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Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961

Posted By: Marty

Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 11/01/11 04:20 PM


Remembering: Hurricane Hattie 50 Years Ago

Hurricane Hattie struck Belize on October 31, 1961, killing more than 400 people and leaving thousands homeless. Almost half of Belize City was demolished by the storm.

The storm that would become Hattie had formed two weeks earlier in the Atlantic Ocean and then moved slowly west toward Central America. When it reached the coast of Belize, known at the time as British Honduras, it was a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour and gusts reaching 180 mph. It was the strongest storm to hit Belize to date. With accurate weather predictions still in their infancy, an attempted evacuation was only partially successful.

The barrier islands of Turneffe and Caye Caulker were totally submerged by the storm surge. Hattie then brought a 12-foot surge to the mainland, flattening all buildings near the shore. Stann Creek, a small fishing village on the coast near Belize City, was completely destroyed. Following the hurricane, a village was built on the outskirts of Belize City and named Hattieville.

Due to the devastation of Hattie, the government chose to construct the new capital city 50 miles inland on high ground and safe from tidal waves. Because of the severity of the hurricane, the name “Hattie” was retired and will never be used as the name of an Atlantic hurricane again.

Below are some amazing photos of the destruction in Belize City caused by Hurricane Hattie 53 years ago.

LOOKING BACK TO 1961

Hurricane Hattie, Belize, 1961

Hattie victims line up at Department of Housing and Planning: Office of Central Authority, and Department of Information and Communications.


Old Market in Downtown Belize City



The picture above is that of a street that most Belizeans do not know it exists. COCKBURNE LANE, by old St John's Cathedral, connecting Regent street with Albert Street. Most of the Belize City streets looked just like this street. - Bull Doozers had to be used to clear the streets of Belize City.

Market Square, Belize City, after Hurricane Hattie. The building in the center was the Royal Bank of Canada, today the Belize Bank. At the rear left of the photo you can see the Supreme Court building with its signature architecture.


Part of North Front Street, the large building on the right with the sign was Belize Estate and Produce Limited.


Not sure where this building was or is in Belize City. Someone has suggested it may be the Peace Corp building... but I really can't say. Any clues anyone?


Not sure where this one is.


The panoramic scene at the Old Swing Bridge, a crossing still in action...


This building, says CBA engineers Philip Waight and Paul Satchwell, fell down off its posts and ended up partly in the street. Waight's family home also fell off its posts, he said on The Adele Ramos Show on November 2.


This photo is smack downtown in Belize City. The building to the right is Hofius Hardware - to the left is the present-day First Caribbean International Bank on Albert Street.


These men were discussing disaster relief efforts 3 days after Hattie. Talking to the town Mayor, Mr. Wesley, left. The First Minister, centre, who was making private visits to distressed people. This particular house is a complete loss.



On the Barracks... how our ladies did it back in the day and they looked uncomplaining!


Relief via helicopter airlifted to the Memorial Park in Belize City. The British Force Helicopter drops netfull of foodstuff at the Northern end of Memorial Park in November 1961 right after Hurricane Hattie. In terms of the relief effort, while you had a British contingent in British Honduras, the Americans were the first to provide significant relief with personnel and supplies. More British troops arrived from Jamaica a few days after the hurricane, and they assisted in stopping the looting in Belize City. I think in order of international relief you had the ill fated flight of the Mexican plane with medical personnel from Chetumal (crashed), and then you had two planes of supplies and medical personnel from Guatemala. The Guatemala relief effort caused some controversy.


Village View Post

All photos and captions courtesy of Adele Ramos: "The Adele Ramos Show" Belize City

NEW YORK TIMES September 2, 1974, Monday

Hurricane Carmen, described as extremely dangerous, gains force on Sept 1 and threatens Brit colony of Belize with winds of 150 to 175 mph. Tides 15 ft above normal are expected. US Hurricane Center says Carmen compares with hurricane Hattie, which struck Belize in '61, killing 262 persons and causing $60,000 in damages.



In 1961 Belizeans lined up for food after Hurricane Hattie destructive landing in Belize.


I was 11 and can sometimes hear that sound of the wind and zink's ripping from it's roofings and that frightening sound as our house break loosed from it stilts and as we bounded together tossing in the wind whilst trying to take refuge at the NE neighbors it was horrible all night until 8:00 A.M. Everything was calm completely still and suddenly there was a huge noise with a huge wall off water ripping every thing in it's path wooden vats houses and more not long the water came up too the upper floor at the house we took refuge the water stayed for a while and when my brother and I decided to go check the neighborhood we were walking on c corps scarrey. Everywhere was like a bomb hit us. We were finally able to worked our way into downtown and saw boats in the park and on Albert st. the church was reduced to bricks strewed around it was hell we would get ration twice a week. My brother was Mayor and we got NUFF helped. We lived on Vernon st.and mussels st. by Pilgrim sawmill and Londo's alley. Two water's ways. The canal and the river's they were burning corpses on sight for day's.

by Daniel Meighan


In books by the newspaperman Ernest Cain, the Mennonite farmer John Friesen, and civil servant Milton Arana they all wrote about the line for food rations.

There is a memorable picture of Hurricane Hattie survivors cuing up in a line on North Front Street near the Marketing Board for food rations from the government agency. Looting had resulted in chaos in others parts of the city, but near the marketing board residence of the city waited patiently in the long orderly line to receive rations that came from the Marketing Board warehouse. But one wonders about whether residents of the city would have been in such an orderly line that stretched for several blocks if not for the fact that the line was guarded.

Regardless, many Belizean who were interviewed about the hurricane remembered standing in lines for food rations. “We all had to form long and exhausting lines in order to receive our weekly rations” wrote one women, when she recalled her memories of the hurricane on FB at the 50th anniversary of the hurricane

In little Belize City the elite and those with status found themselves waiting for rations along with the poor. Some of these more affluent residents most likely came from the nearby Fort George area, where some of the elegant homes were severely damaged and destroyed. In the aftermath of the hurricane the lines for rations reflected one instance in which a natural disaster became a social leveler.

Highlighting how the hurricane had become a social leveler and the extent to which aid would come from abroad Arana (1993:32) had this to say: "This was one time when money seems to have lost its power. A pocketful of five-dollar bills did not ensure a full stomach. However willing a person was to spend money, generally there was nothing to spend it on. It was a practical lesson in economics….In such terrible circumstances, the destitute people might very well have invoked the old adage that necessity knows no law. They had no way of knowing that more than enough food, clothing, and other supplies would soon be rushed to them from abroad. At the moment they had to face and do something about the stark reality of the present”

Arana, Milton. 1993. “Cry Wolf: The Story of Hurricane Hattie. ” New York, NY: Vantage Pr.

Cain, Ernest E. 1963. Cyclone "Hattie": Being an Illustrated Record of the Hurricane and Tidal Wave which Destroyed the City of Belize in British Honduras on the 31st day of October, 1961. Devon: Arthur H. Stockwell Limited.

Friesen, John D. (comp). 1964. Hurricane “Hattie”: Story of the Hurricane that Ripped through the British Honduras, on October 31, 1961. J.D. Friesen (Chihuahua, Chi. Mexico).

by Jerome Straughan


Hattie was the only hurricane in history to have earned 3 name: Hattie-Inga--Simone.

Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 11/03/11 12:26 AM

Awash With Memories of Belize's Hurricane Hattie
Washington Post 1996

Every hurricane season blows back the Chronicler's memories of the night 35 years ago when Hurricane Hattie struck Belize, in what was then British Honduras. Just before Halloween in 1961, a heavy heat descended on the goodbye party for the colonial governor. In the living room of Belize City's only elegant ground-floor flat, with its fake fireplace, the glass pendants on the town's fanciest chandelier hung still as stalactites. In the garden facing the sea, guests in sweat-soaked jackets and dresses sipped gin and tonics as soggy canapes were passed around.

A major hurricane was blowing through the Caribbean, but the governor had word that it would strike to the north. Belize was safe.

Still, the sultry calm was saturated with a sense of foreboding. We worried about our house, built on 10-foot stilts but only a block from the sea in a land that does not rise far above the water's level.

The cable reports from Miami to the U.S. consulate gradually grew more terrifying as the storm twisted and turned south -- toward Belize.

The U.S. consul, after taking his sailboat up river, put his wife and children in the car and headed inland. His predecessor in Belize's Sept. 10, 1931, hurricane had stayed in the consulate and was washed out to sea, lost with 2,000 others. The death toll was so high because the town was then full of people commemorating the 1798 battle of Saint George's Cay, when British Honduran baymen wrested control of the cay from Spain.

But the vice consul -- my husband, Richard -- stayed behind. He secured the consulate on the ground level, moved the visa waiting list upstairs and tied down objects that might turn into missiles.

Only then did he come home to wrap his beloved Chickering piano in a tarpaulin. I bought candles and food, boiled water for drinking and packed necessities for our daughters, Claire, 1, and Camille, 3. We took refuge along with many others at the U.S. Agency for International Development, the only modern concrete office building in town.

Silent adults and occasionally crying children crowded an upper floor. We lighted lanterns, and as the winds grew we huddled behind desks. When corrugated roofing crashed through the windows, men made a barricade of bookcases.

