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Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 [Re: Marty] #518747
11/05/16 05:40 AM
11/05/16 05:40 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 77,003
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP

Comments & Photos on Hurricane Hattie

I was in high school and my experience of that hurricane was horrible. Time and space are insufficient right now to fully describe the experience. But all I can say is that I never want to go through another one like Hurricane Hattie. Am certain that all of us who lived through it have a story. For those who perished may their soul continue to rest in peace and for us who survived we say thank God.

I went through that storm. Was 16 and the water destroyed almost everything. Houses,cars you see vats roll down the street. We survived.

Weathered Hurricane on the second floor of then Paslow building. remembered that scene well with the Swing Bridge dislocated from its moorings.

Our late Mayor David Fonseca once told me that he lived on Ovaltine for months after the storm. If I recall, the reported storm surge was 13 feet.

we was at CBA on the canal side near prince street it was terrible don't want to ever experience one like that.i was in Corozal for Janet it wasn't too bad like Hattie

I loss two brothers and two sisters in Hurricane Hattie . My parents had recently moved from Honduras . My Dad Norval Mejia , the only son of Caroline Neal of Mullins River had just returned home to his mom and family with his family to reside and barely a year after the terrible disaster occurred. God is so good in that he gave them back four children, and I am the first of that 2nd set . Two of my brothers were saved out of the six children . It is still sad to think of what my parents went through .

I was 5 yrs old living in gallonjug I remember that hurricane..

We were saved in the Paslow Building that is no longer there.

Of all the pictures of the hurricane that I have seen, the ones I think best tell the story of the hurricane (and good for analysis) are as follows:

1. A woman washing clothes in the midst of the devastation (the cover photo of the Mennonite John Friesen's book on the hurricane). This photo highlighted the resilience of the people of the city.

2. First Minister and Mayor of Belize City George Price conferring with Fred Westby at Foreshore. This photo highlighted the role local government played in the relief and recovery effort.

3. The orderly line for food rations outside of the marketing board on North Front Street. This photo again highlighted the role of local government in the relief and recovery effort. It also showed how a natural disaster such as the hurricane often become a social leveler in that rich and poor, the known and not so known were all in that line waiting for rations.

4. British soldiers fixed bayonets patrolling the streets of downtown Belize City. Their presence highlighted the fact that local government was unable to restore law and order in the city in the aftermath of the hurricane. However, local government was not criticized for the way in which they prepared for the hurricane and their response to the crisis. The presence of the British soldiers also served as a remainder of the colonial status of British Honduras.

5. The arrival of aid from abroad at Stanley field Airport. The Guatemalans were first to respond. The Mexicans also responded early, but regrettably one of their planes crashed in northern Belize, Then the Americans came by sea and air ahead of the British). Then the British came via Jamaica.

6. The burning of bodies at Lord Ridge Cemetery. It wasn't until I think 2005 that a plaque was placed at the mass grave where the victims of Hattie were buried.

There are many pictures of the devastation of Belize City, but regrettably few of the devastation of then Stann Creek Town, Mullins River (and other southern coastal villages), and Caye Caulker.

! I too was 8 years old [turned 9 that Dec], when Hattie devastated Belize. My family's home on Dickinson Street was washed out to sea along with homes of many of our neighbors in that area! I remember my Mom told me that when she went to see the area, that once she got to the old cemetery, that she was able to see clear out to the sea as many of the homes were destroyed! I will never forget!

I was in Jamaica, but my wife got saved at Technical building on Freetown Road - second floor. Her house on Kelly Street dropped flat on the ground.

I was 5 yrs old my mom took off her sweater and put it on me to stay warm mothers love . I remember the helicopters flying over head

I was 8 years old at the time and spent this hurricane upstairs of the Children's Library (Turton Building) on North Front Street.


Around Eyre Street


One newpaper's account of Hurricane Hattie



Entrance of Handyside Street. 960 Handy side St. where I grew up. This is by Queen St. That's the Cocom house at 37 Handyside Street. The water rose and covered the veranda but did not enter the house which was one step up from d veranda. Neighbors whose homes were destroyed sheltered there with the family.



That's the Swing Bridge, in Belize City, British Honduras, underwater during Hurricane Hattie. This picture was taken from Paslow. The force of the tidal surge turned the bridge, so we know that it was not a gradual tide, it came with a force. This picture must have been taken during eye because everything seem calm. It was this same tidal surge that broke a fuel tank from it moorings on the North side a little further up on the left of this picture that crashed into the Presbyterian Church (one of the churches made from bricks) and erased one of the two remaining we had. The only one remaining is St. John's Cathedral. The house in the middle of the above 2 photos is the Melhado House.

VALUABLE INFORMATION IN THIS PICTURE. The swing bridge was in place. But the high waves and debri pushed by Hurrricane Hattie on the bridge was so much, I am told that it forced it from its moorings. AND it caused damage to its structure. SO IT WAS CLOSED FOR A WHILE, for necessary repairs. In the meanwhile a PONTOON, made with empty drums was placed, by the end of Pickstock Street across the river. BUT when the first vehicle placed its front wheels on the Pontoon, it went in the air flinging some 12 persons on it. A few were drowned. This was to be a Pedestrian Bridge. Old timers will never forget the bodies burning and flying up, and the smell.



These photos of Hurricane Hattie tell a story of what Belize was and what Hattie did to change our Belizean scenery. Click photos for larger versions.


In this picture there is the massive destruction of the Holy Redeemer Parish Hall, - Belize City Market, - Shore Shore, and by bridge foot.



MORE AND MORE DAMAGES ON BELIZE CITY BY HATTIE - Hence the reason why the building of Belmopan which was already PLANNED from 1960, was accelerated.









Click on above four photos to see larger versions of them...


Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 [Re: Marty] #518755
11/05/16 04:54 PM
11/05/16 04:54 PM
Joined: Oct 2012
Posts: 459
Greenville, SC USA
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larrypied Offline
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Great read. Sad story.

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 [Re: Marty] #526741
10/31/17 06:20 AM
10/31/17 06:20 AM
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Posts: 77,003
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP

OCTOBER 30th OCTOBER 1961. at 4.20 .P.M.

" UNU BUAY HURRICANE HATTIE DI COME STRAIGHT DA BELIZE.! " - -

These were the words of Mr Eustace Usher, as he passed us in haste while we stood by the Treasury Building on a beautiful clear and sunny evening. He was going to Radio Belize, at the " Albert Cattouse Building " to give the FLASH ADVISORY.

I can recall my friends who stood bye in awe.

Hon. Louis Sylvester, German Williams, Controller of Customs J.J. Rabateau and friend Ebelio Noble.

AS SOON AS THE RADIO made the announcement, the sirene at the Paslow Building began to BLOW THE WARNING BLAIR. and Belize City went crazy.

The gas stations were saturated with customers, and the few Hard Ware Stores still opened, were rushed by people buying, Ply Wood, Nails, Zink, Hammers, and the shops selling food items, batteries, medicines, etc. ( there was no bottled water in those days )

THE BOARDING OF BUILDINGS began in a rush. The few schools and public buildings assigned as Shelters were immediately opened.

I WENT HOME and told my In Laws and my wife that we would have to leave immediately, because the warnings were SEVERE.

SO at 11:20 PM (NIGHT we loaded with whatever, and we headed to San Ignacio, where I served as the Mayor of the Town.

IT WAS VERY ROUGH GOING. telephone poles, and a few branches of Pine trees were already falling on the Road.

THE JOURNEY WAS BUMPER TO BUMPER with hundreds of vehicles.

It took me 4 hours to reach San Ignacio. I reached at 3.25 AM.

I accomodated my family with my five babies in my room, at the Maya Hotel, and I began my duties as Mayor.

