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Oct 26, 1998

What Belize can expect from Mitch

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Belizeans across the country have been glued to their TVs and radios to monitor the progress of what is probably the worst storm to ever threaten Belize. About an hour ago News Five’s Karla Heusner spoke with the Director of the Climate Change Project Carlos Fuller who is part of the team at the Met office which has been working around the clock to keep the country informed. Fuller gave us the latest on Hurricane Mitch and what it could mean for Belize.

Carlos Fuller, Dir., Climate Change Project

“We would not experience hurricane conditions until about 72 hours from now. That is assuming that it makes this curve. On the other hand, under the worst case scenario, if Mitch were to suddenly start to move due westward, we could start experiencing hurricane conditions in about one and a half days time. This is the worst case scenario and the most unlikely because all indications are that the currents that are now steering Mitch are going to weaken considerably and when it does develop again it is going to push Mitch on a more northerly track instead of a westerly track.”

Q: “Would you say that Mitch has reached its maximum speed at this point?”

Carlos Fuller

“I would not want to say that. The reason is, whenever we have said that in the past about Hurricane Allen, then about Hurricane David, then about Hurricane Gilbert, new records were set each time. At the moment Gilbert holds the record for the strongest hurricane in our area and I would not want to say that it is the strongest it is possible. Mitch keeps building and building and I would not want to say.”

Q: “If it would hit Belize, what part of the country would that be?”

Carlos Fuller

“The areas that would be most vulnerable right now are the northernmost parts of the country. Even if Mitch were to continue on the motion it is going without taking any curve it would pass some hundred miles or so north of Chetumal, so the extreme north of the country would experience hurricane force winds, not the strongest hurricane force winds, about 75 miles per hour, would be affecting northern San Pedro and the Corozal Town and the border. That would be on a straight line assuming Mitch does not take the curve that we expect it to take.”

Q: “So there would be no direct hit to Belize City?”

Carlos Fuller

“No, at the moment that seems very unlikely. However, what we can expect is tropical storm force winds at most; that is winds about 40 miles per hour.”

Q: “For people in the city, does that mean evacuating or watch it to see what is going to occur?”

Carlos Fuller

“Only watch it but if Mitch were to come directly to Belize City then we would need to evacuate everyone from Belize City because very little would survive with winds of 180 miles per hour.”

Q: “What about the roads, in case of the Northern Highway trying to get out of town?”

Carlos Fuller

“If we get a direct hit, that is going to be flooded because the road runs parallel to the coastline for about 10 or 15 miles both north and south of Belize City. So those would become inundated 6-10 hours before the storm actually hits. If Mitch continues the path we expect, the winds are going to be more from the west and in fact we should see the sea receding from the coastline.”

Q: “Is it a serious concern for people to be worried about flooding in the city?”

Carlos Fuller

“It is not a serious concern if Mitch does what we expect it to do. On the other hand, if Mitch comes directly to Belize City, it is the worst case scenario. We’re talking about water in excess of 25 feet.”

Q: “So you’re just saying prepare for the worst?”

Carlos Fuller

“Yes, and hopefully we will not have to act on it. The most important thing to do is to monitor; look at CNN, look at the Weather Channel. However, listen to your radio stations; we will be giving you precise conditions of what to expect in Belize, providing the input that we know our geography is going to provide.”

The Meteorological Department will be issuing weather updates every three hours.

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