Then came pounding and shouting -- the people from the top floor trying to force their way in. A telephone pole had crashed through the penthouse wall, and they had been washed down the stairway by the waves of rain. Only a few could fit behind our barricade, the rest huddled on the staircase and landing. In our refuge, there was no room to sit, only barely enough to stand.

The next morning the wind finally shifted and the sea washed in, frothing like a mad dog.

The town was all flotsam and jetsam -- a steeple sailing down the waves, a whole roof crazily dipping in and out of the water. A man swam along, pulling a string of whiskey bottles through the water. The police commissioner confiscated the evidence.

Richard half swam, half walked through the shoulder-high water to find the consulate unroofed but standing shakily. Desks, chairs and books were all washed up against one wall. Only the office flag hung straight on its pole.

The day after that, the children riding on our shoulders, we went home to find a miracle. Our house still stood -- though the wineglasses were filled with water and mud, the hammers on Richard's piano fell off as he played, and our water vat was stuffed with mud and debris. Soon our house was full of refugees who had been less fortunate.

There was no electricity, but one of our guests provided a kerosene stove, so I cooked up all the food in the freezer and the refrigerator. It was served in courses, by candlelight, on our best tablecloth, all of us grateful we were alive to eat it.

As the water began to subside, Richard went past the site of the governor's farewell party. Most of the apartment was gone; only one prism still hung on the chandelier.

Two days later, Camille had a raging fever. The girls and I were evacuated to Panama. Richard stayed behind, using our house as the consulate. He existed mostly on canned anchovies, Scotch and hard work.

We came back after a lonely Christmas. There were no telephones, only young boys who carried notes. Everything was in short supply. But the children and I were glad to be there.

Hattie in many ways changed the course of the country. Now British Honduras is the independent nation of Belize, with a new capital -- Belmopan, set safely up country on higher ground -- and with a flourishing tourist industry. But when the winds blow hard in hurricane season, I worry.

This was written by the wife of vice-consul Richard Conroy

Richard Conroy is the guy who wrote OUR MAN IN BELIZE, one of my favorite books on Belize

Richard Timothy Conroy’s Our Man in Belize is a fun, engaging memoir of his stint as US vice-consul to the impoverished British Honduras of the early 1960s, a period marked by the devastating Hurricane Hattie.


==============================


by Constable Arthur Skeran
No. 415 Central Police Station P. T. 0.

October 31, 1961 was one of the finest days in the month
for the little village of Mullins River 27 miles south of
Belize. This popular resort village, only a mile in length and
100 yards wide, lay quiet, in the evening just before dusk.
Then, suddenly, the cry of "Hurricane is out, Hurricane
is out" echoed from the lips of the three hundred inhabitants
and the scene changed swiftly.

Night had just been settling in when I had returned
from a day's work on my father's ranch about one and a half
miles northwest of this village_ The sky was darkened with
a reddish glow hanging over the distant hills lying to the
northwest.

It was the custom of the young men to play cards and
drink at one of the saloons every night. So it was on the
night of the hurricane. We, my brother and myself, were
in the upstairs room of a saloon in the southern end of the
village with about 15 other young men ages 15-25. We were
not in the least bit troubled as we had never experienced
a hurricane before and did not know what it entailed.

It was about the tenth hour when the effect of the breeze
could be felt from the ordinary wind. Then the latest report
from a neighboring radio said the hurricane was heading
straight for British Honduras.

The wind increased. The zinc of the house began to
.give way and it was then that the crowd in the saloon became
annoyed because the rain was pouring through the roof and
it stung like the bite of an ant.

We then decided to go into the saloon. No sooner had
we done so when the verandah 9long with the step came
down with a crash, startling us a little.
We stayed there for what seemed like days. At intervals
we heard neighbouring houses going down with muffled
crashes.

By this time the water was rising very fast and was about
two feet in the saloon. It was about the fourth hour of the
morning and it was beginning to get clear.

As the house was now shaking rapidly, we decided to
run for the old station, one of the strongest and largest of
the one hundred and fifty houses; it was about 200 yards
from the saloon.

One by one we emerged from the saloon, struggling over
trees, zinc and pieces of houses. Fortunately, only one boy
was cut on the ankle by a zinc. A few minutes later however,
it was patched up by some daring females who rendered
first aid to him, and later to another boy who was hit
in the left eye by a whirling piece of board.

Despite the howling wind, the station stood its ground
but when the enormous waves slashed against it with the
water about waist high in the building, it could not restrain.
Down it went in pieces, leaving about seventy people to
battle for their lives. However, God Almighty is a
wonderful God, for by this time it was daylight and we were
able to see our way.

It was a piteous sight to see all the children crying so
mournfully. Some of them forced their way onto trees and
the waves slashed at their feet like hungry wolves.
At this time it seemed as if we were experiencing the
centre of the disaster for the rain was just pouring fantastically
and the wind at its worst causing zincs, boards, vats and
many other things to go flying like kites.
Assisting as much as we could, with the children, my
brother and I decided to swim inland, away from the sea.

Joined by eleven others of which two were men, one a woman,
and the rest children, we swam for what I presumed to be
two hours, resting at intervals with our burden, the six
children. We reached a good shelter, on some trees about
two feet above water and we decided to wait for the bitter
end. It was about this time that I remembered Noah's flood
and I thought that this must be a second one.

A few minutes later my attention was attracted by two
horns emerging from the water a foot and a half below. Immediately

I beckoned to my nearest companion, who happened
to be my brother. He tremblingly asked what this was, to
which I replied that I did not know. This extra-ordinary
creature came out of the water entirely. It had two horns
on a head like that of a cat with teeth like that of a wolf on
the body of a small dog. It was only visible for a few minutes.

After it disappeared we stood watching each other speechlessly.
Half nude, with the rain burning through our skin like
sharp needles, we waded our way through the water which
was now subsiding rapidly and only about waist high to the
village.

Arriving on the spot where the village once stood, only
two buildings were visible besides the new station and the
Roman Catholic mission.

It was now about 3 p.m., November 1. Not having anything
to eat from the night, we were now very hungry.
However, the only food there were cocoanuts and we
ate these for about three days before we got aid from the
U.S. Navy.

After checking our missing people we found out that
forty-three were absent. This was the worst day I ever
spent in my life in the little village known as Mullin's
River.

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THE EYE OF A KILLER

The eye of Hurricane Hattie did not pass over Belize City in 1961 as some people thought, however, we got the Western edge of that little white ring around the eye which is normally the most intense area of a hurricane. Mullins River was ground zero of Hattie. Before Hattie, Mullins River was a thriving town of about 2,000 people they say. Today, the town is now a village and they are barely holding on with about 40 villagers. Unfortunately, only about three of those villagers are in what we would call child-bearing age, one girl and two boys. The girl's plan is to leave the village after Sixth Form.

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Caye Caulker was hit too on October 31, 1961 it caused "the split".

"My grandma n mom told us many stories n that was half the island but heading south where the primary school is then east from school is another section where it split but not completely thus why water always high in that area behind my grandmother property"
Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 11/21/11 11:33 PM

Here is a very interesting 31mb (large download) PDF about Hurricane Hattie.

Interesting section on Ray Auxillou controlling Caye Caulker after Hurricane Hattie, Starts on Page 65 of the pdf file.

CLICK HERE for the 31mb download

Here's a comment from Ray....

I can while I´m still alive add a footnote to whoever wrote that piece. After reporting to Governor Thornly at Queen Street police Headquarters, after returning from Caye Caulker, I asked for permission to get tools and hardware from Hofius Hardware, still standing. The Governor said fine, but I asked for a written piece of paper, with his signature on it. He gave it to me, but said he couldn´t enforce it. I and a couple of Caye Caulker helpers ( one was Leslie from the Caye ) went to Hofius walking, but the manager, would not let me have anything. So I went back to Governor Thornly and he told me he could not help me. I asked for a pistol, as the crowds were looting up and down the street and the Manager of Hofius ( an Englishman ) was worried if he opened his doors he would get looted too. We had two sailboats by the then Marketing Board, on the riverside and had to walk through about 3 or 4 feet of mud around the city. I lost my shoes and never had another pair.

Anyway the Governor referred me to a military officer ( a Major ) who seemed to be in dispair and sort of crying, as he had no men, etc. I told him that I needed some soldiers to take with me and the Governor had approved it. He went on and on, but finally, a patrol just coming off a 12 hour shift, volunteered. At least one corporal and a private. I also asked the Police Seargant for a pistol, telling him the Governor had approved it. He lent me his. Not sure of the caliber, and I promised to have it back in an hour. Leslie, another fisherman, two soldiers and myself went to the Police Station gate, and the military guy officer who I had asked, said there were no lorries available, as they were either without gasoline, or on the airport shuttle for supplies.

So I asked my guys to wait and walked up the street a bit, and flagged the first 3 ton Bedford truck coming by empty. I think they had been carrying stuff to the Marketing Board shed? Anyway, I jumped in the passenger side and said I was commandeering the truck for an hour. The driver protested, but I stuck the pistol in his ribs and told him to pick up my crew by the Police Station gate. He did and off we went. We went around the back door of Hofius Hardware, as the manager refused to let us use the front door, as the mob were looting all the stores along the street, we went with the truck in the alley and had to finish knocking down a telephone pole to get to the doors. I went in by the front door and Louise Sylvester, the area representative was arguing and pleading with the manager to get tools, but the manager resolutely refused. I listened and there was a crowd in there with permission to get stuff, but the English manager wasn´t budging.

