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San Pedro spared by Alex

The morning after Tropical Storm Alex passed over the country of Belize dawned hazy and overcast. A quick walk down the beach showed little to no damage on shore.
Lots of seagrass washed up...bring with it the requisite debris...
trees did lose a few branches and lots of leaves...
families are out scoping the aftermath, and finding that not much damage was done...
some areas eroded more than others...
the waves are a bit stronger, and the water level is higher...

One casualty that was located in the seagrass was this sea turtle...
A call was placed to Hol Chan...
The young man (and shy friend) who found the turtle...
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Took a ride around town and checked the beaches this morning; everything is FINE! Damage was confined to business signs, old piers and palapas and plenty of sea grass accumulated on the beach. Grateful it was not worse. The center of Tropical Storm Alex passed just north of Belize City and winds here in San Pedro were clocked at a maximum of 49.5mph.

A Bridesmaid called in on the Weather Channel this morning and said that her friend's wedding was still on for today. The rain is gone and a very nice tropical breeze is blowing into town. The SUN is out! What a great day after the storm. Lobster Fest in Placencia is going strong on its second day as is the island of Caye Caulker.

Business sign for Chuck and Robbie's Dive Shop found a block away

Plenty of Sea Grass all over the beaches

Shrine of the Virgin Mary was knocked down at this beach residence

The pool of The Phoenix gets a quick clean up

Residents hit the beach early in the morning for some interesting finds

Tourist go for a morning walk
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Belize City: It Blew Over "Like Wah Lee Breeze"

And it was much the same on Belize City where at 2:00 pm, word went out that the storm had shifted and was heading right for this major population center - and that it would make landfall in four hours!

For most it was too late to make disaster plans, and they simply didn't. And they got lucky because luckily Alex was a real bust. Our storm chaser, Monica Bodden flew from San Pedro to the city to see what havoc the storm would wreak, and she found, not much at all:....

Monica Bodden Reporting
At the 12:00 o clock forecast, the storm track suddenly shifted from northwest to west - and it was heading directly for the city with winds of at least 65 miles an hour projected to make landfall at 6:00 in the evening. That was unexpected and NEMO and the City Emergency Management Organization sprung into action by opening this shelter at Excelsior:

Roger Espejo - NEMO Coordinator, Bze City
"We are planning for flooding which is the primary concern; we are opening shelters on the south side."

This family was ready to go into the shelter

"Well we came because our house is like crackerjack it can't hold anything, it's a small house we live in and the house is not good, with the least thing it will go to the ground and leave us in there."

But what about other families in similar circumstances?

Roger Espejo
"Actually we have been very prepared for it, from yesterday we had a CEMO emergency meeting, CEMO had a meeting before that actually, so we are very prepared this time around."

They didn't seem very prepared though.

Jules Vasquez "Are we sending out an effective enough messages to say, listen; 65 miles an hour wind is coming, a lot of those wooden houses will not be able to withstand those types of winds"

Tom Morrison - Shelters Coordinator, Belize City
"I believe so, over the years we have been sending out that kind of message"

Jules Vasquez
"Immediately, in this immediate case?"

Tom Morrison
"Well, no, it has not been sent out, but we want to send that out right now"

It was too late but fortunately that 65 miles an hour never came and the city continued about at its usual late evening Saturday pace - no one was panicked, no one rushing to the shelter. Stores were opened for regular business so was this food vendor and tacos stand. At a few minutes 6:00 pm when the storm was supposed to be making landfall in Belize City this young man who lives near the Yabra bridge in front of the sea was walking on stilts - while his neighbors were playing basketball.

By 6:00 the rain started to come down - and while a few were stranded in it, most continued their shopping in the flooded streets - not buying emergency supplies, mind you, just their regular shopping. In fact it was so casual that around 6:30 when the storm was supposed to be making landfall these folks were at Yabra field which is on the sea front - inspired no doubt by world cup fever, playing football on the sea front!

Jane Usher Boulevard was flooded but that didn't stop this boy and his dog from turning the storm into an adventure and the shopping continued, just in umbrellas now. At 7:00 the coconut trees on north creek gave no signal of heavy winds and while the rain was coming down in sheets on Water lane. At the Vernon Street bridge near Lakeview Street - these youths were taking in the canal view. On Antelope extension this woman with child was rushing to a friend's house, not to a shelter. Around 8:00 here on the seafront you could see the winds picking up just slightly as the rain continued In the flood prone phase four area only this dog was the only one baying in despair. While on Mahogany Street, the late night shopping continued - these images taken at about 9:00 pm even as the street was flooded. But no matter the flood, at 9:00 Li Chee was still open and still had a line showing that this was a full service storm - all stores and businesses remained opened. Here on Flamboyant Street - we found one family returning from a failed search for an open shelter - but they didn't seem too worried that none was opened

"We are coming from St. Luke, we were just checking to see if they were open."

