OFFICIALS PREPARE FOR HURRICANE SEASON
Marion Ali reporting....
"Everyone remembers all too well the damage that Hurricane Richard brought 2010 when it ripped through central Belize on October twenty-fourth, tearing down houses, blocking roads, and flooding out portions of the low-lying plains. Two lives lost were directly linked to the category one hurricane as well. This Wednesday marks the start of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, and forecasters predict that it’s going to be another above-active year with sixteen storms, nine of which are projected to become hurricanes, five of them major ones. Chief Meteorological Officer, Dennis Gonguez, says that there are lessons that should be learnt from the wrath of even a category one storm, such as Richard.
Dennis Gonguez, Chief Met Officer
“Take Hurricane Richard the events of Hurricane Richard and use that as a guidance to make your preparations for this year. We should build on the experiences of Hurricane Richard and the other two systems that affected us last year, we should build on those experiences and it should assist us in preparation for this year’s activity. We need to already have our plans in place, what we will do, where we will go, what we will take with us; all that should already be in place so when the evacuation order comes we can just grab our bags and head to our designated shelter. Although the forecast numbers don’t tell where systems make landfall, the prediction for an active season means a higher probability that you will be impacted by one of these systems.”
And while there is nothing thus far on the horizon threatening to strike, June first is just two days away. When he appeared on Love FM’s Morning Show today, Minister of NEMO, Melvin Hulse, said that a major part of NEMO’s focus is getting the shelters prepared.
Melvin Hulse, Minister of NEMO
“We constantly upgrade, we go through to every village and every town, we look at what buildings are there. There are places that we do not see a lot of activity because there are places that we have accepted that if a hurricane is coming we are going to evacuate, there are 30 areas in this country that we are going to evacuate. We had 65 areas but what we have been physically doing is looking at areas we have been fixing, strengthening up buildings, we have been taking off roofs, putting on hurricane straps. I have been focusing a lot on schools.”
But while the shelters on the list are structurally sound to withstand up to category two hurricane, in Belize City, the most densely-populated community, they will not be repaired in time for the start of the season. This is according to City Engineer, Benjamin Mendoza, who told us on Friday in front of Saint John’s Primary School, that the list of shelters for this year is just being finalized.
Benjamin Mendoza, City Engineer
“We’re working hand in hand with the housing and Planing Department. We should have the official list by next week. We are here at one of the schools that is on the shelter list and as you can see we have some small repairs that we need to do on the roof, the entire zinc is deteriorated and I am saying this is one of the worst on the official list. Structural wise they have the capacity to withstand. The roof is the weak link if one zinc comes off then the rest will follow. We can see the roof is in a deteriorating state, probably the nails are in a deteriorating state.”
As for the tracking of storms, Gonguez says that the Doppler Radar that Belize installed last year should provide us with adequate warning time.
Dennis Gonguez – Chief Met Officer
“We are entering into a neutral phase so the el nino, la nina effect will have very little impact on this year’s hurricane season. The only driver we can probably look at is the sea surface temperatures which are running a degree to a degree and a half above normal and tropical cyclones use sea surface temperatures as their source of energy.”
Once the warning is given of the threat of a hurricane, Benjamin Mendoza says that whoever goes to the shelters need to stock up on basic items.
Benjamin Mendoza – City Engineer
“The major things that people should take to a shelter is food, water, battery packs, radios, flashlights, lanterns with kerosene. The least objects, TV, clothes, you can come back for that if it is still there, your life is most important. Enough for a minimum of three days.”
The advice to everyone as the season bears upon us is to listen frequently to the local television and radio stations for updated reports on the progress of any storm approaching our coastline.LOVEFM