a challenge to say the least but i digress. Suffice to say the high water went away in a couple of weeks after the rains held up and things got back to normal rather quickly...without any great deal of government handouts. There was an old American who did a great deal to help out folks along the river in the valley. His name was John Little John..."wild old fella" with an imposing frame and rural Texas styled cowboy attitude...that was 30 years ago mind you.
The folks along that river are tough as nails and positive as hell.
Third, expect the prices of fruits & veggies to rise a bit but only in the extreme short term.
Channel 5's broadcast yesterday said the water is still rising in the Belize City environs. Several places on the Northern and Western highways are still flooded although traffic can get by very slowly. Some buses are having to unload their passengers before driving through the flooded areas and the people have to walk through the water and then reload. A lot of hotels, resorts, etc. are totally out of action and won't be back up for at least a month. They interviewed the owner of Black Orchid and his place really got soaked and some rooms are still under water. He's having to cancel reservations and refund money so this is really going to hurt. Jaguar Paw said they have lost $80,000 USD already. They are still not doing cave tours even though the government said they could because "it's just not safe."
Frankly if we get over this event in a month's time I would consider it a miracle. From Maypen village down to Bakers ranch ( a stretch of about 10 miles) along the Belize River there is no dry land except for a few (VERY FEW) islands - ALL the houses along the riverside are sitting in water. All of the houses ground floors are flooded out. My colleague's, Mike Dawson, house is the only house in Grace Bank/Davis bank whose ground floor is not under water and he has to worry when a dory passes because the water is less than an inch from entering his ground floor. In the entire Grace Bank/Davis bank village there is one small island which measured less than 200 square feet on Monday - on Thursday it was within an inch of being covered. On my farm which I toured in a small skiff yesterday I found one dry spot less than 10 square feet in the entire 20 acres or so that we have developed and planted. Even when the flood waters recede we will have to deal with the 2 or more inches of mud that will remain on the land and will probably take a very LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time to dry out then the reemergence of the flora (grasses etc.) will take another long time. Yesterday we sat on the balcony/rooftop and watched schools of tilapia swimming in the citrus orchard.
The water level in the Grace Bank/Davis Bank area has been holding steady since Wednesday. The water is now across the Northern Highway between Mexico Creek Culvert (Mile 20 1/4) for about a mile up to the entrance to Gardenia. The water is about 15 inches in the deepest areas but is not running fast as the levels on both sides of the highway have now equalized. Bakers Ranch is flooded out and they have moved all their vehicles unto the Northern Highway and now travel by small skiff from the highway to the ranch. There is a small amount of water across the Highway at mile 17 - about a hundred yards and about 4 inches deep. Other than that stretch there is no more water on the Highway until one crosses the Haulover Bridge where the conditions can only be describe as nasty. Water across the highway all the way from the bridge area up to Maheia's (near Biltmore). The water is about 12 inches in the highest spots and most of the Highway between the bridge and Biltmore has been undermined and is washed away in many areas with huge craters. MOW has put in a new culvert in the area and are apparently planning to put in more - the new culvert is helping aleady. Belama Phases 3 and 4 are flooded out - I went in Friday night to tow out a vehicle that had run into a ditch - the water was 2 feet plus in some areas that I went through. I am still predicting that the water in the Belize River valley will be around for a good while then the mud will take over.
Had lunch yesterday with current Minister of Works and a past Minister of Works and an 81 yr old man who lived at Gabourel Bank. They said there were 6 bridges between Biltmore and the Haulouver and another 13 from there to the Intl. The water used to drain under these bridges and out to the sea. Now houses stand where the water once drained. Another factor is the Haulover Creek, once deep enough for large boats, but hasn't been dredged since the late 70's and is only a few ft deep in some areas, a few feet wide in other areas. My street in Belama II is fine and water levels in the creek seem to be steady. But this is more water than anyone has seen before.
As reported on Saturday the flood waters peaked in the Grace Bank/Davis Bank area on Wednesday last. The water level held steady until Sunday night when it started to recede. By noon on Tuesday 4th. November the water had fallen a grand total of 6 inches and continues to fall at a rate of 0.25 inch per hour. At this rate I expect the farm to be out from under the current 18 inches of water by Saturday. The water on the Grace Bank feeder road was measured at 6 feet at the deepest level on the road - i.e. the road is currently covered with 6 feet of flood waters. At the current rate that the water is falling large 4 wheel drive diesel vehicles should be able to reach Grace bank within the next 2 weeks but Davis Bank will continue to be inaccessible by road since the Mexico Creek Bridge will still be under water. The water level on the Northern Highway in the Gardenia area has fallen and the water is now only covering the road in a few spots - the water is expected to be off the highway completely by Thursday. Th area between the Haulover Bridge and the Biltmore Hotel continues to be a nightmare - it takes about 15 minutes to drive from Haulover Bridge to Brodies on the northern Highway. The road is badly deteriorated and MOW continues to throw fill on the road to keep it open. This area is expected to start improving by this weekend.
In Belize City, the Ministry of Works is working on raising sections of the Northern Highway where commuters have been experiencing long delays. For the past 3 days it has been taking, in some cases, at least 2 hours to journey through the degraded sections between Mile 4 and the Haulover Bridge. The improvements are widely anticipated, but until then, an early start is advised when travelling along those areas on the highway.
On Tuesday the water level of the Belize River was receding at the rate of 0.25" per hour. Between Tuesday morning and Saturday morning ( a 4 day period) the water level fell by a grand total of 10" or an average of 2.5" per day ( about 0.1 inch per hour). At this rate the it will take another 2 weeks before Grace Bank will be accessible by road even in high 4 WD Diesel vehicles. Davis Bank will not be accessible by road for another 4 weeks or so. If we do not get any rains for the next 6 weeks we will be lucky if the water level returns to normal before christmas. The farm is still under 6 inches of water at the shallowest parts. A preliminary assessment reveals a loss of 3 acres of Coconut plants (240 trees), 2 Acres of Plantain (800 plants), 36 Citrus plants, 0.25 acres of Macal (Coco) and 0.25 acres of cassava - a total dollar value of about $12,000.00BZD. The northern Highway is free of water and the MOW is doing a great job of keeping the raffic flowing between Biltmore and the Haulover Bridge.