Stark words were delivered from the District Coordinator for the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) last week during the Chamber of Commerce meeting regarding hurricane preparedness. Jim Janmohamed said if you can’t afford to get yourself off the island and a safe shelter in case of a hurricane, you should not be living on the island. “We will not provide emergency shelter or provide free evacuation, therefore people should not plan on it,” he stressed. Janmohamed, the NEMO District Coordinator for Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker was the guest speaker during the Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting last Thursday. He shared with the group the current hurricane plan. Hurricane season officially started June 1 and ends November 30, with the peak months being September and October.
Because the cayes are so vulnerable to a major storm, worldwide organizations refuse to support the construction of a hurricane shelter. The presence of a shelter on this island would give a false impression of a safe haven, and possibly encourage people not to evacuate. “They do not want to give a false sense of security,” said Janmohamed. “The best protection is to get off the island when you can,” he stressed. “Of course, we will assist those who do not make it off the island or choose to stay for whatever reason. What we are saying is that people should not count on this type of support and instead should make a plan in case an evacuation must occur.” In the past, the Roman Catholic Primary School on both Cayes and the Community Center on Caye Caulker have been used as a shelter and are still listed as shelters on the NEMO web site.
The plan notes that historically, 90 percent of all hurricane casualties have occurred from drowning and 10 percent from other causes. Therefore, it is imperative that all persons should evacuate the Cayes, beaches and other locations, which may be swept by high tides or storm waves. The highest tide occurs during the second half of the storm and that the rise of the water may take place very rapidly immediately following the eye of the storm or the time of the lowest barometric pressure. If your only passage to high ground is over a road subject to flooding, leave early. Do not run the risk of being marooned or having to evacuate at the height of the storm amid flying debris. It is important to have a planned place to go. Hotels and motels quickly fill up during these times.
When an evacuation is determined necessary the media will be notified to immediately inform the public. In addition, all the resorts will be notified by the Belizean Tourism Board in an effort to get all tourists off the island immediately. Resorts are required to ‘insist’ that the tourists leave. Allowing them to stay may result in the loss of their tourist license. “Some tourists think it would be fun to experience a hurricane, until it hits. Then they want to leave when it is too late,” he added. Also in the past, major US airlines have added flights so that visitors can return to their home countries. Tropic Air and Maya Island Air fly as long at it is safe and also to allow them time to secure their aircraft, according to Janmohamed.
Janmohamed is part of a committee that includes the Mayor, Area Representative, police and the fire department who determine when an evacuation notice should be called.
In addition to the safety of people, Janmohamed stressed the need for people to make arrangements for their pets. He said in the past, some owners tied their dogs to fence at the airport. They were forced to release the dogs and provide them limited amount of food and water. He asked that pet owners make plans and arrangements for their pets to be cared for.
All businesses and individuals are encouraged to make specific plans ahead of time that will fit their needs. The complete hurricane plan can be found on the NEMO website: www.nemo.org.bz or from www.sanpedrosun.net (See Below).
-----HURRICANE SEASON 2007-----
Historically, 90 percent of all hurricane casualties have occurred from drowning and 10 percent from other causes. Therefore, it is imperative that all persons should evacuate the Cayes, beaches and other locations, which may be swept by high tides or storm waves. Evacuate to a recommended place of refuge.
Remember that the highest tide occurs during the second half of the storm and that the rise of the water may take place very rapidly immediately following the eye of the storm or the time of the lowest barometric pressure. If your only passage to high ground is over a road subject to flooding, leave early. Do not run the risk of being marooned or having to evacuate at the height of the storm amid flying debris.