The corporal and private were with me, and they were armed, I told the Corporal to arrest the manager and he put his rifle in the guy´s belly and pushed him back against the wall. The soldier private and one of my Caye fisherman went to the back and opened the doors and we start loading, house jacks, axes, crowbars, nails, hammers and all kinds of sundry things. Finally, the manager being held against the store wall, pleaded to me, to let him at least get a pen and paper to write down the stuff I was taking. Did that, and after that everything went smoothly. We filled the truck with stuff, then went to the Marketing Board and did the same there with food. Leslie ( a Caye black man ) had got himself arrested someplace and I rescued him and we loaded the truck with food at the Marketing Board and went around to the two sailing sloops.

While the boys loaded the vessels, I took the pistol back to the police seargeant at the Queen street police station, let the soldiers go and get some sleep, the truck was sent on his way and reported to Governor Thornly that we had our stuff and were going back to Caye Caulker. He was amazed and asked how I did it. When he heard, he simply said, he didn´t want to hear any more, but give him a report on Caye Caulker next time in town. It was some days later, and at that time the British Ship had arrived and naval doctors set up in the BLISS INSTITUTE. I went in and got my feet tended too. The doctor said he took 36 pieces of glass out of my bare feet. A good salt water sea wash fixed that for infection.

The people on the Caye really did good. They organized themselves in teams, and got stuff done quick time. Several political types, went in by boat, but were unable to get any cooperation from anybody. Next time I went in, I got zincs and hardware supplies for shelters. About three weeks later, Louise Sylvester came out by British military helicopter, but things were going well and he left. A year of so later, George Price, First Minister I think? Or some title, wrote me and asked how much I wanted for my work after the Hurricane. I toted it up, and submitted a claim for $120 Bz and received a voucher for the money and one day months later cashed it. I thought it was nice to be so recognized. For some years afterward, I was joshingly called GOVERNOR on Caye Caulker.

Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 11/24/11 02:26 PM

Caye Caulker’s recovery after Hurricane Hattie in 1961

The following article is an excerpt from a book compiled by John D. Friesen entitled “Hurricane Hattie, Story of the hurricane that ripped through the British Honduras – October 31, 1961″. It’s a very interesting read for all and I invite everyone to access this historical information especially for our beloved isla carinosa, Caye Caulker:

Caye Caulker’s Recovery after Hattie


Caye Caulker was split into two following Hurricane Hattie in 1961 (Photo provided by Mr. Ray Auxillou)

Caye Caulker, 20 miles north-east of Belize, near the Barrier Reef, was swept by 15 foot waves. After the Hurricane, only two good houses were left out of over 100. Almost 400 people were homeless and nearly completely wiped out with 14 known dead.

There were a few more houses numbering about 8 that were also used as refugee centers during the storm but at best were continually swept by water and badly damaged.

People were in a complete daze for the next two days as their grief and sorrow made them seemingly incapable of dealing with the situation. Meanwhile, on the second day in Belize, a fisherman from the Caye arrived in his small boat where he immediately spread the word among relatives of the terrible, bad, bad disaster there. Upon questioning the man, Mr. Ray Auxillou, an Englishman, residing in Belize, thought it was necessary to make a trip out to the Caye and bring back an accurate damage report. He set out, contacting relatives of the people on the Caye and soon a small party with a 19 ft. runabout and salt water drowned motor was found. A mechanic from Gordo’s worked on the motor feverishly while gasoline was hunted.

During the hurry and bustle of preparation, a visit to the controlling authority was paid by Auxillou to notify them of the intention to inspect the needs of the people at the Caye and the extent of the damage. Controlling authority turned out to be the Governor who seemed pleased and offered any help.

Consequently, a small list of food was obtained from the Marketing Board to be taken out for emergency use. The food turned out to be too much for the small boat and two other island sloops were comandeered at the wharf and the food loaded aboard. The speedboat with Ray Auxillou, Luis Alamina and Ilna Alamina went ahead to organize the reception and distribution of food.

Upon arrival the group were met by Constable Bernard Higinio, who was informed by Mr. Auxillou that a state of emergency was declared on the Caye, and that he would work under his authority for the time being on direct verbal orders from the Police Commissioner Bruce Taylor in Belize. A meeting of the Village Council was held at the J.P.’s house (best house remaining).

The distribution and plans for rehabilitation were discussed and after a little time, it was decided to leave things in the hands of the Village Council. However, by the next morning, it was apparent that the shock of disaster and great loss of everyone made things difficult. The Council were not reliable to adequately control or agree on what to do, people were looting and there was no spirit of cooperation. The Constable and Mr. Auxillou therefore called a public meeting that morning. The terrible situation in which the hurricane had left the whole country was described and the situation at the Caye was reviewed. Mr. Auxillou, speaking as the Governor’s representative, stated he found it necessary to declare “Martial Law” on the Caye, and in a long speech told the people that they could expect hardly any help from outside, but the best could be attempted, with no promises.

He explained how everyone should work together in cooperation with the Village Council, who would control all operations answerable to him.

Registration groups were formed immediately to list all people on the Caye, by age, name and family. A list of the destitute was made; a list of immediate requirements was also made.

The paper work took most of the day. Another meeting was held that night and “volunteer” conscription was organized with the motto “no work, no food”.

Gangs were assigned to the emergency projects in order of priority. There were the gathering and repairing of all water vats, erection of temporary shelters and looking after aid. Five serious hospital cases were sent into Belize City by boat early the next day.

Upon returning to Belize, a report was given to the Governor and a list of emergency requirements requested. These were authorized immediately and Mr. Auxillou’s authority for representing the Governor’s Emergency Hurricane Headquarters was confirmed verbally.

A tough time, even with the Governor’s written authority was experienced in getting materials, as no respect was shown to the Police Guard assigned. It was eventually found necessary to use two armed soldiers; after this was done, things worked out smoothly.

In two days’ time, the Caye had several houses standing and 19 temporary shelters. Now four weeks later, there are almost 50 complete houses, and work has stopped only because materials are lacking. At least 50 houses were swept completely away to sea.

After ten days, Mr. Auxillou passed the authority over the the Constable through the Governor, still leaving the Village Council in actual charge of operations, as the emergency crisis was deemed over, and all operations were now working fairly smoothly. The situation broke down slightly a few days later for a short time, but went back to normal again with the Village Council, now working in complete charge.


Hurricane Hattie

Hurricane Hattie was the deadliest tropical cyclone of the 1961 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the strongest, reaching a peak intensity equivalent to Category 5 hurricane intensity. The ninth tropical storm and seventh hurricane and major hurricane, Hattie originated from an area of low pressure that developed and intensified into a tropical storm near San Andres Island on October 27. Moving towards the north and north-northeast, the storm quickly gained hurricane status and major hurricane status the following day. Hattie turned towards the west to the east of Jamaica, and strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 km/h) before weakening to Category 4 status at landfall south of Belize City. Continuing southwest, the storm rapidly weakened over the mountainous terrain of Central America, dissipating on November 1.

Hattie first affected regions in the southwestern Caribbean, producing hurricane force winds and causing one death on San Andres Island. It was initially forecast to continue north and strike Cuba, which prompted evacuations. Little effects were reported as Hattie turned to the west, although rainfall reached 11.5 in (290 mm) on Grand Cayman. The worst damage was in the country of Belize, which was known as British Honduras when Hattie struck. The former capital, Belize City, was flooded by a powerful storm surge and high waves and affected by strong winds. The territory governor estimated 70% of the buildings in the city were damaged, which left over 10,000 people homeless. The damage was severe enough that it prompted the government to relocate inland to a new city, Belmopan. In the territory, Hattie left about $60 million in damage and caused 307 deaths. The government estimated that Hattie was more damaging than a hurricane in 1931 that killed 2,000 people; the lower toll for Hattie was due to advanced warning. Elsewhere in Central America, the hurricane killed 11 people in Guatemala and one in Honduras.

Meteorological history


Storm path

For several days toward the end of October 1961, a low pressure area persisted in the western Caribbean Sea, north of the Panama Canal Zone. On October 25, an upper-level anticyclone moved near and over the low, and the next day, a trough over the western Gulf of Mexico provided favorable outflow for the disturbance. At 0000 UTC on October 27, a ship in the vicinity of the disturbance reported southerly winds of 46 mph (74 km/h). Later that day, the airport on San Andres Island reported easterly winds of 60 mph (95 km/h). The two observations confirmed the presence of a closed atmospheric circulation, located about 70 miles (110 km) southeast of San Andres, or 155 mi (250 km) east of the Nicaragua coast; as a result, the Miami, Florida Weather Bureau office began issuing advisories on Tropical Storm Hattie.