Monica Bodden
"Why? Is back of your area flooded?"

"No, not really, but we live beside the river."

Monica Bodden
"Beside the river side? In a bungalow house?"

"In a bungalow house, the house is ok, but we don't want to take any chances, they already said that they didn't want anyone running about at 12:00pm tonight"

And while they were enjoying the wind kicking up in the city, in Ladyville one family was in the shelter.

Michael Hutchinson, Area Rep, Belize Rural Central
"A part from flooding of the streets and drains, we only had to evacuate one family about half an hour ago and they felt that there house was unsafe, the Ladyville community centre is open from 3:00 o'clock, the Vice Chairman and the Chairman has opened that and so far only one family has taken refuge in the center and that is due to flooding, I think their house is built in a real low lying area and so they evacuate themselves and they are in the center presently. The wind was blowing and they felt that the house was unsafe, so they called and asked that we evacuate them and that we did, successfully about an half an hour ago or so"

Sebastian Hamilton - Shelter Seeker
"We were evacuated about 6:30 pm in the evening and came over here because the water was raising high were we live and my wife said for us to go to the shelter and this is the shelter that we always come to when the water raises and the weather is like this, we always come here because the water raise too high"

Monica Bodden
"How high was the water before you all decided to evacuate?"

Sebastian Hamilton
"Well the water reach me at my knee and my kids are small, we can't take that risk, my wife told me ' you feel how the breeze felt?' Later it will come more I told her. I am not sure about that."

But most were not that cautious.

Monica Bodden
"Its 11:00 O'clock and the tail wind of the storm is directly over us this is as bad as it has gotten in Belize City, with winds of upward of 30 miles per hour. Thankfully the storm didn't deliver the 65 miles per hour winds we all were expecting in the City, but the 30 plus winds I am experiencing now at the seaside is enough to knock me off my feet"

"And while I was nearly off my feet, everyone else was in their bed, sure there were a few flooded homes in low lying areas and a few old fences bent out of shape and in the end the story of this storm was just that, a story, for the media and not much else, thankfully".

Reporting for 7 news I am Monica Bodden.

By the end of the night, 50 people had gone to Excelsior which was the only shelter opened in Belize City. According to the city's NEMO coordinator - who did his assessment this afternoon, there was only a single report of structural damage in Belize City where a home on Partridge street extension received damage to its roof as an adjacent tree fell on it.

We'll have more on Tropical Storm Alex later as we visit the MET office to find out more about this puzzling storm which luckily did not deliver the winds that were forecast.

Channel 7

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Chief Met Officer traces the path of Alex

The first storm for this hurricane season, Alex, swept across Belize in a matter of six hours this past Saturday. Many headed to the supermarkets for last minute supplies, the winds were in the range of forty miles per hour, the rains poured down the heaviest after six o'clock, and while some areas are impassable, most people were prepared. NEMO and CEMO kicked in and in the end, the two had a good dry run for the rest of the hurricane season. Alex is now in the Gulf of Mexico and Chief Meteorologist Dennis Gonguez says the damages are minimal.

Dennis Gonguez, Chief Meteorologist

"Alex made land fall around five-thirty on Saturday and continued making landfall until after six that evening. At three p.m. hurricane hunters aircraft relocated a center nearer to Belize and from there on Alex moved inland and has continued its way, weakened across the Yucatan Peninsula and has re-developed into a Tropical Storm again over the south central Gulf of Mexico."

Jose Sanchez

"What was the maximum wind speed when it was crossing over Belize?"

Dennis Gonguez

Dennis Gonguez

"Well there was an observation from San Pedro that said forty miles per hour winds but we haven't confirmed those as yet."

Jose Sanchez

"Okay, I know the Coast Guard says on the seas they saw very high waves, but in terms of the water damage, was it only in the areas that are normally prone to floods?"

Dennis Gonguez

"A flyover was made yesterday and it only showed minimal damages around the country to the agriculture sector, to the infrastructure of the country and to the environment; just minimal damage. So the impact was not heavy."

