Our Community - Street Interviews - "What did you during Hurricane Keith?"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 38            October 19, 2000

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Since the San Pedro Sun originated the "Our Community" column two years ago we have featured many local individuals. For the next several weeks we will interview many people of Ambergris Caye to see how their lives have been affected since Hurricane Keith visited our island and how their lives are progressing in the aftermath.


    Tex Nuñez - Boca del Rio area - When I heard of Hurricane Keith approaching, I immediately started looking for a safe place for myself and my family because I knew that my house was not appropriate. We moved to a room at the Spindrift Hotel which we shared with countless people. The children in particular were getting scared as the wind forces became stronger. The roof started to fly off little by little and soon water started leaking inside. The glass door shook a lot and we were afraid it would break and cause harm to us. Some of the men secured the door while the women swept the water. All the zinc from my house was lost and all the electrical stuff damaged. Water rose about four feet inside my home, destroying everything. All the east side of the house came down and the other side leaned to one side. Even when it rains today, it is like if it's raining inside. But life must go on. I am back to work and am grateful to the many generous people that have been good to me. I thank Mrs. Gladys from the Spindrift Hotel for giving us shelter and to the Atlantic Bank staff and management for their support.

    Efrain Guerrero Sr. - Barrier Reef Drive - There were about thirty persons at my house during the hurricane. We had enough food for everyone and fortunately not much happened to the building. The only damage was to a large tree that had to be cut down for safety purposes. Although we were some of the fortunate few that were not severely hurt by the hurricane, it was still a frightening experience. I clearly recall the hurricane of 1942 and Keith was definitely much stronger than that one. Keith made more destruction partly because when the hurricane of 1942 affected San Pedro the mangrove at the back protected a lot of homes. Because of some of the mangrove being cut down, this caused a lot of houses and properties to be damaged by Keith.

    Ofelia Caliz - Boca del Rio area - I was with my family of three at my house near the river. By Saturday night we had to go out to my son's house at the Airstrip area because the water was rising rapidly and the winds were picking up fast. It was a very rough time. We saw some houses falling down. My son's house suffered minimal damage but it did get very wet. My house was soaking wet and I did lose a lot of stuff. I have been washing ever since the storm ended. Thank God my husband is working; I think with time we will be all right.

    Samuel Gonzalez Jr. - Deer Street, San Juan area - I stayed at my home with my family until about 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning when we were forced to evacuate. By this time, we only had about four inches to go before the water entered my home. The wind was becoming stronger by the minute and roof tops had already started to fly. I ran as fast as I could to Sands Hotel and a generous gentleman I know as Curtis was kind enough to help us evacuate. While at Sands Hotel I could see some of the neighboring roofs lifting and flying off far beyond my sight. I estimated the winds to be 150 miles per hour with gusts of easily 175mph! Sands Hotel served as an excellent hurricane shelter. After the hurricane, I went back to my home only to see it in a bad state. Two pieces of plywood had flown away and one room that had sheet rock needs total restoration. Water rose as high as the inside of my home. I've experienced hurricanes before but compared to Keith, they were minor. Keith was tremendous. It, being stationary in San Pedro, did a lot of harm to us.

    Vicki Evans - Behind Playador Hotel on Coconut Drive - We were caught by surprise like everyone else. We did not have time to evacuate. Having lived in Houston, a place that experiences tornadoes frequently, I immediately prepared myself for the bad weather with enough water and snacks for two to three days. When the winds and rains started to become stronger, water began to leak through the back door and it took us about six hours to mop it up using towels and ringing them into buckets. When the situation worsened, all three of us (my husband and son) got into our walk-in closet with pillows, a small radio and snacks to wait it out. When everything was over we had lost some shingles and a few windows blew in, allowing a lot of water to cause damage. Compared to others, our losses seem minimal. The material things that we lost can be replaced with time. It is sad talking to others who have lost everything. It seemed the hurricane hit everyone in their weakest points.

     Virginia Wallace - Pescador Drive - We left Saturday evening to my brother, Tabo Alamilla's house by the high school area. Things weren't very bad there but when the storm was at its strongest point, the windows began to burst from the second floor where we were and we were forced to move downstairs. There were about forty persons there, but it was safer. We had enough food, since I had prepared some earlier and the other families also had their own. Unfortunately, Keith did destroy my home. It fell to the ground on top of Dale's guitar shop and destroyed all his hard work. We now have to start all over again. Dale Wallace commented, "I hope to do a temporary apartment until we can get back on our feet and build a better home for my beautiful China'."

    Donaldo Guerrero - Almond Street/Black Coral Street -
I was with someone else by the embarcadero (area behind old football field) when the storm came. The water rose rapidly and I had to go to Mrs. Nellie Sabido's place at first. I managed to secure a rope from Graniel's Cabinet Shop to Mrs. Sabido's to guide myself since the water was chest deep. I also used the rope to secure myself to help another person. We then went outside Mr. Graniel's home until the zinc and roof tops started to fly away and then decided to go in to protect ourselves. The two neighbor dogs stayed outside but managed to survive. Even though I've experienced other hurricanes before, and even some at sea, Keith was a very scary experience. Thank God we are doing fine.

    Vidy Gomez - Royal Palm Area - By 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, I was still at home but the house was shaking furiously and the water had risen about four feet outside. I packed some clothing and moved to my dad's home in that same area. Although his place is on higher ground, water had also risen there. With the water still rising, all of my family had to move to a higher level of the house where the medical students were staying, housing a total of about 30 persons; us included. We put the children in the bathroom to keep them dry and safe. Water started to come in from beneath the glass doors so we had to constantly sweep the water out; almost a full day doing this. We had to put a bed and a table to keep the doors from caving in. The rain and wind were so hard, we could hardly see Royal Palm Villas like we did before. The whole experience was scary especially when one of the neighbors' home collapsed and we were afraid that the plywood would fly directly at us. With the water storming in, one refrigerator and the sofas were floating all around the house. What made this more frightening was that my dad, who had experienced hurricanes, mentioned that he hadn't seen one as scary as Keith.

    Rudy Duran - Boca del Rio area - I moved my family out of our house by Saturday to Mr. Omar Guerrero's home. When the storm started to come stronger we moved to Mr. Javier Graniel's house. By this time, the zinc from some of the houses had started to fly off. After I secured my family I went along with other people to help others evacuate to a safer house. We spent the storm with only minimal water leaks at Mr. Graniel's. After the hurricane, I went to check on my home and was received by the horrible sight of it being severely damaged. The whole roof was destroyed; clothing, television and other utilities all got wet. The water rose five feet from the ground. This is the first hurricane I experienced in Belize and it was a very scary one. I was especially scared for my family. Because of the state of my house, we are presently staying at Mr. Tino Gonzalez's home. My family and I thank all those who were kind to us during this tragic time.

    Ilda Ancona - Pescador Drive - At first I wasn't frightened because I didn't know what to expect. But when the high tension cables started to fall on top of my house, that is when I began to get scared. The neighboring rooftops and zinc would fly and hit my house causing more tension to my family. I was scared because I didn't know if my roof had gone but just to make sure I got under the bed along with my children. Eventually the majority of the ceiling did fly off and water started to come in. While I was living this horrible experience, I could not stop thinking of the people who live in the low areas and was specifically afraid for my children.

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