After being classified, Hattie moved steadily northward, passing very near or over San Andres Island. There, a station recorded a pressure of 991 mbar (29.3 inHg) and sustained winds of 80 mph (130 km/h), which indicated that Hattie reached hurricane status. Late on October 28, a Hurricane Hunters flight encountered a much stronger hurricane, with winds of 125 mph (200 km/h) in a small area near the center. At the time, gale force winds extended outward 140 miles (225 km) to the northeast, and 70 miles (115 km) to the southwest. By early on October 29, a trough extended from Nicaragua through Florida; based on the trough and climatology for similar hurricanes, Hattie was expected to continue northward. By later that day, the hurricane was predicted to be an imminent threat to the Cayman Islands and western Cuba. Around that time, a strengthening ridge to its north turned Hattie toward the northwest, which spared the Greater Antilles, but increased the threat to Central America.

With the strengthening of the ridge to its north, Hurricane Hattie began intensifying again, after retaining the same strength for about 24 hours. Initially, forecasters at the Miami Weather Bureau predicted the storm to turn northward again. Late on October 29, the center of the hurricane passed about 90 miles (145 km) southwest of Grand Cayman; at the same time, the interaction between Hattie and a ridge to its north produced squally winds of around 30 mph (50 km/h) across Florida. Early on October 30, the Hurricane Hunters confirmed the increase in intensity, reporting winds of 140 mph (225 km/h). The minimum central pressure continued to drop throughout the day, reaching 924 mbar (27.3 inHg) by 1300 UTC; a lower pressure of 920 mbar (27 inHg) was computed at 1700 UTC that day, based on a flight-level reading. Its motion curved toward the west-southwest, causing the hurricane to pass between the Cayman Islands and the Swan Islands. By late on October 30, it is estimated that Hattie attained peak winds of 160 mph (260 km/h) about 190 mi (310 km) east of the border of Mexico and British Honduras. This made Hattie the equivalence of a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, making it the latest hurricane on record to reach the status until a reanalysis of the 1932 season revealed that Hurricane Fourteen reached this status on November 5, six days after Hattie. Additionally, Hattie was the strongest measured October hurricane in the northwest Caribbean until Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

Hurricane Hattie maintained much of its intensity as it continued toward the coast, and on October 31 made landfall a short distance south of Belize City after moving through several islands offshore. Its eyewall measured about 25 miles (40 km), and sustained winds were unofficially estimated at over 150 mph (240 km/h), potentially as strong as 200 mph (325 km/h). In a post-season analysis, it was determined that Hattie weakened to winds of 140 mph (225 km/h) before moving ashore. The hurricane weakened rapidly over land, dissipating on November 1 as it moved into the mountains of Guatemala. As Hattie was dissipating, Tropical Storm Simone was developing off the Pacific coast of Guatemala. There was speculation that Hattie contributed to the development of Simone, and later Tropical Storm Inga after the systems merged.

Preparations

When the Miami Weather Bureau first began issuing advisories on Hattie, the agency noted the potential for heavy rainfall in the southwestern Caribbean, which could have caused flash flooding. The advisories recommended for small ships to remain at harbor, across the region. Initially, the hurricane was predicted to move near or through the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Cuba. As a result, Cuban officials warned residents in low-lying areas to evacuate.

Hurricane Hattie first posed a threat to the Yucatán Peninsula and British Honduras on October 30, when it first turned toward the area. Officials at the Miami Weather Bureau warned of the threat for high tides, strong winds, and torrential rainfall. The warnings were transmitted to people in the affected area, allowing for extensive evacuations. Most of the people in the capital, Belize City, were evacuated or moved to shelters, although some shelters were unsafe and were destroyed in the hurricane. A hospital in the city was evacuated, and a school operated as a shelter. Over 75% of the population of Stann Creek fled to safer locations.

After Hattie made landfall, officials in Mexico order the closure of ports along the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Impact

Southwestern Caribbean, Greater Antilles, and Florida

Despite predictions for heavy rainfall in the southwestern Caribbean, the hurricane's movement was more northerly than expected, resulting in less precipitation along the Central American coast than anticipated. While forming and intensifying, Hurricane Hattie passed near or over San Andrés island, which is located off the east coast of Nicaragua. The hurricane was the fourth on record to strike the island, and of the four was the only to approach from the south. While approaching the island, the airport was closed due to tropical storm force winds. Maximum sustained winds reached 80 mph (130 km/h), with gusts to 104 mph (167 km/h). The hurricane resulted in one death, fifteen injuries, and $300,000 in damage (1961 USD).

In the northwestern Caribbean, Hattie passed closest to Grand Cayman, where heavy rainfall were reported. About 11.5 inches (292 mm) were reported on the island, including 7.8 inches (198 mm) in six hours. Winds on Grand Cayman were below hurricane force, and minor damage occurred due to the heavy rainfall.

The interaction of a ridge of high pressure and the hurricane produced sustained winds of 20 mph (35 km/h) across most of Florida, with a gust of 72 mph (116 km/h) reported at Hillsboro Inlet Light; the winds produced some beach erosion in the state. Due to the high winds, the U.S. Weather Bureau issued a small craft warning for the west and east Florida coastlines, as well as northward to Brunswick, Georgia.

Northwestern Caribbean

Hurricane Hattie moved ashore in British Honduras with powerful winds and a storm tide of up to 14 feet (4.3 m) near Belize City, a city of 31,000 people located at sea-level; the city's only defenses against the storm tide were a small seawall and a strip of swamp lands. The capital experienced a 10 ft (3 m) storm tide along its waterfront that reached the third story of some buildings, in combination with high waves. When Hattie affected the area, most buildings in Belize City were wooden, and many of the destroyed homes were made of wood. Offshore, the hurricane heavily damaged 80% of the Belize Barrier Reef, although the reef recovered after the storm.

High winds caused a power outage, downed trees across the region, and destroyed the roofs of many buildings. Governor Colin Thornley estimated that over 70% of the buildings in the territory were damaged, and over 10,000 people were left homeless. The hurricane destroyed the wall at an insane asylum, which allowed the residents to escape. High waves damaged a prison, prompting officials to institute a "daily parole" program for the inmates. Hattie also flooded the Government House, washing away all records. All of Belize City was coated in a layer of mud and debris, and majority of the city was destroyed or severely damaged, as was nearby Stann Creek. The hurricane left significant crop damage across the region, including $2 million in citrus fruits and similar losses to timber, cocoa, and bananas. About 70% of the territory's mahogany trees were downed, as were most citrus and grapefruit trees. The hurricane damaged several factories and oil rigs in the region. Damage throughout the territory totaled $60 million (1961 USD), and a total of 307 deaths were reported; more than 100 of the fatalities were in Belize City, including 36 who evacuated to a destroyed British administration building. The government of British Honduras considered Hurricane Hattie more damaging than a hurricane in 1931 that killed 2,000 people; the lower death toll of Hattie was due to advanced warning.

Hurricane Hattie also impacted other countries in Central America with flash floods, causing 11 deaths in Guatemala and one fatality in Honduras. Swan Island reported wind gusts slightly below hurricane force, with minor damage and one injury reported.

Aftermath


A British Honduras postage stamp overprinted in 1962 to mark the hurricane.

After Hattie struck, officials in Belize City declared martial law. A manager of United Press International described Belize City as "nothing but a huge pile of matchsticks", and the roads were either flooded for days or covered with mud. Doctors provided typhoid vaccinations to 12,000 residents in two days to prevent the spread of disease. Additionally, officials ordered for mass cremations, due to the high death toll and to stop disease spreading. The city's three newspapers were unable to operate due to lack of power after the storm. At the city's police station, workers provided fresh water and rice to storm victims. In the days after the storm, roads were flooded or otherwise impassable due to debris. Many residents throughout British Honduras donated supplies to the storm victims, such that an airlines manager described it as "taxing... manpower and facilities." One airline allowed donations to be flown to Belize City at no cost. By November 5, Belize City's post office reopened on a limited basis, but all business had remained closed. About 4,000 homeless residents from Stann's Creek were moved by boat to the northern portion of the territory. Many homeless people from the Belize City area set up a tent city about 16 mi (26 km) inland. One such refugee camp outside Belize was settled and became known as Hattieville.

About 200 British soldiers arrived from Jamaica to quell looting and maintain order. At least 20 people were arrested in the day after Hattie struck. The British government sent flights of aid to the territory containing food, clothing, and medical supplies. The House of Commons quickly passed a bill to provide £10,000 in aid. The Save the Children fund sent £1,000 to British Honduras. The Mexican government sent three flights of food and medicine to the territory. Two American destroyers arrived in the country by November 2, reporting the need for assistance. The USS Antietam remained at port for weeks after the storm with six medical officers and six Marine helicopters. Four other ships had sailed to the territory to provide assistance, along with 458,000 pounds of food. The United States government allocated about $300,000 in assistance through the International Development Association. The Canadian government provided $75,000 worth of aid, including food, blankets, and medical supplies.

By a year after Hattie struck British Honduras, private and public workers repaired and rebuilt buildings affected by the storm. New hotels were built, and stores were reopened. Prime Minister George Cadle Price successfully appealed for assistance from the British government, which ultimately provided £20 million in loans. In the days after the storm, the government announced plans to relocate the capital of British Honduras further inland. In 1970, the government built Belmopan as the new capital, located on higher ground. On the 44th anniversary of the hurricane in 2005, the government of Belize unveiled a monument in Belize City to recognize the victims of the hurricane.