Jose Sanchez

"So the flood waters that we saw particularly in some parts of Belize City is just something that is regular to those areas."

Dennis Gonguez

"Right, right. The rainfall we had from Tropical Storm Alex, the high was about nine inches at Barton Creek in the western part of the country throughout the whole scenario. Here at the International Airport we had about seven inches for the two to three days scenario."

Jose Sanchez

"In terms of the Doppler itself, how effective was it in just doing the forecast?"

Dennis Gonguez

"It was very effective. In fact the National Hurricane Center in Miami used our Doppler radar to get some fixes on Tropical Storm Alex. They checked into our website and they could have found fixes on where Alex was and how it was moving based on our Doppler Radar."

Channel 5

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Tropical Storm Alex spares life but leaves flooded streets

Alex has gained back strength and is again a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico. Locally, the highest amount of rain was registered in the south at Barton Creek. But on Saturday News Five's Jose Sanchez and cameraman, Alex Ellis took to the streets of the City to find out how the residents were faring.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Alex, the storm that was expected to hit Northern Belize and Mexico, made a diversion and went straight to Belize City at three p.m. The rains came in intervals and at six the wind picked up. A few people remained on the streets of the city, while the rain pummelled the old capital. By eight p.m. Freetown Road looked like a dark swimming pool. Two shops remained opened for business. The rising water began to creep its way into one store while Alex continued its downpour. At City Hall on North Front Street the City Emergency Management Operation, CEMO, was managing the situation for the district.

Zenaida Flowers, Chair, CEMO

Zenaida Moya

"We operate with ten sub-committees and each sub-committee of course is responsible for specific areas. Immediately when there is any idea of a tropical depression, storm, and hurricane; immediately we activate. And we have activated. I must say that our City Emergency Management Organization is prepared. We do meet monthly and hence the reason, we were able to activate immediately and have everything in place."

One of the areas affected by the rains was Jane Usher Boulevard. According to Mayor Flowers, the flood forced families out of their homes to one government shelter which was opened.

Jose Sanchez

"When is it the right time to open them? And have you had anyone in the shelters so far?"

Zenaida Moya

"We have opened Excelsior High School. We have twenty-nine shelterees there as at eight-fifteen p.m., twenty-nine persons there. The shelters would be opened when we see that the need arise. For example, if in fact we know that a particular area will be flooded, we already know that that particular shelter would be opened. We know then that the Jane Usher Boulevard area is a flood prone area."

While CEMO managed the situation on land, the military managed operations on the sea. And despite harsh weather conditions, the Coastguard was also called in to rescue two vessels off the coast of Belize.

Gregory Soberanis

Lt. Gregory Soberanis, Operations Officer, National Coast Guard

"The waves were extremely high, six to eight feet waves making visibility not nil, but visibility was just a few feet forward of the vessel due to the rain and the wind and the sea state. So conditions were very rough but our guys are trained, they are equipped and they are able to function in that type of environment. Early Saturday afternoon, the one was a little bit later on about thirty-thirty in the evening. The first call that we received was a vessel in the area of Bluefield Range, a thirty foot vessel with fourteen people on board. Immediately our search and rescue team was mobilized and was sent to the area to locate the vessel and individuals on board and were tasked to bring them in to safe harbour in Belize City. Our search and rescue unit located the vessel in distress, all personnel on board were safe and accounted for and we were also able to retrieve one individual, the watch keeper, for a little area near Bluefield Range. So in total, we brought in and transported fifteen personnel that evening to safe harbour in Belize City. And, as you know, the sea conditions were extremely rough that evening, the winds were very strong but as the Coast Guard, we respond to situations independent of weather conditions."

Back on land, the water level was rising in Belize City in some neighbourhoods. Castle Street, which is near Cinderella Plaza, was under water from Friday night. Not even rubber boots could keep this woman's feet from getting wet. She had to wade through water above her knees to get out of her yard. According to one Castle Street resident, it wasn't Alex but poor drainage that has residents knee deep in water.

Ray Matus, Castle St. Resident

"It's not a street anymore; it's a creek. Look at it. They should change the name from Castle Street to Castle Creek."

Jose Sanchez

"The way the street is right now, is this something that you've seen before?"

Ray Matus

"Hey man, put it this way; I don't want to get vulgar but if a dog goes out there and urinates, it gets flooded. That's all I need to say."

Jose Sanchez

"So it's always flooded."