THE IMAGE OF THE MACAL RIVER running UP STREAM, will forever remain in my mind. ( never seen before )

BY 9.00 AM most of the Commercial Center was under flood.

The current that hit town DUG OUT the Old Slaughter House area and created the Belize Beach.

( I leave you all with this sad memory, left by Hurricane Hattie, 56 years ago.

( The following is a picture taken from the Hawkesworth Bridge, when the river began to raise at a RAPID PACE. )


The floods of 1961 as seen by the Hawkesworth Bridge - as it began to raise.


Oct 31, 1961 Hurricane Hattie in Belize City, before the water receded.


Rare old footage of Hurricane Hattie after destroying Belize.


Lots of people went unaccounted. BTL, BWSL & people digging foundation's drains regularly reported finding skeletal remains of humans.


Hurricane at Halloween

Just as the residents of British Honduras1 were starting to breathe a sigh of relief because the 1961 hurricane season would soon be ending, a powerful Category 5 hurricane named Hattie hit Central America on Halloween.  The Atlantic hurricane season in 1961 officially began on June 15 and ended on October 31.2

Unlike the hurricane which devastated British Honduras in September of 1931 and killed over 2000 persons, eleven years previous to Hattie, Atlantic tropical cyclones began to be given names; and three years later in 1953 were first given female names.  Janet was therefore the first “female” to hit the country in 1955 when it made landfall in the north.   Hattie’s appearance in 1961 was the second female-named hurricane to make landfall in the country; and packing winds in excess of 150 miles per hour was unprecedented until Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

The year 1961 saw various firsts both internationally and nationally.  The United States saw its youngest President, John F. Kennedy, being inaugurated; and the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man to orbit the earth.  Significantly the first ever weather satellite, Tiros 1, which would eventually help forecasters to track and interpret hurricanes, was launched in 1961. In British Honduras the first woman, Gwendolyn Lizarraga, ever to contest a national election, won a seat in the Legislative Assembly; and the Battle of St. George’s Caye was branded as a myth by certain sectors.  Considered mild in terms of landfalling hurricanes, that was the “climate” which heralded the 1961 season.

Comparatively speaking, Belize has traditionally been rarely hit by hurricanes due to its geographic location.  This is borne out by the thirty-year interval between the violent storms of 1931 and 1961.  Although the 1961 season did not see a hurricane forming until July 20, and with no storms at all during August, the activity started in September when in that month and the following months there would be ten storms, eight hurricanes and seven major hurricanes.

Hattie was a rare powerful late-season hurricane which formed in that fertile area of the Southwestern Caribbean where sea surface temperatures are warm and where upper level westerly winds that take shape in the Gulf of Mexico do not penetrate that far south.  Hattie was first classified as a tropical system on October 27, and actually developed so quickly that it immediately became a tropical storm.  By midnight it had reached hurricane intensity,3 continuing northward through the western Caribbean and grew stronger on October 28 and 29, posing serious threats to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and western Cuba.

However, on October 29 a ridge to the north turned Hattie toward the northwest, sparing the Greater Antilles but then threatening Central America.  Hattie moved into the Gulf of Honduras on October 30 as a Category 4 storm with winds of 132 mph. Curving then toward the west-southwest, Hattie had attained winds of 160 mph and was located about 190 miles east of the border of Mexico and British Honduras.  Hattie at that stage had reached the equivalence of a Category 5 hurricane4 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, and attained the record of being the strongest measured hurricane in the northwest Caribbean up to that time, until Hurricane Mitch took that honor in 1998.

Tracking on a direct path to British Honduras, Hattie hit the coast from midnight to 3 a.m. on Halloween, which was a Tuesday on October 31, 1961.  With recorded winds of 160 mph and gusts of up to 200 mph, the storm surge reached 13-15 feet above tide level.  Taking the first brunt of the storm were the Turneffe Islands, Caye Caulker and San Pedro Ambergris Caye, followed by Belize City and the Stann Creek District.

Because officials at the Miami Weather Bureau had warned of the threat for high tides, high winds and heavy rainfall, residents in the capital Belize City, Stann Creek District and low-lying areas had been evacuated or moved to shelters.  In the aftermath it was found that most of Belize City and Stann Creek was destroyed or severely damaged. Crop damage, including citrus which was estimated at $2 million, was inflicted on cacao, bananas, as well as losses to timber. It was estimated that the $60 million in property losses caused by Hattie in 1961, which accounted for about 75% of houses and business places, would translate to $370 million today. Fatalities numbered 262 with more than 100 in Belize City, and the comparatively low number in relation to 1931 was attributed to advance warning.

On its way to British Honduras, Hurricane Hattie had passed over San Andres Island off the east coast of Nicaragua resulting in one death and 15 injuries.  Other countries in Central America were affected by flash floods which caused 11 deaths in Guatemala and one in Honduras.

After the storm had passed there were thousands of survivors roaming the streets looking for food, clothing and shelter. Looting and pillaging incited some measure of violence in Belize City which caused a British frigate to land troops to assist the police.

From formation to dissipation, Hattie lived for six days, being one of the shortest lasting storms on record.  However, to those who lived through it and experienced the hardships and grief it engendered for many years, it lasted a lifetime.  Hattie lost much of its power by the afternoon of October 31, and was downgraded to a tropical storm while over Guatemala.  Continuing westward it crossed Central America, and on November 1 emerged in the western Pacific Ocean in the Gulf of Tehautepec.  It spent half a day as a tropical depression in the Gulf before regaining sufficient strength to be renamed Tropical Storm Simone by the San Francisco Weather Bureau.

Moving westward on November 2, Simone then made a turn to the north passing over Saline Cruz, Mexico.

Seemingly having a mind of its own, and again downgraded to a tropical depression it headed back toward the Gulf of Mexico over mountainous terrain which caused its winds to drop to 30 mph.  Finding warm waters in the Bay of Campeche, on November 3 Simone, then only a depression, began to reorganize.  By the following day the new storm reached tropical strength and was named Inga, which became the last Atlantic storm of the 1961 season.  Inga struggled to reach hurricane strength as it moved northward then southward off the Mexican coast in its last few days, but only able to garner 70 mph winds the killer that had been Hattie died for good on the morning of November 8.  Pundits contend that Hattie-Simone-Inga was one storm that moved from Atlantic to Pacific and back to the Atlantic.

In keeping with the policy that the names of killer hurricanes be removed from the rotating list, the name Hattie was retired after 1961 and will never be used for an Atlantic Hurricane again.  The name was replaced by Holly in 1965.

The damage that Hattie had wrought on Belize City was so severe that the government opted to build a new capital city located 50 miles inland on high ground and safe from tidal waves; and on its completion in 1970 the seat of government was moved to Belmopan. In 2011 the population of Belmopan is some 20,000, but Belize City still remains the country’s center of population with 75,000 people.

Two other communities were established as refugee camps after Hurricane Hattie caused many persons to be homeless. Hattieville, with a present population of about 1,300, is located 17 miles from Belize City on the Western Highway; while Georgetown is located off the Southern Highway in the Stann Creek District accommodating those persons who were displaced along the coast after 1961. The mass migrations to North America of Belizeans that occurred in the 1960s following Hattie are often cited as being caused by the hurricane.

Those persons who “weathered” Hattie will after half a century forever retain memories of that hurricane at Halloween in 1961.  Today hurricane forecasting and tracking has greatly improved, and Belize can boast a National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) comprising efficient persons from the public and private sectors.  Although vigilance will always be uppermost in the minds of Belizeans during the Atlantic Hurricane season, fears will be alleviated in the assurance that a well-equipped meteorological and emergency organization machinery are in place.
(Dated 2011)

(Footnotes)
1 The name of the country was changed from British Honduras to Belize by approval of the National Assembly on
June 1, 1973.  This was seen as the conferring of dignity on the people by having their own name and identity as Belizeans.
2 June 1 has been the traditional start of the Atlantic hurricane season for decades.  However, the end date has been slowly shifted outward, from October 31 to November 15 until its current date of November 30.
3 A storm with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph is classed as a hurricane.
4 A Category 5 hurricane carries winds that surpass 156 mph.