The name Hattie was retired and will never be used by an Atlantic hurricane again.

Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 05/30/12 01:43 PM

The Oral Tradition Remembers The Worst Storm Of Last Century

Hurricane season 2012 starts officially on Friday, June first. And most of us don't need any reminders of how serious a storm can be - after category one Hurricane Richard tore up central and western Belize in 2010. But as far as hurricanes go - in Belize's recorded history, Richard was like - what you might call - "wah lee breeze" - compared to Hurricane Hattie in 1961. That was one of the deadliest storms of the last century and, in Belize, it killed hundreds, while leaving thousands more without shelter.

More Belizeans died in the 1931 hurricane but that was because there was no advance warning due to primitive communication technology. With Hattie, there was warning, but still no one expected the terrible, massive damage she would deliver. Fortunately, the oral history of Hurricane Hattie is still available - and everyone who lived through the storm has a story.

A few of those histories are compiled in a new programme produced by NICH called Belize Kolcha, Hurricane Hattie. The programme - which is a 45 minute documentary will air at nine tonight on Channel Seven - but for the news tonight - we clipped out a small portion as city residents remember the storms hellish onslaught and the sight of death that followed:

Channel 7

Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 03/08/13 04:20 PM

Online version of

Hurricane Hattie
Author: John D. Friesen
Story of the hurricane that ripped through the British Honduras, on October 31,1961.

http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00095344/00001/1j

or CLICK HERE for a 33mb PDF

Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 06/16/13 11:22 AM

New Exhibit Opens At he BHOC

52 years ago, on Tuesday, October 30th, 1961, Belize was rocked by Hurricane Hattie which caused major destruction having spent only three and a half hours over Belize. With recorded winds of 160 mph and gusts of up to 200 mph, the storm surge reached between 13 to 15 feet above sea level. Taking the brunt of the storm were the Turneffe Islands, Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, followed by Belize City and the Stann Creek District. In commemoration of the aftermath of the storm, a new exhibit is on display at the Banquitas House of Culture and reporter Irvin Aragon along with Cameraman Kenric Simpson visited today and relived that historic event; here’s their story.

Irvin Aragon- Reporting

"Eye of the Storm - Fifty Years since Hurricane Hattie" is the name of a new exhibit that is on display at the Banquitas House of Culture. Hurricane at Halloween, refers to a devastating hurricane which struck British Honduras some 52 years ago, just as the residents of British Honduras were starting to breathe a sigh of relief because the 1961 hurricane season would soon be ending, however, unexpectedly, a powerful Category 5 hurricane named Hattie hit Central America on Hollow’s Eve.

In memory of the victims of the storm, a display has been organized and was officially opened on Wednesday of this week. The informative display is geared at sensitizing the public and in particular students, of what happens during a storm and what you should do to best protect yourself and family during and after a storm, especially from one of this magnitude.

Assistant coordinator at the Banquitas House of Culture, Cindy Rivero, told us more

Cindy Rivero, Assistant Coordinator at Banquitas House of Culture

“We recently opened a new exhibit entitles The Eye of a Storm Hurricane Hattie which we opened this week Wednesday. This exhibit was brought here due to the hurricane season since we want to educate the kids and the public about hurricanes. Hurricane Hattie is a very good exhibition that speaks about what happened in 1961 and this will give you knowledge of what occurs during and after a hurricane. The exhibit will be opened until August and it is dedicated to all the victims of hurricane Hattie. We want the students to get to know what the true meaning of a hurricane is because we have not experienced a hurricane like Hattie so with the exhibit they will know how many persons died, what was the effect, the new Belmopan and the relocation of the people from Belize and more.”

This year, a total of 21 storms have been predicted, namely Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Ingrid, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van, and Wendy. The exhibit will remain open until the ending of August.

CTV3

Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 10/28/13 11:07 AM

HURRICANE AT HALLOWEEN, Hattie in 1961

Just as the residents of British Honduras 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.

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, 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 hurricane[4] 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 was the Turneffe Islands, Caye Caulker and 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 advanced 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.

(Lawrence Vernon, Meg Craig, Belize Music World, Village View Post, GPC Belize)


Fire Station, North Front Street




Basket is for whatever food she could find, I doubt she was taking in laundry or selling food, because after Hattie people went for ration over a year. I was small but I remember.











Corner Bishop & Albert streets. We lived on Bishop street, above Sikaffy's bodega. We stayed at home & it was a living nightmare




Market Square, Belize City, after Hurricane Hattie



Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 10/31/13 10:48 AM


Part of Dangriga Town after Hurricane Hattie

1961 - Hurricane hits Belize

More than 400 people were killed in Belize, the capital of British Honduras, by a tidal wave in the wake of Hurricane Hattie that hit the area with winds of 200 mph. The storm also left many missing and thousands homeless. Gov. Sir Colin Thornley estimated that more than 75 percent of the buildings in Belize had been destroyed or damaged by the disaster "that overwhelmed our estimates."


Hurricane Hattie Belize 1961


1962 After Hurricane Hattie Belize


BELIZE - HURRICANE HAVOC

Flying over Belize, the capital of British Honduras, it's heart-rending to see the terrible havoc wrought by hurricane Hattie. Out of a population of about 30,000, it's estimated that over 15,000 have been made homeless. The death roll is not yet known. Supplies were not long in being flown in by Britain and America. Help of every kind was urgently needed, for all local services were out of action.

More on Hurricane Hattie

More on Hurricane's in Belize, including Hattie



REMEMBERING HURRICANE HATTIE 1931


Hattie was the worst in our history

Monday, October 31, marked 55 years since an event that changed the course of history in many ways of the then colony of British Honduras. The year was 1961; that event was a category five hurricane by the name of Hattie.

Belize had been hit in 1931 by a strong hurricane and the number of lives lost was over 2,500. The loss was great because there was very little warning. The hurricane struck on September 10, a day when the “natives” were out commemorating the Battle of St. George’s Caye. The then governor of the colony refused to warn the citizens, since in his mind the common folks were relieving the stress of a very hard life in the colony.

Six years before Hattie, Hurricane Janet did great damage to Corozal and Chetumal (Payo-Bispo). There was much more warning for Hattie, although many did not heed the warnings.

The storm confused us more by, by-passing us on a northerly direction, stalling and then making a complete turn heading straight for British Honduras.

The devastating winds and tidal surge destroyed most of Belize City and the surrounding areas. Today there is still evidence of the hurricane; many houses were brought down to ground level; and the big islands were split by the tidal surge.

Belize got by with some foreign aid, and the US opened its doors for those who wanted to go north. After self-government in 1964, Premier George Cadle Price had a hard time to keep the country focused on rebuilding; most people’s goal was to go to the US.

Many who remained waited on remittances and barrels to get by. The huge exodus caused severe social problems in family structure in the seventies and eighties; meanwhile, today Central Americans fleeing civil wars have now filled that void.

This has caused a severe strain on our society, including our education and labour system etc.

As we approach November, we are breathing a sigh of relief (knock on wood), as we are at the end of the hurricane season.

On August 4 we were hit by category one Hurricane Earl, from which we are still recovering. We now take hurricanes much more seriously.

Alfonso C. Ramirez, 11/4/2016


Unsung Hero: Mr Arthur “Banza" Arnold

Hurricane Hattie must have created 100s of unsung heroes that we may never know about because their heroism may have been lost through the passage of time, or nobody around to tell their stories. One of these unsung heroes was no other than Arthur “Banza" Arnold. I have no picture to post of Mr. Arnold and I am not sure if he is even still alive. I am hoping he is though. I am also hoping a relative, or a friend will see this post and will post a picture of this unsung hero for everyone to see. Here is as excerpt from the book “Hurricane Hattie” by John D. Friesen, which shares with us his extraordinary feat of bravery.

The Hero of Hurricane Hattie

In a letter to this newspaper Mr. L. D. (Prince Dee) Kemp had high praise for a man whom he called "The Hero of Hurricane Hattie." The man, Arthur Arnold, better known as Banza, was responsible for saving the lives of 18 persons who were trapped in what was left of three houses on Euphrates Ave. and couldn't escape drowning, Mr. Kemp said. Mr. Kemp's story was backed up by Mr. 'Sunt' Trumbach, who witnessed Banza's acts of bravery. Mr. Kemp, and his family who sought refuge at Mr. Gerald Smith's home on Glynn Street along with the Ashby family, Mr. 'Sunt' Trurnbach's family and others tells the story in this way: . "With the water rising up to about a few inches from the floor of the Smith's house about eight feet from the ground, we heard that eighteen persons were in what was left of three houses on Euphrates Avenue, and could not escape drowning. "Shortly after a man with a boy of seven or eight years old on his back was seen trying to swim the 60 or 70 feet to the Smith's home. "With floating debris shooting across most of their path like battering rams, there were words of prayer in our hearts that they would make it. After a dive under some debris, there was a separation, but the boy was active and eventually they made it. We hauled the boy in through a window and had a chance to see the rescuer. It was 'Banza.' 'Banza was given a rope which he tied from the Smith's house to what looked like a certain death trap. But 'Banza', with the spirit and ability of the finest specimen of native manhood, made eighteen trips across the death trap and saved about nine children, two pregnant women and other females. "At one stage during his adventurous trips across the rope, 'Banza' caught cramp in the water, but he managed to pull through, even though a man who tried to go to his aid couldn't make it. "Another priceless act of humanity was Mrs. Gerald's act of providing clothing for the drenched, frightened and ragged eighteen and bedding for the night. -, "The press should check on this story so that the 'Spirit of Banza' can be a public record."