Ray Matus

"Always! And they always talk about you know anti-aedes aegypti mosquitoes and Dengue Fever; and they go into people's yard look for stagnant water. Come to Castle Street, even in the driest of days and my friend you will see stagnant water and you the prettiest of green colours growing in the drain."

Jose Sanchez

"And the kids when they come out, how do they get out?"

Ray Matus

"Well, you've heard about London Bridges right? They have the Castle Bridges. They put a few sticks of planks from their yards to the street and that's how they get across."

Jose Sanchez

"When the rains go throughout the night, what's the estimate number of inches you've seen so far?"

Ray Matus

"Well, if you have a vehicle, if you can actually show it over there; you will be able to see at least half way that the water can actually rise and that will be approximately about six inches."

The rains subsided early in the night and the only remaining sign of Alex was the receding waters on city streets. Reporting for news five, Jose Sanchez.

Channel 5

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Ministry of Works says Alex made some roads impassable


News Five got an update this afternoon from the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Works, Cadet Henderson, who says there are still some sections of the country that are impassable due to flooding.

Via Phone: Cadet Henderson, CEO, Min. of Works

"There was some flooding particularly in the Cayo and the Belize Districts with minor damage except for a few culverts. Some areas still remain underwater. In the Belize District there was over two feet of water on the road to Grace Bank village; that was impassable. Freetown Sibun Road also had some water up to late yesterday, Sunday. Freetown Sibun right now is clear. Gracie Rock road had water flowing over as well; that is still flooded. I got a report a while ago saying that about five kilometers into the road had about four feet of water. So that is impassable. Manatee Road is flooded and continues to be impassable in some areas. In the Cayo District, the road that leads to More Tomorrow Village had a section, some two hundred feet of it was under water where it was impassable to all categories of vehicle. Iguana Creek Bridge remains under water. The low level timber bridge in Cayo as well. I have no confirmation on that now but the last thing I know early this morning it had water. The Baking Pot Ferry is still closed to traffic and that's about it."

Marion Ali

"What about the crossing at Kendall?"

Via Phone: Cadet Henderson

"Kendall is open right now; Kendall and Munnings River. It was flooded yesterday but it went down rather rapidly. There was flooding in Billy White where at least three families had to be evacuated but that was yesterday. In regards to Rancho Dolores, a tree fell onto a teacher's home and also at Isabella Bank there’s a report of a damaged culvert. But my people claim that the culver was damaged before the rain. No significant effects on any of our infrastructure on the highway or any of our secondary roads, no bridge collapsed and no major erosions or undermining to report."

And while the storm is now long gone, Henderson says people still need to be on the lookout in the affected areas as more rains lie ahead.

Channel 5


Tropical Storm Alex - Belize's "dry run"?

The first named system of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, Tropical Storm Alex, zipped through north-central Belize in a span of six to eight hours beginning just after 5:00 Saturday evening, June 26, after making a surprise leftward turn from its steady west-northwest track earlier in the day.

However, from all accounts, Belize did well in this “dry run,” especially since the watchful eyes of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and National Meteorological Service (NMS) had been monitoring the area of disturbed weather off the Honduras/Nicaragua border that eventually became Alex since last week.

After crossing Belize and south-central Mexico over the weekend, Alex re-emerged in the Gulf of Mexico today and is presently headed for the Texas coast. The Associated Press reported this evening that Alex had sustained winds of 60 miles per hour and is expected to make hurricane status by Tuesday.

The AP reported that a hurricane watch was in effect “from Baffin Bay, near Kingsville, down the Texas coast and into northern Mexico. A tropical storm watch extended from Baffin Bay north to Port O’Connor, on the tip of Matagorda Bay.”

It quoted a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Brownsville as saying Alex was projected to make landfall as a moderate to strong Category 1 hurricane and its projected path takes it close to the Mexico/U.S. border by Thursday. There are reports that British Petroleum (BP) might delay its project to mitigate the Deepwater Horizon oil spill because of the Alex threat.

On Friday evening, local newscasts reported that Belize was under a tropical storm watch for the entire coastline, with a tropical storm warning in effect for the Mexican coastline from Chetumal to Cancun. Moving at 12 miles per hour, Tropical Depression #1 was expected to make landfall late Saturday and punish Belize with rain and wind, but not much else.

Nevertheless, NEMO committees in San Pedro and Stann Creek were activated and Tourism Minister and Belize Rural South area representative Hon. Manuel Heredia, Jr., told 7 News that he advocated for those in low-lying areas on Ambergris Caye to move to higher ground, but that it was not necessary at the time to evacuate completely off the island.