Amandala


Hart Tillett remembers the “old” Mullins River and Hurricane Hattie

I taught at the Methodist school in Mullins River, and was there before, on the lucky side of Hattie, the hurricane. Also, my stay was short, just a year, 1959-60.

The RC school was still there at the time. By then a village council had succeeded town status, the only remaining evidence being the two or three disused paraffin lamps along the dirt road connecting North End to the south where our school was located.

But the pier was there on which I would occasionally join the villagers, watching the men loading their dories with beach sand, the first stage of lightering it to Belize City. I did not know the phrase “labor intensive” at the time, but when I did, I had flashbacks to the sand-craft livelihood of those men harvesting the tons of sand every week. Unloading it at the end of the six-hour journey at the city docks, one shovel at a time, was no fun either.

Like other small villages of Belize, Mullins River has its family-name ID’s. If your surname was “Cherrington,” “Gallego,” or “Mejia,” that’s a dead giveaway as to your place of origin.

The teacher’s quarters was spacious with indoor plumbing. It had wrap-around screening—and for good reason. Short jackets and bottle flies abounded.

We spent quality time with Mr. Barker, the policeman, and his family. It was under his tutelage that I learned about sealing wax and saw an official government seal (for official letters), and how to use a crank-up telephone. He took us fishing upriver, or on calm days out to sea in a borrowed dory. A real gentleman in the trenches.

Darkness seemed to come on you suddenly in the village. I recall a visit by the Education Officer who wanted to meet with the PTA. Against the advice that 7:00 PM was too late to start a meeting, he went ahead, but after waiting for an hour with still no parent there to talk to, finally “adjourned.”

Hattie struck the village the year after I left. Mullins River must have gotten the worst of the hurricane. The police station was located on the beach. Four feet off the ground, it comprised a lower level where official business was carried on. The family lived in the upper storey, reached by an exterior stair rising some 15 feet above ground.

The storm surge rose to that level and continued to rise, forcing the policeman and his family into the loft, where they would have been trapped if the water went any higher. Luckily, it crested—within a foot of the trapdoor.

Many others perished, washed away to sea by the ebbing surge. A new Mullins River rose, the memories of the Mullins River “then,” and the fine people of the village, have a special spot in my registry of places that had a lure all its own.

Amandala


Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 [Re: Marty] #526744
10/31/17 06:31 AM
10/31/17 06:31 AM
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 6,245
San Pedro AC Belize
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Diane Campbell  Offline
So many have frightening tales of this mammoth storm. So grateful that we have satellites today to give us a slightly better chance of taking proper measures and finding shelter. Still, weather can do the unthinkable ........ River running upstream?!! Yikes. That is a long uphill run.

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 [Re: Marty] #535274
03/08/19 06:58 AM
03/08/19 06:58 AM
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP

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? ………..”


Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 [Re: Marty] #538281
09/17/19 06:19 AM
09/17/19 06:19 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 77,003
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP

Video: Hurricane Hattie in Belize


Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 [Re: Marty] #538809
10/19/19 06:00 AM
10/19/19 06:00 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 77,003
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
In the eye of the storm

With sustained winds of 150 miles per hour and gusts of 230 miles, the eye of Hurricane Hattie came roaring inland on Monday, October 30, 1961, two days and three hours earlier than originally forecasted.

It slowed its forward speed for eight long hours as it crossed the country, unleashing fearsome winds, heavy, salty rain and a 15-foot tidal wave of muddy and murky water. Mullins River village and its habitants were washed away, and 80% of the buildings in Belize City were either destroyed or severely damaged. Experts say that the destruction would have been total had the storm stayed over our port city an hour longer.

Our family of eight sought refuge at a 3-storey building at the corner of Queen and North Front streets known as Paslow Building. We arrived at Paslow’s hurricane shelter at 4:00 in the afternoon and met close to 200 people already encamped on its second and third floors. My two brothers, three sisters and I were at the wide-eyed ages of 2, 5, 7, 11, 12 and 13. I was the eleven-year-old. The winds picked up exponentially at one o’clock Tuesday morning, triggering a total blackout. That blackout also took out our British Honduras Broadcasting Service (BHBS) radio transmission. Surprising us totally, Hurricane Hattie made landfall at 11:00 Halloween Eve night, and not at 4 o’clock Tuesday morning, Halloween Day, as our penultimate BHBS forecast had predicted. Our family huddled together in almost total darkness as Hattie hissed and huffed and howled. Missiles pelted our shelter with increasing regularity and intensity. Our parents had to move us closer to nearby mahogany office-desks for maximum protection and to keep us calm amidst all the mayhem.

Then there was a huge explosion. Powerful hurricane force gusts had blown out a 10’ x 5’ wooden window, leaving behind a large gaping hole in the wall and exposing us to the elements and unidentifiable flying objects. We quickly moved to safer ground while our parents and other adults scrambled to plug the breach with desks, using their bodies to brace them against the wall until the wind weakened and died hours later. We were startled a second time when a skylight perched atop the Paslow building shattered, sending large pieces of roofing plummeting down an inside elevator-like shaft three floors below. Several persons were injured and rushed into the shelter’s hospital bay for medical attention.

At 10 o’clock Tuesday morning, we all ventured unto the North Front Street verandah to view the hurricane damage at daylight. A horrible sight met our eyes. The landmark metal Belize City Swing Bridge, the Queen Street fire station, Central Market, the Post Office below us and the library building next door looked like a hidden underwater city. Wednesday morning saw swimmers leaping into the flood waters to find food wherever they could and bring it back for us to share. By Thursday morning, the water on the streets of the city had fallen to a height of two and a half feet. That is when our mom and I went to check on the damage to our Barrack Road residence.

We waded through muddy, murky water and debris along the entire the length of Queen Street, passing a number of foreign medical teams tending the sick and injured. Finally, we arrived at our Barrack Road destination by “Majestic Alley”. Then our hearts sank. Our entire upstairs residence had collapsed and was partially submerged. Our talking pet-parrot had been crushed by two fallen support beams. And our dad’s “Golden Gloves” championship trophies he captured as a youth were all gone. To add injury to insult, I stepped on a wooden plank with a 4-inch nail. Geez! Immediately, my mom abandoned the search and rescue mission we had undertaken and headed back, pausing in front of Angelus Press for me to be administered a tetanus shot by a visiting Mexican medical team. It was there that we learnt of the tragic plane crash that killed five volunteer Mexican doctors on their way to Belize to help. The crash was attributed to bad weather.

Two days later, a broken and twisted “Swing Bridge” spanning the Belize River had been repaired and opened to traffic. Brodies Store on Albert Street announced that it would be distributing foodstuff. But when they opened their doors, vandalism ensued and authorities were forced to close the store prematurely. We returned empty-handed and with teargas in our eyes. On my way back to Paslow, I observed a large metal water tank lying on top the once beautiful red-brick Presbyterian Church near the Supreme Court on Regent Street. It was reduced to rubble. I also witnessed a humorous cremation exercise by the river at the end of Pickstock Street. A few bodies had been pulled from the river. When they were doused with an incendiary liquid and lit, the bodies began to move, scaring away some 20 spectators, who made a hasty retreat.