P.S. Belize's Highest Civilian Award is the "Order of National Hero" and is given to a Belizean who in their life attains "extraordinary and outstanding achievement and merit in service to Belize or to humanity at large". It is my opinion that on October 31st, 1961, during the fury of Hurricane Hattie and withnesses by Messrs Kemp, Smith, Ashby and Trumbach at a home with a Glyn Street Address, Mr Arthur "Banza" Arnold selflessly performed extraordinarily and outstandingly in service to humanity at large without regard for himself and in so doing saved the life of 18 Belizeans, which included two pregnant women. For this extaordinary documented feat I am in the believe that Mr. Arnold should receive the "Order of Naitonal Hero" or at least "Order of Belize". Only three people have been given this award to date and they are George Cadle Prize in 2000, Philip Goldson in 2008 and Monrad Metzgen in 2009. It is now 2017 and we are due to give a another deserving Citizen this award, why not Mr. Arnold. What say you?

Source: Hurricane “Hattie” Story of the hurricane that ripped through the British Honduras, on October 31, 1961 compiled by John D. Friesen

Photo Credit: John D. Frisen

The entire book may be located at the following link:
http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00095344/00001



Posted By: jimti

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 01/17/14 06:32 AM

Hi Marty, I have an old copy of Soldier magazine from when hurricane hattie struck, pictures can be found on my flikr feed, feel free to copy and share them.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimti/5995881584/in/photostream/

Awesome, thanks Jim!!! …Marty
Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 11/05/16 11:40 AM


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...

Posted By: larrypied

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 11/05/16 10:54 PM

Great read. Sad story.
Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 10/31/17 12:20 PM

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

Posted By: Diane Campbell

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 10/31/17 12:31 PM

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.
Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 03/08/19 12:58 PM

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? ………..”

Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 09/17/19 12:19 PM


Video: Hurricane Hattie in Belize

Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 10/19/19 12:00 PM

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
Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 10/30/19 12:47 PM

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]

======================

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. )

[Linked Image]

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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
Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 08/18/20 05:53 PM

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.
Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 09/04/20 12:09 PM

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

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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
Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 10/15/20 05:52 PM

Newspaper Headlines from the Hattie era, rebuilding and reconstruction, from The Belize Billboard. Right click on an image to open in a new window, then zoom in for larger versions. March 15, 1962, also check the price of newspaper during that time period.


Devastating Hurricane Hattie 31 October 1961 from my Father's album, St. George's Caye and Belize City. The aftermath, the destruction, the loss! The fight to rebuild, and they did! Debbie Gegg


The beginning of the split














For most who could afford , the rebuilding process after hurricane Hattie was more inclined to ferro concrete buildings.A lot of the wonderful colonial style houses were wiped away. Others say that didn't start until the late 1960s early 1970s with development in Kings Park (following the construction of Princess Margaret Dr.). The colonial houses of the more affluent residents of the city in the Southern Foreshore and Fort George areas were rebuilt after the hurricane.


You can just see the Gann's clock tower behind the house on the left of the picture. These old homes were very well constructed. Most were built by shiprights, from Louisiana pine and used mortis and tennon method. Those homes were very strong and actually creaked liked a ship in strong winds. All joints and beams were pinned together with wooden pegs.


My grandparents house which was just down the road on Eve St. from the Grants and on the water was totally gone. Completely washed away. Same approximate size as the the Grants. My mom recalls when they were finally able to get back to the house there was nothing but mud where the house stood and the brick pilings/piers it sat on. They think the house was not secured to them so when the tidal wave came in it lifted up and smashed it across the street. Lesley Sullivan

Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 11/04/20 05:23 PM

THE CHETUMAL CONTINGENT TO BELIZE AFTER HURRICANE HATTIE
by Albert Paul Avila

How many remember the story of the Mexican Relief Plane that crashed in the Chan Pine Ridge in 1961 and was never found ...until some 40 years later? There is a monument in Chetumal cemetery with the names of those who perished.

Soon after hurricane Hattie struck Belize, a seven person contingent comprised of a priest (The priest was José Fuentes Castellanos, brother of Mrs. Libia Fuentes, wife of Mr. Jorge Marzuca Ferreiro, he was of Campeche origin), two doctors, two lieutenants, a professor, and a first sergeant aviation mechanic were dispatch from Chetumal to provide relief to the people of Belize. The flight never arrived and for eight years no one knew what happened to the flight. It was assumed it had crashed. The wreckage was discovered by a farmer on April 3, 1969, with the bodies still inside the plane. The location of a crash is by the area near the village of Maskall. At the time of the crash the area was high jungle. I was told that the crash was about half mile from the main road there, the old Belize Corozal road.

These Mexicans and their families gave the ultimate sacrifice for us Belizeans when we were in need. It made me remember how I got a little emotional looking at a YouTube remembrance service in the Netherlands on behalf of Belizean WWII Aviator Cassian Waight who lost his life when his RAF D-267 bombing flight was shot down over a small town In that country. Cassian Waight’s body was found in a meadow and buried nearby and thus the remembrance service on his behalf (every year for 80 years). The purpose of this story is to show how great full the Dutch people who found his body were of Cassian. They realized he and his family had made the ultimate sacrifice in a war that he had nothing to do with and his death had contributed to the liberty they are enjoying today. They also realized that they should never forget that sacrifice and they haven’t.

We as Belizeans should learn a little from the Dutch and honour our foreign born patriots who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us. I understand that a plaque was placed in Corozal (It is a pity that in the 1990's the plaque was destroyed), but we should have something permanently enshrined in Belize City where the devastation was the greatest and their ultimate destination.

The Belize National Historical Society and our members recommend that we posthumously conduct a rememberance service for these patriots with their family in attendance and a plaque/ shrine be placed somewhere near the Mexican Institute on the promenade by the sea. Let us not forget! It is never too late!

These were the heroes who did their best to help a troubled Belize
1- Lieutenant of the Frigate JUAN JOSÉ MARTINEZ
2- Sub Lieutenant GILBERTO HERNANDEZ VEGA
3- Master Sergeant Mechanical Aviation JOSÉ MAGAÑA SANCHEZ
4- Chaplain JOSÉ FUENTES CASTELLANOS
5- Doctor RAMÓN MENDOZA VEGA
6- Doctor ENRIQUE PAREDES AGUILA
7- Professor JOSE SEVILLA SERDÁN

The Cassian Waight Memorial Service as an example below.



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In 1965 during the inauguration of the Corozal Town Central Park, Felipe Santiago Ricalde laid a plaque/stone in the water fountain with the names of the medical brigade members who perished in that crash. Ricalde was very much involved with Hurricane Hattie relief efforts in collaboration with the Mexican Government and was to be on the ill fated flight itself. The plaque laid there for many years. The fountain, a gift from Mexico, was originally destined for Belize City in 1961 but never made it because of Hurricane Hattie. You can see it in the photo.


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From the information I have this contingent came from Mexico City. My grandfather Santiago was to take the flight with the but due to a family emergency he was unable to go to Chetumal.

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If you take a look behind my grandfather is the fountain and the plaque.

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This photo was when the former Mexican President Adolfo Lopez Mateos visited Corozal after the inauguration of the Amity Bridge.
Elisa Ysaguirre Ricalde

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Internally, when a natural disaster devastates a region of a country, disaster relief comes from other parts of that country. This is often accompanied by an international relief effort . Most often, this effort is dominated by one or two countries, based on factors such as the historical relationship between two countries and the role certain countries play in a region (sphere of influence). The effort often increases foreign influences in the devastated country. The nature of the relief effort might also lead to social change, especially when people from the outside who come to help interact with locals in the devastated area. Based on such interactions, the kind of technology that they bring as part of the rescue and recovery and rebuilding effort might also contribute to change. Lastly, change can occur based on the kind of assistance given by a foreign country, whether that assistance is in the form of economic and/or technical assistance or certain policies.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Hattie, British Honduras received significant news coverage from around the world. Many countries helped in the relief effort and organizations such as Care and the Red Cross were part of the relief effort. “Aid Pours In,” is the title of one section of Friesen’s book on the hurricane. Taken from local news clippings, this section of the book noted that in crucial weeks after the hurricane relief aid came in the form of personnel, medical supplies, food, and funds from over the world. He further documented the kinds of assistance and aid the country received. In addition to Britain and commonwealth countries Mexico, Guatemala and other neighboring Central American countries assisted in the relief effort. (Other countries also assisted to the relief effort.) With Guatemala pressing its territorial claim to Belize, and even threatening military action, there was concern expressed in certain sectors of British Honduran society about aid and assistance offered by that country that included relief supplies and even helicopters. In turn, there were questions about whether British Honduras should have accepted Guatemalan help.