Alex moved and strengthened through the night and by 6:00 a.m. Saturday, Acting Prime Minister Gaspar Vega (who was scheduled to leave Belize that day but was forced to cancel) issued a Phase III alert in respect of Alex, then centered at 17.0 degrees North latitude, 85.3 degrees West longitude, 200 miles east of Belize City and still moving west northwest, at 8 miles per hour.

With this declaration, Belizeans began to prepare. Belize City, under overcast skies for much of Friday night and Saturday morning, still looked very busy in the downtown area, and reports to Amandala were that tourists and residents of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye were coming in due to the weather. Rain fell off and on through the morning, as the populace huddled close to the radio, awaiting new bulletins.

By 3:00 p.m. Alex had completed its westward turn and City residents were being advised to move to relatives in better houses from flood-prone areas. Corozal, Stann Creek and Toledo were also mobilizing, while Cayo was concerned about its rivers and passage ways that are prone to flooding. However, none of the major rivers south of the Belize River rose by more than a few inches as Alex bore down.

The 6:00 p.m. update read by Catherine Cumberbatch on KREM Radio indicated that the forward section of the storm had made it onto Belizean shores and the center of the storm was very near the coast. At this time, Belize City, Dangriga, Independence and Punta Gorda faced much of the rain and wind from Alex, whose top winds stood at 55 miles per hour.

The City Emergency Management Organization (CEMO) opened shelters at Excelsior High School on Fabers Road, where only two families took shelter, according to Mayor Zenaida Moya-Flowers on an appearance on LOVE FM around 7:00 Saturday night. Alex raced away toward the Yucatan Peninsula and the all-clear was given at around 2:00 a.m.

There is no indication yet of how much damage was sustained, but regular reports came in of downed trees and objects in the districts. Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) reported that apart from parts of San Pedro Town, the Western Highway and Burrell Boom, and villages in Orange Walk on Saturday and Belmopan on Sunday, electricity was maintained. BTL and BWS reported no major problems.

Alex came relatively early for a storm in Belize’s history with hurricanes. It was the first major system to hit Belize since the double strike from Tropical Storm Arthur and T.D. #16 in 2008.


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Tropical Storm Alex spares Belize

Boarding up the stores

The projected path had Belize right in Alex's way

Saturday was dampened by intermittent showers

People head out to check out the beach

    With an area of concern brewing east of Belize, and heading in a projected path that would have placed the depression over the northern regions of Belize within approximately 48 hours, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) San Pedro/Caye Caulker mobilized all committee members, volunteers and public officers.

    On Friday June 25th at 8:00 am, NEMO called its first emergency meeting of the Emergency Operations Committee at the San Pedro Town Council's conference room. Individuals presented included members from the various sectors of the community including the Police Force, Medical Unit, Port Authority, Education, Town Council, Caye Caulker NEMO representatives as well as members of the media.

    Members were quickly mobilized and a plan of action was underway. The media was informed of the possible threat and residents were advised to start making plans for the impending depression.

    By 7:00 am on Saturday June 26th, residents of both islands started their voluntary evacuations, as the depression had evolved to Tropical Storm (TS) Alex. A final count of voluntary evacuees resulted in an amount of over 1,500. At the onset of the storm, residents were informed of three shelters opened for use by residents in San Pedro; (San Pedro Roman Catholic School, San Pedro High School, and the Shalom Temple) and one in Caye Caulker (Caye Caulker Roman Catholic School).

    In an interview with Ms. Jeromey Timrose, NEMO Co-ordinator for San Pedro/Caye Caulker she told The San Pedro Sun, "I would say that the Emergency Committee did a splendid job mobilizing and working to keep the island and its residents safe; however there are some improvements that need to be worked out to our plan of action. I would also like to implore residents to start looking at their family emergency plan. If you don't have one, start to put one together, make sure that every member of the family knows what they're supposed to do in times of an emergency or disaster, people need to continue to voluntarily evacuate to safer areas. I also strongly advise that Liquor Store owners and establishments selling alcohol need to start adhering to orders being issued by NEMO, especially in regards to the sale of said product. In a disaster, individuals need to be completely clear minded and able to make conscious decisions to secure their safety. In the same token, I advise the general public to remain calm and be prepared."

    NEMO San Pedro/Caye Caulker takes this opportunity to extend our deepest appreciation to all public officers, committee members and volunteers who worked diligently to secure the safety of both communities in this time of disaster.

San Pedro Sun

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