A total of two hundred sixty-three persons lost their lives in this hurricane. They included 94 from Belize City proper, 46 from Mullins River, Stann Creek District alone, one from Cayo and zero from Orange Walk, Corozal and Toledo. Forty-seven were unidentified.

by Hipolito I. Bautista for Amandala

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 [Re: Marty] #538980
10/30/19 06:47 AM
10/30/19 06:47 AM
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
AS THE DATE APPROACHES, WHEN HURRICANE HATTIE DEVASTATED A LARGE PORTION OF BRITISH HONDURAS, on October 31st, 1961, it is fitting to inform our fellow Belizeans. on the real story of those events.

In July 1st 1960, the Belize City Council passed a Resolution requesting Central Government, to locate a higher ground for the SEAT OF GOVERNMENT. - - - ( there was no sign of any Hurricane or pending Catastrophe.)

Central Government embraced the idea and began to explore and consult Belizeans. - - -( Mr Price said. "Let us consult the University of the people."

By the ending of 1960, suggestions had been made, on that possible NEW SITE. ( This was the word used to describe the Idea, - New Site )

These were the sites suggested.- BURREL BOOM, MULLINS RIVER, - AUGUSTINE MOUNTAIN PINE RIDGE, - MILE 31, ON THE WESTERN HIGHWAY, and of course, that site near Riaring Creek, - - ( precisely BETWEEN the Western Highway and the Humming Bord Highway, )

CRITICS began their insults against Mr Price, especially those of the Opposition Parties.-The UDP predecessors ( Maya sites etc etc.)

On March 1st 1961, the PUP SWEPT ALL 18 SEATS IN THE FIRST HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. - ( which was then called Legislative Assembly.

BAM,BAM Hurricane Hattie strikes on October 31,1961 which destroyed Belize City, Mullins River, Dangriga and surrounding areas.

IT WAS THEN OUR TASK TO TAKE THE DECISION, WHICH BROUGHT the IDEA of a NEW CAPITAL for British Honduras.

I remember that morning when I was sheltering at the MAYA HOTEL ,( Don Wahib Habet 4 Story House ). - We heard the shout, - " Mr HOPUN HOUSE GONE. " Then another shouted, " SLAUGHTER HOUSE GONE. " - Then " Jorge Espat Roof di fly ". - Then " Kalim Habet di baul for help, because flood reaching his second floor," - - WHAT A SAD DAY FOR ALL.- There was no food in town. - Ware houses were flooded. - I had to go to the Marketing Board in Belize City, on Public Works Trucks with DC Ramon Ramirez to get food for our area. - Mean while I made several missions on Helicopter to the Villages that were innundated, taking food and blankets.

We got that report that some residents of Mullins River had saved by climbing Coconut trees. - Similarly, our beloved Bishop Dorrick Wright was saved on a Coconut Tree, while his remaining family were drowned. - There are so many such stories. - AS to myself, I lived in Belize City at that time, but I left around 11 PM, when I began to see the severity shaping up. The road ws terrible going up. I reached San Ignacio at 3 AM in the morning, - I was then the Mayor and the Representative.

( The pictures below show part of the devastation of Belize City, and THE FIRST DRAFT OF BELMOPAN. )

Text and photos courtesy Hector Silva

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

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TODAY OCTOBER 30th OCTOBER 1961. at 4.20 .P.M.
" UNU BUAY HURRICANE HATTIE DI COME STRAIGHT DA BELIZE.! " - -
These were the words of Mr Eustace Usher, as he passed us in haste while we stood by the Treasury Building on a beautiful clear and sunny evening. He was going to Radio Belize, at the " Albert Cattouse Building " to give the FLASH ADVISORY.
I can recall my friends who stood bye in awe.

Hon. Louis Sylvester, German Williams, Controller of Customs J.J. Rabateau and friend Ebelio Noble.

AS SOON AS THE RADIO made the announcement, the sirene at the Paslow Building began to BLOW THE WARNING BLAIR. and Belize City went crazy.
The gas stations were saturated with customers, and the few Hard Ware Stores still opened, were rushed by people buying, Ply Wood, Nails, Zink, Hammers, and the shops selling food items, batteries, medicines, etc. ( there was no bottled water in those days )

THE BOARDING OF BUILDINGS began in a rush. The few schools and public buildings assigned as Shelters were immediately opened.

I WENT HOME and told my In Laws and my wife that we would have to leave immediately, because the warnings were SEVERE.

SO at 11:20 PM (NIGHT we loaded with whatever, and we headed to San Ignacio, where I served as the Mayor of the Town.

IT WAS VERY ROUGH GOING. telephone poles, and a few branches of Pine trees were already falling on the Road.

THE JOURNEY WAS BUMPER TO BUMPER with hundreds of vehicles.
It took me 4 hours to reach San Ignacio. I reached at 3.25 AM.

I accomodated my family with my five babies in my room, at the Maya Hotel, and I began my duties as Mayor.

THE IMAGE OF THE MACAL RIVER running UP STREAM, will forever remain in my mind. ( never seen before )
BY 9.00 AM most of the Commercial Center was under flood.

( I leave you all with this sad memory, left by Hurricane Hattie, 56 years ago.

( The following is a picture taken from the Hawkesworth Bridge, when the river began to raise at a RAPID PACE. )

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Remembering Hurricane Hattie
by Evan X Hyde for Amandala

The Saturday, October 28, 1961 issue of British Honduras’ leading newspaper, The Belize Billboard, reported that Hurricane Hattie had appeared in the Caribbean 550 miles southwest of Kingston, Jamaica, and 50 miles northwest of San Andres Island off Nicaragua. That same issue of the newspaper reported that 108 more British Hondurans had left for Florida, joining 109 of their brethren who had left earlier that week after being contracted to do farm work for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.

On the following day, in the Sunday, October 29 issue of The Billboard, there was absolutely no mention of Hattie: that fatal storm had visibly begun heading north. On Tuesday night, approaching midnight, October 31, 1961, Category Five Hurricane Hattie, which had made an abrupt turn hard southwest, began destroying Belize, the capital of British Honduras; Stann Creek Town; and points in between.

In fact, and in retrospect, two other hurricanes had alarmed British Hondurans earlier that year. On Sunday, July 23, 1961, Hurricane Anna, which had threatened the entire B. H. coast, eventually moved south and struck Mango Creek and Placencia with 80 mile an hour winds. There were no human casualties. In early September, just seven weeks before Hattie, Hurricane Carla had moved northwards after threatening Belize. The mood in Belize towards Hattie, because of the two earlier threats, was almost blasé, until late the Tuesday morning of October 31, when all schoolchildren were sent home from primary and secondary schools.

The Billboard had reported in its Tuesday, August 1, 1961 issue that the United States Weather Bureau had announced plans to carry out experiments on hurricanes with the seeding of silver iodide crystals, scattered from above the storms by airplanes, before November 15. But in mid-September, the Bureau said it would start the process immediately by seeding Hurricane Esther.

In British Honduras, after Hurricane Hattie had changed course so drastically to come and destroy us, the speculation afterwards was that there must have been silver iodide seeding by the Americans which reversed the storm’s direction. Whatever the truth, the United States Consulate (no Embassy back then in colonial days) issued the sensational announcement after Hattie’s devastation that any destitute Belizean who had a relative or relatives in the United States would be allowed to migrate to America. Thus began the mass exodus of black Belizeans which would lead to the great changes in the demographics and flavor of British Honduras/Belize.

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On the aftermath of Hurricane Hattie, which paralized the Colony of British Honduras, the then First Minister, George Price issued a Command. - " LAW and ORDER, - AUSTERITY and HARD WORK TO BUILD BACK THE NATION.

Hurricane Hattie did more material damage, than any other force ever to British Honduras..- Belize City, Dangrga Town, Mullins River Village and other areas were devastated. - The economy came to an almost HALT. - The Two major Industries folded, Chicle and Logging

BUT, because of immediate Planning, and forceful action by the Government of that day and the people, a semblance of normalcy began to shape up quickly

Mr Price orders were to priorities the way forward. - The following were the measures taken at once.