However, other than Britain, the bulk of international aid and assistance came from the United States. This reflected that country’s super power status and Latin America and the Caribbean being in its sphere of influence. With vast resources the U.S. launched a major relief effort that came by sea and air. When I interviewed Belizeans for my dissertation on Belizean in Los Angeles, several remembered this American assistance. One remembered the arrival of the Americans as part of the relief effort, and one of the things he remembered most about their arrival was helicopters flying over the city. This was the first time he had seen such a thing he recalled. Helicopters from the U.S. Navy also landed in Sittee River, and this was the first time helicopters had landed in the village. Ships from the U.S. Navy were also dispatched to British Honduras with assistance and relief supplies, and one resident of San Pedro remembered the British Army and an American supply ship providing Ambergris Caye with more supplies. The U.S. government was also generous in cash aid.

Hurricane Hattie didn’t have much of an impact on internal migration, but it did have a significant impact on international migration. As part of its significant relief effort, the U.S. government granted some Belizeans from the impacted areas visitors visas. The interviewee who had seen the American helicopters over Belize City remembered that after the hurricane an announcement was made over the radio that Belizeans who had relatives in the United States could go to that country temporarily as “refugees” to recover from the hurricane. Many Belizeans took advantage and saw it as an opportunity to emigrate to the United States.

Santiago Ricalde, the PUP representative for Corozal, requested assistance from the Mexican government in the neighboring Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Regrettably, the first Mexican plane with relief supplies and medical personnel crashed in northern Belize.

Jerome Straughan
Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 11/05/20 12:54 PM

This 4th episode of the Belize Kolcha TV Series called Hurricanes, features personal accounts by some survivors of Hurricane Hattie.



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Plotting the destructive path of Hurricane Hattie at weather forecasting station. Belize City 1961. In 1961 The National Hurricane Center in Miami was using radar and hurricane hunter aircraft to track hurricanes.

Police guarding Marketing Board from Looters

There was widespread looting after Hattie. The Santiago Castillo warehouse was looted, and Harley's.The Red Cross gave us food rations, and the British troops patrolled the streets of the city during curfew. If you were caught for curfew it was a $5 and and they were taken to Queen Street police station.

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The looting in downtown Belize City contrasted with the orderly line for food rations on North Front Street, outside of the Marketing Board (from one of the iconic pictures of the aftermath of he hurricane). The looting led to the British governor calling a state of emergency, and it was stopped when one of the looters was shot by a British soldier around Albert and Bishop Street.

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The young man with the loud speaker ( in the middle of the photo) in his hand is CH Godden the Assistant Colonial Secretary. He wrote his memoirs in the book "Trespassers Forgiven: Memoirs of Imperial Service in an Age of Independence". In the book Godden dedicated an entire chapter about Hattie. It was in his book that I heard about the experience his boss the Colonial Secretary had with a Casandra in Jamaica in 1961. As the story goes, the Cassandra told the Colonial Secretary that a terrible hurricane was going to hit Belize that year and that was what prompted the Colonial Secretary to prepare for a hurricane by repairing the hurricane shelters countrywide. In the photo the Marketing Board was filled with sacks of rice and the people were looting it, but they were trying to stop the people from taking the rice. As it turned out, Godden convinced the Administration to let the people take the rice because it had gotten wet and wet rice would only last so long. Plus they needed to remove the rice anyway. So with that the people got the rice.

Colin Gillett: My dad said he was police training school at the time of Hurricane Hattie and Belize City was under martial law then. As a police recruit he had to patrol the city as looting was rampart so couple looters were shot at by the soldier as regular police then had just a club and whistle.

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Remnants of Hurricane Hattie:
This riverfront aerial scene of hurricane-stricken Belize is reminiscent of Europe's bombed out cities of World War II, haredly a rood is intact, large rain collecting barrels are ?? and autos are scattered where left by raging flood waters

The large building is one third of Eden Cinema. There were over 50 people sheltered there and when the roof started flying off, everyone crammed into the projector room. The piece standing is concrete and housed the projector room, bathrooms and the balcony with reserved seats.

The building is situated North Northwest to South Southeast. It seems depending when that part of the building got destroyed in relation to where the hurricane was at the time the people sheltering in the reserve area would have gotten sheltered. In the early stages of Hattie, I believe the winds were coming from the North to Northeast. As the eye gradually passed us, the winds would have gradually turned to the South Southeast then South, at which point the people in the reserve area would have been sheltered as the winds were coming from the Government House direction. I am not sure how large the projector room was, but once the eye had passed what remained of the building would have sheltered anyone in the reserved area since the wind was coming from the closed up area snd not the open area. What broke up these buildings was not only the winds, but the projectiles flying at 150 to 200 miles an hour crashing into buildings.

The two large buildings to the right are Pickwick Club and my grandparents building that housed the Tropical Lemonade bottling works, Belize Trading Company and my grandparents residence near the river. I see the Royal Bank of Canada by the market. Scot's Kirk is gone! Brodies is in the back, the Supreme Court etc.

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Woman sitting amid remains of Her house in Belize City which was battered by Hurricane Hattie October 1961

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Albert Street, the first building on the right is the Chevannes building, Maya Store on left. The BATA store sign indicates the photographer was standing st the Prince St intersection, looking down Albert St to swing bridge. Old Ideal Shopping Centre on your left.

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THE REBUILDING AND BUILDING OF A COUNTRY IN CHAOS
by Hector Silva

In 1961, after Hurricane Hattie devastated Belize, two doors were opened to us. - - Rebuild to Build, or just move out of Belize City and restart some where else. - WE CHOSE To stay and rebuild, so as to Build a new Independent Nation in Central america.

May I first give you all a Birds Eye View of what was before us, just recently elected on March 2nd 1961. - ( SEVEN MONTHS OLD. )

LET me first give you a bird's eye view, of what Belize City was, and the rest of the country.

Belize City was practically FLATTENED. 80 %or thousands of houses demolished. Many others damaged. There was no Electricity, Water or telephone. FOOD VERY SCARCE, and Medical Services limited.

Many dead, many injured and many Traumatized and shocked due to their complete losses.

Our industries like Citrus, Chicle bleeding and Mahogany extraction were totally paralized and eventually destroyed. - Milpas and crops were washed away. - Other means of livelihood came to a halt.

Our roads, bridges and our sea lanes were interrupted by blockage. Immediately Shelters had to be constructed like Hattie Ville, George Town Silk Grass and in many other areas.

Government Buildings all over the country were damaged or had to be cleaned and sanitized.

THEN, the building of Belmopan became more urgent, and the providing of Electricity, Water and telephone became a necessity.

As an added necessity, we had to regenerate our International Airport to accommodate Jet Services. - And to build the Tower Hill Bridge, - which was greatly need to boost TRADE with Mexico and to serve the Sugar Industry.

SO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT WE DID TO RACKLE THIS GIANT OF A PROGRAMME ?

.1 - WE immediately instituted, a Small Farmers Loan programme and guided by Farm Demonstrators. - - We opened the Marketting Board to serve as the Customary Services.- then the large Industries were offered A DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVE PROGRAMME, or a Tax Holiday on importation of needs to build. - -These Incentives were also also offered to Local Hoteliers, who had a desire to provide

accomodations for the begining of Tourism Local and Foreign. )..-

The Mennonites were alrady established and were an asset in the building of Hurricane Shelters. and providing for the birth of the GREEN REVOLUTION.

Government established two Quasi Government Institutions, - - - THE RECONSTRUCTION and DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION and THE DEVELOPMENT FINANCE CORPORATION.

With all the above WE MADE.

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This was after Hattie during martial law. North Front Street in front of the law offices of Musa & Balderamos (the men are gathered in front of Spoonaz. This was exactly where the Eyles Brothers, Robby and Charlie, had the Caterpillar Agency on North Front Street, across from the Palace Hotel. The weapon is the SLR uk version of the FN in the then new NATO calibre of 7.62mm x 51 that was adopted in 1952. Again we see evidence of Quartro Aguas Roof fairing off much better than the other types of roofs.

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Racecourse St. after Hurricane Hattie. Right off Vernon on the right hand by the bridge Look good you can see remains of the Brooklyn Bridge that separated Racecourse and East Collet Canal. That large wooden house on the right is old Mr Cain's house and left of it was Mr Hyde's, a bartender at Fort George. The concrete building in front is still there.

Another comment: That's on Mex Avenue, the big house on the left was corner of Mex avenue and Amara, known as Cucunal yard (sp?). There was a water pipe on the street side in front.

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FR Robert Mc Cormack SJ showing him and then Premier George Price surveying damages done by Hurricane Hattie to the Stann creek district in 1961.

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North Front Street Belize City After Hattie

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Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 01/17/21 05:28 PM

Hurricane Hattie Weather Advisory: Oct 30, 1961
National Weather Bureau, Miami Hurricane Center

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The aftermath of Hattie Hurricane in Belize city in 1961. This is at Albert street and Prince st, the building to your right side the the home of the Chavannes family.

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A view from the building housing the U.S. International Cooperation Administration Mission (old name for A.I.D.), sheltering from Hurricane Hattie in 1961. The wind and the sea have been dropping—the wind for a few hours, the sea for several.

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Glen Fuller
Salvaging and washing what can be found. It was a Horrific day after.

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Hattie destruction in Belize City. I think this is at the corner of Freetown Road and Mapp St. The building at the far left reminds me of one that was in the Belize Technical College yard.

