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May 31, 2002

Belizeans prepare for hurricane season

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With the images of destruction and despair left in the wake of Hurricane Iris still vivid in the minds of most Belizeans, the official start of the hurricane season this weekend is being viewed with more than a little anxiety. While there is no certainty that a storm will or will not hit Belize this year, one thing is sure; we must prepare.

Carlos Fuller, Chief Meteorologist

“We’ve had several forecasts being issued. The Cuban Met Service predicts twelve tropical storms of which nine becomes hurricanes, three of them intense hurricanes. The U.S. Weather Service did a prediction, they are expecting nine to thirteen storms, seven to nine hurricanes and two to three intense hurricanes. And Bill Gray who is the most famous of these forecasters, is forecasting twelve tropical storms, seven hurricanes and three intense hurricanes.”

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

In the past three years, Belize has been affected by four storms, three of which were intense hurricanes. This year, the Belize Met Service cannot predict whether we will be spared from these deadly natural disasters, but is warning Belizeans to be prepared for any storm that may pose a threat to the country. Today, the Met Service is better prepared to track these storms.

Carlos Fuller

“We are better prepared in two main ways. First of all, we got back three members of staff last year having undergone higher training. One person with a Master Degree, a person with a Bachelor’s Degree and a person with a Professional Forecaster’s Certificate. So we have more personnel better trained. And in addition we have increased the capacity of the equipment at the Met office. Late last year we installed new satellite reception capabilities. So we now have the ability to see images with a resolution of one kilometre, which is far better and we are getting pictures every fifteen minutes.”

Chief Meteorologist Carlos Fuller says five additional weather stations have been installed at schools to be used as hurricane shelters in an effort to chart data on whatever system that approaches our area. In the mean time, Fuller says families should have already started to prepare for yet another active season.

Carlos Fuller

“This weekend is the ideal time to get ready for the hurricane season, that is by making your hurricane plan. Many people wait until an emergency is declared for them to decide what they are going to do. It is then too late. If you decide now what to do in event when it is declared and you write it down then you will be much better prepared in the event it is necessary.”

The hurricane season officially opens this Saturday, but just how many of us are prepared?

Citizen #1

“You should have a plan according to the announcement. But at present it no put in action as yet. But it will be put in action, because like they say in a time of peace you prepare for war.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Do you have a hurricane plan?”

Citizen #2

“Actually, no I don’t. But after seeing what has happened over the last years, I actually know better what to do for hurricanes. With the plan I actually moved away from Belize City because the probability of a hurricane hitting Belize is actually more now than ever. And the amount of investment we have in our household appliances whatever will be washed away, so I have decided to move away from Belize City.”

Citizen #3

“Well we will continue and just do what we did for the past two years or so, and it could be Belmopan or Hattieville, because there’s a place in each of those locations that we can go to. I reluctant to go, but if I’m pressed I will do that.”

Citizen #4

“We are preparing for the hurricane season. We already started our roof and we already have life vests in case it starts flooding, when hurricane comes flooding tends to occur. And we’re start preparing for our groceries.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Sir, if a hurricane threatens Belize what will you do?”

Citizen #5

“I wah have to mek up mi mind fi ketch a shelter and maybe if the condition of the place is good I will stay there.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Do you plan to remain in Belize City?”

Citizen #5

“In Belize City I live and I will have to plan to find a shelter.”

Citizen #6

“My intention if hurricane come is just go dah Lizarraga High School. I no live too far from there”

Jacqueline Woods

“So you would stay in Belize City?”

Citizen #6

“Yes, so I could maybe run go peep on my lee old house and see that everything safe.”

Carlos Fuller

“Anybody who is doing any thinking right now, should be thinking of going to stay with a friend or a family member in Belmopan or San Ignacio or Orange Walk Town, move out of the city. And if you don’t have anybody like that, then think of a shelter in one of these towns. As the last resort, if you cannot escape Belize City, then think about a shelter in Belize City.”

NEMO has eleven operation committees located countrywide. Fuller, a member of the Warning Committee, says because during an emergency hundreds of people seek shelter in the City of Belmopan, this year the committee has established a working relationship with that City Council.

Carlos Fuller

“That is a place of refuge. People run from San Pedro or Caye Caulker and go to Belmopan. So we needed to co-ordinate that movement of people, so in fact when a boat leaves San Pedro or Caye Caulker, we have a manifest of who is on the boat and where are they going. So in Belmopan they know what time to expect these people and which shelter to put them.”

According to Fuller, both the Belize Met Service and NEMO will be meeting with the managers of the various media houses in an effort to establish a system to provide information to the general public during a storm as quickly as possible. Jacqueline Woods reporting for News 5.

The hurricane season, which opens on Saturday, June first, will close on November thirtieth. Meteorologists tell News 5 that data documented over the last five years indicate that the strongest storms develop in the latter part of the season, from August to October.

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