1. Build Shelters for the people, Hattieville, George Town, Silk Grass. and the rehabilitation of all Hurricane Shelters to accommodate those in need of shelter. . ( There I was. )

2. Provide immediate food for the people. - Marketing Board was activated as the depot for distribution of food. - In the Districts, it was the Central Police Station. - I worked along with District Commissioner Ramon Ramirez in Cayo. - - We went to the Marketing Board in Belize City filled FIVE PWD Dump Trucks with Food and began to supply the people with food. - -

Wherever needed, some soup kitchens were established for the hungry.

3. We cleared and Cleaned the areas affected with the help of the British Soldiers stationed in Belize. - - WE began repairs to damaged roads, Bridges, buildings, Electricity and Water supplies etc.

4. We immediately Began drafting Immediate Plans for Reconstruction and Development. ( RECONDEV. I, one of the Directors along others.)

5. Negotiated with the Crown Agents for funds needed for the Reconstruction of all the damages.

6. Immediate Assistance, called subsidies, to FARMERS, in kind and cash for them to produce our daily local foods.

WITHIN SIX MONTHS, BELIZE WAS BEGINNING TO BREATHE FRESH AIR..- By 1964, we began the building of Belmopan and the OFFER OF DEVELOPMENT CONCESSIONS TO INDUSTRIES. etc. etc. etc.

Hector Silva

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Hurricane Hattie all I can remember I was 8 years old living on 85 Albert Street and there were 25 families that were pretty knitted close to each others loving and caring for each others in what ever we did . Before the hurricane hit it was announced on the radio and everyone began to prepare to evacuate to the nearest hurricane shelters our parents took us across the street to the Wesley School I thing it was the month of September . So we all packed into one of the class rooms and began to make space where everyone would be able to sleep because no one knew how long it was going to last. The volunteer guards were brought in to secure the buildings reassuring that everyone was safe. And when the building had reach it’s capacity no other person were allowed to enter. It started to rain in the after noon and just continue with very heavy winds ever where dark and very fright everyone praying . It continue for quite a while and then a calm many people rush out and went out to foreshore only to see the sea completed dried up you could have walk for the foreshore across to the Baron bliss grave . But then after a while it suddenly began to rain again and the strong winds picking up again and we were still in the room locked what happened next can never be forgotten thousand of lives were gone drowned because they were not able to get to safety in time to safe their lives . I was told that the British soilders that was in charge began to recute the men to help them pick up the dead bodies and take them to the Rogers Stadium where a huge pit was being dug and the bodies thrown in there and buried those that I guess that was already decomposed were burnt outside . Even the Prime Minister I was made to understand was put to work picking up the dead bodies. The Bliss Institute is where the British Soilders were giving everyone vaccination against in fection . And James Brodie’s was where the families were ration food supplies so everyone of the family would stand in line and received couple packages of goods . Since after the hurricane was over and whosoever home was not destroyed well they would allowed their friends and families to go there until they were able to rebuild their homes or move to some where else to live . Well our home had fallen down but not totally destroyed . So we stayed with our neighbors and all the grocers that all the families had collected we accumulated it together and was able to feed the five families that were together the children like myself we slept like 8 of us in one bed the adults slept on the flow but everyone was happy my dad began to build back our home with help of all the kids in the neighborhood each fling their share and yes we all did it together. What I considered a Miracle was while my dad was raising the house and placing the blocks under the bottom of the house the jack slip and the edge of the houses fell on my dad and all the kids came together because there were no other one around and although were small but together was able to lift up the side of the house and my dad was able to pull himself from under and luckly only suffered a few scratches this is why I know God lives and acts at the propriety time. Belizean lost so many of the their families and friends. But with the people coming together they were able to build back the city once again . Belizean knew what it was to respect and love each other and working together to rebuild back their city once again . It took some time but it was accomplished . The British Soilders played a very important part in controlling law and ordered when they mention that a certain hours everyone should be at home you bet everyone was home before that hour.

The surge of the hurricane came after the eye had pass because so many people came out of their houses thinking that the hurricane can gone but it suddenly return and no one had any choice of survival . With reference to the Prime Minister I was made to understand that under certain protocols in these times of emergency at hat time the British Army being here in the country then had the ultimate Authority to take over what’s had to be accomplish in order to get the country under law and order meanwhile they were able to clean up the city. So I can only imagine that The Prime Minister portfolio played no part and there fore was treated as any ordinary Belizean and this is why he was put to work as well . It’s just as when the election are being called The Governor Dr Calvin Young is them in charge of the Administration of the country until the New Prime Minister is them Sworn in

Joseito Sosa

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I remember Hurricane Hattie like it was yesterday. We lived at 113 Amara Avenue. Mom and Dad, Arden Forman, had three children and pregnant with one. Being the nosey child l was, l followed my dad from window to window. Being a fisherman he knew what it would take to balance our home with 32 persons in it. So he made groups and every so often had the groups move from one area to another. Water came up as high as our top stairs. Now how many stairs there was l can’t remember. I do remember when the water was dissipating my dad left to go check on his boats. At that time he has two sailboats and one motor boat in the river tied at my cousins deck. He said as he was walking through Albert Street he saw people with the 25 lbs of sugar, rice, flour. Everything you need was available at all the large stores like Brodie’s. Most if not all the large stores were giving away food. He came up to a guy that was struggling with three 25 lbs of rice. My dad said hey man let me help you with one of those 25 lb rice l have 32 people in my house to feed. The man said no. Dad took out his pen knife and pierced a hole in the rice bags and kept moving. I thought that was so funny because by the time the man got where he was going or felt the weight getting lighter it was about too late. Dad did though catch a 20 lb barracuda at the bottom of our stairs. Mom made boil up for everyone. I do remember though standing under my dad and seeing since flying off the houses. Then l saw a dinner table twirling down the avenue and a small dog on it and bam a zinc flew off and chopped off the dog head. I screamed. That was the end of me peeping. Dad also told us later on that a lot of people died during the eye of the storm. What happens then us the weather can start looking beautiful, winds died down and all of a sudden once the eye of the storm had passed then the hurricane comes sometimes with more force. Lots of people died as they left their place of security from the storm to go check on their homes or go out to foreshore to admire the beautiful weather not knowing we just half way through the storm. Dad had a few of the men that were trying to leave. My dad made it clear that if they left they could not return as he explained what was happening. During that period everywhere you turn was the Soldiers from the U.K. guarding because folks were breaking into people’s home and stealing stuff. I pray whenever it’s hurricane season that our Jewel Belize never experience what they went through with Hurricane Hattie. Belize would certainly be wooed off the map.

Mary Forman

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We know it is only a matter of time before it happens again. All we can do is prepare for it and learn from our experiences.. I think North side would do better because many of the houses are made of concrete, but in South side some of the house have been there since Hattie and ready to fall. It is these house that cause most of the destruction as they start breaking up during the storm. We can't do anything about the water. Just get out of the let it do what it will do. However, I suspect where you were in the city the tidal surge may have been different. For example, if you lived in the Buttonwood area that area may have experienced a different tidal surge.. It all depends on the direction the hurricane is coming in. Different directions will have different effects on tidal surge in the city because we are a pininsular. . I think we need to get a little more sufisticated when it comes to prediction of tidal surge because it does affect different parts of the city differently.. If we look at the tidal surge from Richard and Earl they were different. People living in Vista Del Mar didn't think they would get a tidal surge, but they got one with Earl, but none with Richard.. I guess when the big one coming the best thing to do is just make sure you are above 15 feet and you have access to 20 or 25 feet because a category five will bring 25 feet of water. So you need to know what is your elevation in the city. Parts of the city is high like by the Shell station on the boulevard is 9 feet above sea level I was told. We need to have elevation maps for the entire city so we know which area needs to have mandatory evacuations even if you have a two story house because depending where you live that might not be enough. What I would like to see are tidal surge warnings poles located at various parts of the city which will show the residence how high water will go in their area based on the category of the Hurricane. A category five will bring water that will submerge most two story houses in downtown and people need to see that.