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Diane Matthews
Very traumatic for me. I was nearly 5 years old. My family rode out the storm in the Estephan Building in Belize City. When the storm hit, the plate glass on the third floor where we were located burst with glass flying everywhere. We relocated to the second floor but the water rose to a foot above that floor so we sheltered in a mess. After the storm, we all plodded through feet of mud to the Holden Hospital for vaccinations.

Lareth Gregory
I was 41/2 yrs old, my baby brother was 1 yr old. My mom and the 2 of us was on the 2nd floor of a bank on Albert street and my dad was in Mullin River, we didn’t know if he was alive until a week later. I remember my mom picking up a silver tea pot that floated out of Brodie’s I think . There was water about an inch on my feet and my mom was on a table with my brother.

Daisy Cacho
My mom was only 5yrs old and she still remember it very well all when the breeze start to when the house collapse and her older brother had to put her into the ceiling and tie her so she wouldn't wash from the currant and the she talks about the aftermath,about the bodies she seen on the ground of her neighbors that didn't make it.

Pamela Robateau Crone
My mom always told me that she waited for my dad to come back from Sergeant's Caye, where the SCA nuns were stranded and thought that it was just a storm and he would have had time to be back with us., after brining them in. Well he is another story. But when Hattie hit, the house fell off its posts. The kitchen migrated into the neighbor's yard as they had a bridge from the kitchen to the house in those days. My mom, and my older brother, scrambled unto the refrigerator, when they saw the rising water and then through the opening to the attic, where through one of the attic window they had to have a swimmer tie a rope from Mr. Meighan house to ours. Mr. Meighan lived up stairs and the Smiley's lived down stairs. At the time they were sheltering up stairs. I am not sure who was the swimmer, maybe someone can spread some light on this. (The reverend Mrs. Smiley). Anyway. My brother went over on the rope and then they tied me in a bundle and tried to get me over to the neighbors house. I was dipped about three times in the cold water. My mom later came over, as they were trying to revive me, as I was still and purple in colour. After a while I cried and they knew I would be Ok. Baby clothes were loaned to keep me dry, courtesy of Mrs. L. Smiling as her baby boy David was only a couple months old too.. Not sure of his birthday.. My dad was stuck out at caye... another story soon..on this one..Its written in one of Ms. Zee Edgel's books I think. .

Yvonne N. Sabido
I was going to be 11, on Nov.19 of 1961. I don’t remember that birthday at all. The day of the hurricane I got my first bicycle and was going to ride it when a car pulled in front of our house on E. Canal. Daddy shouted get in the car. But daddy, I have to ride my bike. Get in now. With only our shoes and clothes, my brother, sister and I got in the car and was whisked away to a farm owned by the Nords, in Orange Walk. Aunt Alice was there at her estate and welcomed what seems like five families and 20 cousins. We watched oranges in the groves flying sideways and cows tipping over. We had no idea what was going on in Belize. It was a month before the water subsided, the bridge was passable and my dad could go to Belize to assess the damage. He was crushed, our spirits were crushed when he returned and told us our house had fallen over and where uncles house once stood at St. George’s Caye was now a split. Our lives spared.
I read the names of each individual who perished. I did not know them, but after all these years I still feel the pain and shed tears because of their peril and my memory of the devastation. The very news of hurricane approaching, terrifies me and I go into panic mode.

France Sol: "When Hurricane Hattie hit Belize we had to eat corn beef almost daily. I was in my third pregnancy with high blood pressure etc. I decided to do laundry for the British soldiers in exchange for fresh cooked food. They came at first with six uniforms but then it became 12. It was done in a bath pan and a scrub board and had to get water from the pipe. It was difficult but I was treated to the best food that my children and I and my sister enjoyed. I washed for them for 3 months. Then I had my little girl and could no longer do the job. Six months after I heard a knock on my door - it was a British officer who came with check in hand to pay me. I refused the money and told him the delicious food I got after washing their clothes and all the cakes and chocolates given to my children was enough. I refused the money much to my husband’s disapproval when I told him what I did that day. To say the least the officer was also surprised. It was three meals per day and although it was hard work I Was very happy Not standing in a long line for corn beef."

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MEASURES TAKEN TO TACKLE A CRISES OF MAJOR PROPORTION , in 1961.
by Hector Silva

AND AFTER TACKLING THE HURRICANE DAMAGES and THE CREATION OF SHELTERS FOR THE HOMELESS, and the building of the NEW CAPITAL BELMOPAN, which created hundreds of jobs, - . it was time to make Belize, INVESTOR FRIENDLY and the creation of jobs in the housing industry...

TWO VEHICLES WERE CREATED TO DO THE JOB OF NATION BUILDING..

One was RECONDEV, - - - -" Reconstruction and Development Corporation. " - - -To reconstruct Belize and to establish the

" DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVES LAWS. "

The other was the "D.F.C. " Development Finance Corporation. " to establish a lending Institution for Development projects.

In the meanwhile, The George Price Administration also created two WATCH DOG BODIES to protect Belizeans from being taken advantage by UNSCRUPULOUS MERCHANTS.

1. - A WELL MANNED " CONSUMER PROTECTION AGENCY " was established to patrol the shops, inspecting expired goods and the SCALES that they are not doctored..

2. A PRICE CONTROL REGIME was established to regulate prices from ABUSE. - - Government listed 42 items with ZERO RATED PRICES. This was to control a Run Away COST OF LIVING.

These measures worked well, especially for the poor and working class.

THESE ARE JUST FEW TIPS ON HOW WE MANAGED TO CONTROL A DISASTER.

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Court House Green or Battlefield Park today after Hurricane Hattie. In 1854, the first prison was located where Heritage Bank is today and that represented the "Lawless". The "lawly" was represented by the Court House which was on the opposite side.
Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 05/12/21 12:34 PM

These photos are bit dark they were taken from a video, stills from a video, the results of Hattie Hurricane, 1961. George Villanueva

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The Bliss Institute, ration line.

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The Bliss Institute

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A building at the old Belize city hospital

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USA assisting with aid

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Barracks Road off Queen Street.

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Corner of Queen St. and Handyside St./Daly Street.

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In front of Majestic theater, one of the buildings on the left is Sandies Restaurant

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Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 05/12/21 12:35 PM

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Caption reads: A 1961 press photo Aerial view of Belize, British Honduras city devastated by Hurricane Hattie’s fierce winds, high tides and heavy rains yesterday. It was reported that 30,000 residents had been evacuated from the city which was virtually destroyed by the storm. “The sea invaded the town to depths of 9 to 10 feet,” a radio report said boats and planes are rushing aid to the city today.

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Posted By: Marty

Re: Remembering: Hurricane Hattie, 1961 - 06/02/21 12:18 PM

King Street after Hattie

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Washing salvage clothes from Hattie at Lovers Point. November 1961.

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Hector Silva:

Let us go back to Hurricane Hattie of 1961, ( Sixty years ago. )

Those of us who heard, that it was coming to Belize on that evening of October 29th 1961, at about 4.15 PM, from the trembling voice of BHBS Radio announcer, Mr Eustace Usher- Those of us who saw it coming, when flocks of birds flew in a Southerly direction. - and when Belize City residents formed a band with sounds of hammering nails. - - BUT more frightening when many people BID FAREWELL TO THEIR HOMES.

The description of the magnitude of this killer storm was. that it would begin battering Belize City about Mid Night with winds as high as 150 MPH and that it would bring high tides of up to 20 to 30 feet high.

For me it was time to move my family to higher lands, Cayo my Constituency as Mayor and newly elected Representative.

NOW MY IMMEDIATE ASSESMENT AFTER THE STORM PASSED WAS PHENOMENAL. Imagine the Macal River in San Ignacio running UP STREAM. - The flood almost touched the Hawkesworth Bridge and other rare events not to mention the vast inundation all around.

BUT THE LESSON LEARNED WAS don't play with a Hurricane. - Belize City lost its Heart Beat for a while and lost its Landscape. Some Islands like Sergeant Caye disappeared, other Islands wee split in by deep channels. - AND believe me or not, Belize City experience heavy TREMORS and TORNADOES. - The vegetation all around was SCORCHED with the friction of the strong winds.

IN FACT IN MY VISIT TO BARBADOES, we were briefed at the CARIBBEAN MET OFFICE on the irreparable damages which Hurricane Hattie may have caused to the Belize Landscape and which are still visible.

SO I KNOW WHAT IS A STRONG HURRICANE AND ITS AFTER EFFECTS, I heard it coming, I saw it coming and I felt it when it came.

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George Price chatting three days after Hattie.

Hector Silva: In this picture, First Minister George Price was talking to the Honorable Fred Westby, Area Representative for the Albert Division, and Mayor of Belize City. This was right after Hurricane Hattie. ( Note - On March 2nd,1961, the PUP had won all 18 Constituencies. - Boss Fred won the Albert Division. (Note - George Price served as Belize's First Mayor 1958 to 1960.) They were discussing no doubt, the rehabilitation and reconstruction of aterrible destroyed Belize City. The two gentlemen on the right were Boss Fred City Foreman and the old man with the Felt Hat was a faithful PUP supporter who used to sell the Belize Times.

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