Below is the information you need to prepare for a hurricane:
Tips For Fishermen
Know what a hurricane WATCH and WARNING mean
RED I - WATCH
Second Phase: Hurricane WATCH 20° N 84°W
RED II - WARNING
Third Phase: Hurricane WARNING
Fourth Phase: Hurricane has passed
HOW TO TRACK A HURRICANE
Advisories are numbered consecutively for each storm. Present location and intensity is described and expected movement is given. Tropical cyclones advisories are issued at six-hour intervals - at midnight, 6:00am, noon and 6:00pm Eastern Daylight Time. Each message gives the name, centre (eye) position, intensity and forecast movement of the tropical cyclone. Hurricane centre positions are given by latitude (for example 13.5 degrees north) and longitude (for example 55.0 degrees west). When the storm moves within range of radars, centre position may also be given as statute miles and compass direction from a specified point. Tropical cyclones are not given names until they reach the storm stage - that is, rotary circulation, and constant winds over 38 mph (33 knots).
When you receive a tropical cyclone advisory, note the advisory number, centre position, intensity and forecast direction of movement. Mark the centre position on the tracking chart. Because hurricanes change direction very quickly, you should listen more carefully to where the storm will go than where it has been.
TROPICAL WAVE: A cluster of clouds and/or thunderstorms without a significant circulation and generally moving from east to west through the tropics.
TROPICAL DEPRESSION: The formative stage of a tropical storm or a hurricane. A tropical depression has a centre of circulation and sustained winds of less than 39 mph.
TROPICAL STORM: The tropical depression has formed and strengthened. This is an organized system of strong thunderstorms with top sustained winds of 39 mph to 73 mph. This is the stage when storms are named.
Category 1: Winds 74-95 mph. Storm surge 4-6 ft above normal. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery and trees. Coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.
Category 2: Winds 96-110 mph. Storm surge 6-10 ft above normal. Some roof, door and window damage of buildings. Considerable damage to shrubbery and trees with some trees blown down. Considerable damage to mobile homes and piers. Coastal and low-lying escape routes flood 2-4 hrs before arrival of hurricane centre. Small craft in unprotected anchorages break moorings.
Category 3: Winds 111-130 mph. Storm surge 10-16 ft above normal Some structural damage to small residences with a minor amount of curtain wall failures. Damage to shrubbery and trees with foliage blown off trees and large trees blown down. Mobile homes are destroyed. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of hurricane centre. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain continuously lower than 10 ft above sea level may be flooded inland 10 miles or more. Evacuation of low-lying residences along the shoreline may be required.
Category 4: Winds 131-155 mph. Storm surge 16 to 22 ft above normal. More extensive curtain wall failures with some complete roof structure failures on small residences. Shrubs and trees blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Extensive damage to doors and windows. Low-lying escape routes may be cut by rising water 3-5 hours before the arrival of the hurricane centre. Major damage to the lower floors of structures near the shore. Terrain lower than 15 ft above sea level may be flooded requiring evacuation of residential areas as far inland as 10 miles.
Category 5: Winds greater than 155 mph. Storm surge greater than 22 ft above normal. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown away. All shrubs, trees and signs blown down, Complete destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the hurricane centre. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 20 ft above sea level and within 11000 yards of the shoreline, Evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 15 miles of the shoreline may be required.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR HIGH WINDS
1. Stay tuned to radio and television stations for regular bulletins.
* Pets are not allowed at shelters, you need to make your own arrangements for the safety of your pets.
PREPARE A DISASTER SUPPLY KIT TO TAKE WITH YOU TO A SHELTER
Assemble supplies you might need in an evacuation. Store them in an easy-to-carry container such as a backpack or duffle bag.
To be announced
KNOW WHAT TO DO AFTER A HURRICANE IS OVER
Pet owners are responsible for disaster planning for their pet. If you plan to evacuate, plan for your pet as well. Take your pet Survival Kit if you go to friends, relatives or a hotel. Shelters cannot accept pets. So if you plan to go to a public shelter, make the required provisions for your pet/s.
After the storm has passed, be careful in allowing your pet outdoors. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and your pet could easily be confused and become lost. Downed power lines, and animals and insects brought in with high water, could present real dangers to your pet. Take care not to allow your pet to consume food or water which may have become contaminated.
PET SURVIVAL KIT
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