Regent Albert

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The Usher building on Foreshore after Hurricane Hattie, 1961. That house burned down in 1998 when the corner house (abandoned) was lit on fire by homeless tenants. This picture is two houses down from where Victor Usher Jr. lives now.

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The old ladies of St. Andrew's always lamented the loss of their lovely organ in Hurricane Hattie. I read they had an old pipe organ. One can be seen at St. John's Cathedral. I think the bell is at a church in Corozal. The story was a metal water vat, I think it was, got adrift and was hurled against the old Kirk by the force of the storm.

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I was in Placencia as a kid watching the waves roll in from the beach to our house as high as the verandah, bring the entire top of coconut trees, and all kind of debris, some if the memories have faded, just those waves, that was early in the beginning of the storm, after that we were locked up, could not see out anymore. Sylvia Eiley

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 [Re: Marty] #544298
08/18/20 11:53 AM
08/18/20 11:53 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 77,003
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
Hurricane Hattie tidal surge taken from Radisson Fort George Hotel. Nine feet of water! The Baron Bliss light house can be seen behind the house in the left. Bthe city and the reef makes Belize more susceptible to the destructive forces of a tidal surge. The shallower the water the higher the wave.

My family lived on foreshore at the time. My mom described it as the whole sea going out and standing up like a wall. She said you could have seen the sand at the bottom of the sea. Then the water rushed back with a vengeance and started rising. Bernadette Moody

Belize city Arnold waterside 15 foot serge high as the Gibson verandah rail. The funny thing it dipped when it reached the little old house that we were in , only the kitchen went down but my grand aunt roped out 11persons out of the water. Some of them are still alive today. The little old house is still standing also the Gibson , Vasques ,& Reyes houses are still there. The Baileys house is where we lived & saved 11 persons out of the water including the Governor's chauffer Mr Griffith & family. Icilda Jennifer Coye Paredez

I wasn't born then, but I remember my mother saying that they had to relocate to the upstairs and water was still rising. My dad and uncles had to break a hole in the roof so they could all go on the roof until the water receded. Bernadette Moody

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I was 10 and remember the ferocity of the wind, the flooding of our street, the mud left behind, and no electricity for a long time. Marta Woods

I remember that vicious hurricane my mom took us to a neighbor house and house came down and the water came rushing in we almost drowned but some people came and rescued us and took us the Billboard Press where we stayed until the water subsided. Yvonne Burgess

I remember Hurricane Hattie. We left out house and weathered the storm in the Premier's ( Mr George.Price) office. As.kids we were playing and spinning in his chair behind the big mahogany desk. My grandfather ( Daniel Meighan) was.with.us and thank goodness as I believe he saved our lives. He kept looking up at the ceiling which looked fine to me. He said "Pet " ( that's what he called my Mom) " This ceiling is not gonna hold" We started banging on a huge mahogany door for those on the other side to open it. We finally made it to safety and none too soon as the.ceiling started to leak and cracked. After the hurricane was over. we went to our home.in a dorey. When we got there many of our neighbors had taken refuge in our home which was in great shape...no damage. Dorothy Meighan Henley

Hattie - for me, that one word has always been enough to recall the horrors; the trials and tribulations; the anxiety of following up on the welfare and wellbeing of family and friends; the horrible cleanup; the long drawn out period of reconstruction; and yes, the wonderful camaraderie and welcoming hands of assistance that we received. Dozed off from time to time, but didn't really sleep except from about 9-11PM when the storm hit. I still vividly remember so much, but yet as far as I'm concerned, I came away from Hattie with a great respect for the unleashed power of a Hurricane that has stayed with me even as I rapidly approach my octogenarian years. And yet, of all the disasters of the world, I am glad that I have had to live with hurricanes as opposed to any other. They give you ample warning to prepare. Yasin J. Shoman

Remember BzC was all wood except for some government building and perhaps 2 private dwelling. Some wooden houses were blown over, some floated off. The strongly anchored houses termites had eaten the rafters or the zinc corroded. The previous devastation was 30 years earlier and i remember hearing that, "we are out of the hurricane belt and if anything the reef will protect us." Alan Usher

Our home was completely washed away. A huge big Victorian 2 story wooden house on Eve St. My mom says the storm surge just lifted it up off the foundation columns and smashed it across the street into kindling. They almost didn't evacuate either. It was Mr. Chavannes who convinced my grandfather to come to them since they were not on the water. They just left the house with nothing but the clothes on their backs fully expecting to return to their home. Lesley Sullivan

We lived on Amara Avenue. My dad being a fisherman knew a lot about the way it’s blowing and water surges. He saved 32 of our neighbors including family. He built our home and that was very strong until a few years ago he had to remove due to the land which was given to him and my mom as a wedding gift was now left in a WILL for her grand daughter. Mary Forman

I remember hurricane Hattie vividly. My father David Bradley realised the strength of the hurricane and evacuated us to United Farm near Cayo, all 44 of us took shelter there for about 3 weeks. My father couldn't join us as he was on duty as Controller of Customs and Excise and Harbour Master. Our family home was built 10ft off the ground and flood waters came in, he had to drill holes in the mahogany floors to drain the water ! We had seaweed in the attic!! Dreadful and frightening, so many people lost their homes. Alison Bradley Young

I had a cousin living in Belize City that time.. Ha and his wife were in a downstairs room and the water started rising so fast that they had to break a hole in the wooden second floor and climbed up and weathered the rest of the hurricane there... Albert Williams

We went to Grace Chapel and I remember the wind blowing North, South, east and west and the glass windows breaking. We went downstairs and the water started to rise. We went back upstairs again and the building was shaking but luckily nothing happened. After it was over I remember eating pigtail and mash potatoes till I got so sick of it. I was 10. Joan Overly

We lived on Ferrel's Lane and the water came up to our floor 9 feet high. My grandmother would say the house only swayed like a candle light! Maria Mally Gomez Perez


Hurricane 'Hattie' Hits Honduras (1961)
People walking along flood-drenched streets of Belize City. Medium shot of man paddling along docklands in boat. Various shots of homes destroyed to rubble. Dog. Various shots of hurricane wreckage. Aerial shots of rubble and evidence of destruction.

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At St. Catherine Academy, Sr. Mary Bernard McCan. viewing the damage after Hattie. She was the Mother Superior at the time.

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I was in STD. 3 at St. Catherine’s Elementary when Hattie struck. We had a lot of nuns as teachers in that time. I just feel it was not as hot back then. Imagine wearing those heavy robes. Notice the big rosary beads that all the nuns wore as a part of their habit. They were excellent teachers! Sister Alexander Hunter taught us English in third form. I think literature too. She was super. She also taught us typing and shorthand . We had a so much in her be Glee Club, lovely, sweet Nun. Marta Woods

Sister Alexander Hunter was one of the most caring nuns at SCA. She was my guiding light. We all loved her. Greta Martha Williams

Sister Alexander Hunter’s my dad’s twin sister, later she was allowed to use her name, Yvonne.I always admired her for joining the nuns cause she followed her calling. She was very pretty and very young (17)when she made her decision and she could not see her family once she joined. I heard that she and my grandmother used to communicate with flashlights across the street. The family house was right at the corner of Hutson and Eyre st. Yvonne Paulette Hunter Romero

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Belize City Hospital after Hurricane Hattie

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The part which projected out to just before the seaside, and appears to be a seperate building was the Children Ward. This was an addition after the original building was built.

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 [Re: Marty] #544718
09/04/20 06:09 AM
09/04/20 06:09 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 77,003
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
All Men at the Door! Belize's Post Hattie Generation

Written by Bilal Morris:

(In memory of the Belizeans whose lives were lost in the 1961 Hurricane Hattie & in the advent of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic)

“All men at the door”, yelled the nuns from the hurricane shelter at St. Catherine's Academy where my parents and their family had sheltered from the storm as the 1961 Hurricane called “Hattie” pounded the coastal regions of Belize mercilessly thirty years after the devastation and destruction that the 1931 hurricane had brought upon the country and people of Belize City.

My father and the rest of the men who had brought their families to safety at the historic all girl catholic college rushed to the door immediately and pushed back against the wind with their strong bodies creating an instant buffer. The massive gale force winds puffed, blew, and whistled angrily back at them through the edges between the perimeter of the door as the women and children inside trembled with fear thinking that the door would have collapsed. There was also a feeling that the men would be no match for the hundred plus miles an hour of the storm’s might. But the door held under the men’s weight and mercy persevered the moment that had come so suddenly upon the scared occupants of the room who had produced a generation that had absolutely any idea about what the devastating hurricane before Hattie was like.

Within the dark night of the raging disaster, the sea had come upon the land and filled every space accompanied by the stinking rain. My eldest brother who was visiting his girlfriend that day when the storm hit had my parents worried since he was not with the rest of the family at the hurricane shelter. There was no idea what may have become of him since all communication was cut and Belize remained in a state of emergency and isolation. As the nuns sang hymns in a desperate call for some kind of mercy in their fear that the aging catholic building would crumble under the relentless bombardment of Hattie, the packed room of those people who sought refuge joined in with them and sang their hearts out.

Fear inflicts an uncertainty upon the mind of its victims. It’s an element of surprise that punishes without compassion. And the people of Belize whom had built back their proud city from the rubble of the past watched it again being drowned and buried alive to an almost unrecognizable abyss. The lost of life was catastrophic and may have even been as worse as the most dreaded storm before that in Belize’s history. Fortunately this time, Hattie had a name and not a number and appeared that there was some kind of warning that it was coming being that the below sea level British colony had progressively advanced in age and time.

Hattie had much of its dead that it killed being buried on the spot while some were burned for the fear of spreading diseases since the bodies had decomposed so badly after the storm had subsided. Three decades ago a hurricane had inflicted almost annihilation on the people of the former British Honduras because there have been no accurate account to date of the dead, missing, and disappeared. But Hattie was different in that it tested trusted structures improved through advance building over the years but had aged over time. It destroyed churches, schools, infrastructure, agriculture and colonial property that were the only means of refuge from it for the thriving Central American nation struggling out of colonialism.

Becoming visible to the outside world of developing nations, more aid and assistance poured in for the first time in the history of Belize while creating a wave of Belizean migrants to the United States that had come about since the American consulate in Belize for the reason of charitable causes of diplomacy began to assist a devastated country to rebuild. The U.S. government gave visas to the British Honduran subjects to go to the U.S. to work and send back remittances to help their love ones left behind and to rebuild their lives.

But Hattie also created a brain drain on the former British colony that resulted in a kind of chain migration out of Belize over successive years to present. Its effects are still felt up to today as some of Belize’s best minds had continued to leave in search of greener pastures. Could it may have been that some of these Belizeans who left and had never return was because of the hopelessness that Hattie had brought? The growing Belizean population abroad as one of the largest Caribbean diaspora in the U.S. had begun to bare witness and to testify.

But those that witnessed the 1931 Hurricane fared even worse but appeared to have withered the storm alone since there was no kind hand of gesture that was stretched out to them from the rising superpower to north. They build back a country and lives feeling the pain of abandonment and dislocation from the rest of the world that saw them as a bridge too far. But for the post-Hattie generation of Belizean folk, Belize was beginning to come into its own, and now its new global connection ushered in some badly needed support.

When the eldest member of my family migrated to the U.S. two years later after Hattie, the youngest of our family was not even born yet, and my mother in heart wrenching terror, held me tight in her arms as a baby at that convent by the Belizean sea for fear of losing me being only one month and four weeks old. As a post-Hattie generation of babies that were born during that dreaded time, she would always reminded me that my coming into this world on a Sunday in early September and surviving the horrors of Hattie; that fate would have made me survived some of the worst. As the storm raged, my small sleeping body rested well with her unaware of the danger outside.

Then as the red flag warnings came down and there was some kind of clear from danger of Hattie that pelted Belize with pouring inches of rain, rising flood waters, and cold and cutting winds, the people of Belize began to come outside to look for their dead, their survivors, and to measure the damage inflicted upon their graceful city. It was there that my lost and found brother was spotted by my sisters swimming past St. Mary’s Anglican School towards St. Catherine's Academy to reunite with the rest of his family that had began to fear that he may have been washed away by the flood waters that covered Belize City. The force of the waters destroyed the main bridge that connected the north and south side of Belize City and drowned many in its path. My brother arrived and survived the waters, my mother said, carrying a large can of candy, all soaking wet, and boasting a survival smile.

Then years after he had returned to Belize from the U.S. to visit after his migration, he told me how he survived Hattie and that what had helped him was that he was a good swimmer that could fend for himself as an 18 year-old young man. Staring up into his brotherly face as a boy that was too young to remember him when he left, the thought of seeing him as a stranger on his return really struck me to the realities of Hattie in that it almost deprived me to have become. My brother had returned to see his place of birth from the cold winters of Chicago, Illinois in the U.S., and hugged the survival of his family that he had left behind after Hattie. He embraced me as his little brother who had just been born when the hurricane struck, as well as connecting with my younger brother who was also seeing him for the first time in person and did not know him at all.

Hattie had made many Belizeans come into some kind of survivors of the fittest. And it had fostered in those Belizeans like myself the strength and pride of family and lineage that was born in the advent of its aftermath as Belize's post-Hattie generation.

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The back of the Supreme Court, there are no stairs and someone is sitting on the sea wall. Scotkirk church would be to the right in photo. Brodies would be on the left.
Photo credit: Alan Baker

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Turton house on North Front Street . This is the building where Prosser is and the photo is taken from Hyde’s Lane. just about where the Holy Redeemer Parish hall lower flat was, the entire upper sections were blown away. That watery section would be the children’s playground across from Turton’s office. The photographer was standing on West Canal Street with the canal on his right. The Belize River is in the front with the Prosser Building standing proudly. Beyond the Prosser Building is the green and white wooden house that is near the present parking lot. Closer to the right of the photographer is a corner of the Georgie August meat shop . Across the river to the right is part of the Holy Redeemer School building.
Photo credit: Alan Baker

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Ernest E. Cain - Cyclone Hattie

A book on hurricane Hattie by Ernest E. Cain published by Stockwell and co in Devon in UK.

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Hurricane Hattie 1961

by Mr. Angel Teck, Taken from the Lynam Story

The regular night studies for the night of October 31 were proceeding as usual. The diesel generator had been on for at least two hours and still going on and Farther Kramer had not turned the plant off because he was in town. The ten o’clock bell rang indicating that all should find their bed for the night. It started raining heavily and by eleven o’clock the light plant was still on while an electrical thunderstorm ensued. It was not strange in Lynam for heavy rains to pour through the night. Shortly after eleven O’clock, Father Kramer drove the big truck up the hill and braved the pouring rain to come up to the dormitory. No one was yet asleep because the lights were still on and all were surprised to see the padre soaking wet in the dormitory. He called out: Boys! Everybody get up and take your bedding with you… we are going tom Holy angels to weather the storm…a hurricane is coming and coming fast; the truck is waiting for you downstairs. Hurry! Come On!

Everyone scramble to grab bed clothing and nothing else…no suitcase, valise or anything of the sort. All rushed to the truck that was parked with the lights and engine on. We clambered on the sides of the truck and got into the box. The padre turned off the generator and came over under the rain, got into the driver’s seat and drove down the hill and on to Holy Angels Primary school buildings in Pomona. The rains never stopped and neither did we. We got to Pomona and on to the school buildings. We were all soaking wet and the beddings that we had carried were all wet as well. Under heavy thunder and lighting and rain! It was now becoming breezy about 11:30p.m. All doors and windows were closed and bolted and we accommodated ourselves as best we could after squeezing all the water from our clothes. We arranged desks and benches so we could use them as bed and some of us were able to fall asleep despite the crisis. The breeze turned into wind and the n very strong wind. As it got stronger and stronger we could hear the upper structure of the roof creaking due to the tremendous force of the winds against the roof. As time passed the hurricane winds got so strong that it made terrible howling of the hurricane wind as it forced itself over and around the building, like thousands of demons trying to break down the building or blow the roof off the building. The horrific sound prevented everybody from sleep. We sat huddled together wondering if the roof would bear the force of the assault. It must have been at least 5 hours maybe six hours of winds and rain but it felt like several eternities. That night nobody felt like urinating as we usually did at our hill at night; it was an unforgettable night filled with intense anxiety!

At six O’clock in the morning; everything went dead silent! The worse was been over; Hurricane Hattie had raped and ravage Stann Creek and left the valley in a lamentable state! We opened the doors and came out like glad chickens out of a cage; and behold!!! Everything around was a wreck! Many house roofs had been blown away, coconut trees were uprooted, orange trees were totally leafless and some were even uprooted and blown down. Nowhere, as far as the eye could see, was there a leaf on a tree. The whole world around looked as if a great army of grasshoppers and wee wee ants had devoured every leaf on sight. The trees were all bare branches pointing upwards like imploring Jews to Jehovah! The whole aspect of the environment was awe-inspiring. None of us had ever seen such a calamity. It was incredible and at the same time, a fearsome experience. Death had been riding the fearsome winds last night and had left its evidence scattered all over the place like corps in a battle field. In the neighboring fence there were at least 100 chickens dead in the crashed by a fallen coconut tree. As we moved around the school building surveying the great destruction we noticed that there were not many people moving around yet…we seemed to be the first. I understand that people were cowering inside their houses thinking that the hurricane would blow again, but fortunately it didn’t. All Was over. At about 8 in the morning people started appearing on the land, like ants coming out of their underground tunnels. About that time, we say the owner of the dead chickens, appear and said that if we wanted chickens we could take as many as we wanted to make our breakfast. We accepted the offer since the lady offered to lend us pots and pans to do so. It was the responsibility of the Lynam kitchen crew to prepare the meals…the guys were experts. We all quickly gathered dead wood, found three stones, made fire, boiled water, plucked the chickens and dressed them. The cooks took it from there and by 10:00 o’clock we were eating stewed chicken. It was here that the Lynam boys became known as real-life survivor brigade; known and admired by the people outside of campus. Father Kramer had gone back to town the night before and could not return until in the morning but Patrick Scott had been with us as prefect throughout the time…all was well. After breakfast we cleaned up the place, washed the dishes and pots and delivered it to the Good Samaritan who had fed us her chickens. Padre came late the morning and with machetes and axes because he said the Lyman road was littered with fallen trees and we had to clear the road to go back home. That didn’t scare us at all; in fact, I was surprised to see how everyone took it as an adventurous challenge rather than an inconvenience.

The news of Lynam boys’ dynamism had spread to Stann Creek Town and when the flood waters from the hurricane went out of the yards in town the authorities asked Fr. Kramer to lend a hand in clearing the disaster in town…clearing the debris and moving the fallen walls and mangled zinc roofs that the hurricane had destroyed. The padre sent a mission of thirty boys to assist the authorities in clearing the Town. Again here the Lynam boys left a most impressive record of work and discipline. Some would help empty the big groceries of all supplies that would be used by the authorities to feed the hurricane victims…which were indeed all residents. A group would be in charge of collecting the loose debris and load it into trucks, and yet another group would he assigned to work in yards with fallen houses; in search of dead people.

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The remains of the market area after Hurricane Hattie; a view from the swing-bridge. The building on the left was totally de-roofed and both were badly damaged by winds of more than 200 m.p.h. 3 days after the storm people were walking in stenched mud 6 to 12 inches deep. Folks will never forget what that mud smelled like!

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If you were standing on Albert and Regents streets during Hurricane Hattie in 1961 this would have been your perspective as far as water height. THe mud took forever to clean up! The BDF hosed down downtown Belize City with fire engine pumps.

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Below: Water level for Hurricane Hattie, Bridgefoot of the Swing Bridge. By Old Belize Market, the old market would be on the right of the pole. The bridge had been twisted/offset from the regular alignment. The water actually went up higher than that shown in the photo during the storm. It covered the then Pound Yard Bridge . Which back in the day was high.

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That's just the approach.
When the tidal wave came in it was about 15 feet.
That's a fact, because my home was high and in minutes we were standing ankle deep in the living room.
We had to sleep in our wardrobes.
After the water reversed, it left about 4 feet of fine muddy stink grayish mud.
That was Albert Street
Boats were on the streets and people's wooden vats.
I remember it so vividly.

The city looked so horrible
Everything misplaced homes in shambles,,Pets lying dead,Lamp poles and wires down, Many homes had their own wooden vats. These floated away or ended up in someone else,s yard,
My most horrible memory was to not recognizing your own neighborhood.
Totally altered or destroyed.
Don't you remember it was a ship that destroyed Scott Kirk?
The ship came in and was found on the church by the market!
Each area had a different experience.
I always laugh about this.
When the army trucks came around loaded with sacks of rice.
They made holes in the sacks and drove slowly down the streets and people running behind the truck with any containers they can fill
Remembered the kindness and politeness of these soldiers,
We were hungry but they have us respect
Here is the funny part,There were some people who had top government jobs and actually acted like snobs but it is funny now when I remember them running like everyone to get rice to eat
The families with most kids were lucky because ever kid had a container.
Most beautiful was neighbours helping neighbors

Bernadette Burns

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Some years ago I was at Buckingham Palace and met a retired senior Royal Navy officer who said he was dispatched to BH to take charge of the initial recovery. He said everyone here was in shock. Mostly its disbelief at such wanton devastation

Alan Usher

========

The late Bishop Dorrick Wright was saved during Hurricane Hattie, by climbing a Coconut Tree, the rest of his family drowned. - - That is why his insignia as Bishop included a coconut tree. - I saw this at Kenrick Hall in St Louis Missouri. - Also in Mullins River I was told, people were also saved by climbing coconut trees. - A person told me that the tree swung, but he held on tight. Hector Silva
I attended a conference in Barbados, where it was explained how Hurricanes are formed and the features it can develop, One of them is embeded tornadoes, Jumping or skipping formation and in Belize City it caused powerful Earthquakes when the waves ( surf ) it generated hit the Reefs. - - And lengthy explanations were given to these and other features. - Among some of the questions were " IS IT A LIVING ORGANISM ? The answer was YES and it was explained why. - It was pointed out that Hurricane Hattie had about SIX tornadoes. One by Eve street, - One by Foreshore, - one by Battle field, One around Landivar and I don't remember the others in the plan. - The base of the Fort George Hotel felt the shock of one of the TREMORS. Some damages were done to a few structures. . .

Hector Silva

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