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Jun 30, 2008

Residents in southern Belize braze for new tropical wave

Story PictureHeavy rainfall in Southern Belize has caused rising waters and conditions are expected to worsen with an approaching tropical wave. Today News Five’s Marion Ali sat with Chief Met Officer Ramon Frutos to find out what to expect.

Marion Ali, Reporting
The experiences of Tropical Storm Arthur have left most Belizeans wary of present weather conditions. And with an approaching tropical wave, residents in Southern Belize are already moving to safe grounds. Acting Chief Met Officer, Ramon Frutos, alerts that people in low-lying areas need to pay keen attention and be prepared to act promptly.

Ramon Frutos, Ag. Chief Meteorologist
“I’m looking at areas of the central part of Belize and the southern Districts where the activity probably will be much more concentrated and, as you know Marion, that’s the are where we have been having quite a bit of rainfall over the last day or two. Because the landscape and the rivers are already saturated and the river levels are already above normal and some areas are flooding already, with additional rainfall in the next twenty-four or thirty-six hours we could get even more higher water levels in some of these rivers. This is something we need to monitor very, very closely because who knows, with this tropical wave coming our way, it could generate even more rainfall than we have been getting over the past day or two. So it’s a situation that we need to monitor very closely within the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours.”

But even before the tropical wave hits Belize tomorrow night, persistent rains over the country since the weekend have already severely inundated southern Belize.

Ramon Frutos
“This morning Marion, we were getting reports coming out of the Toledo District that some of the houses in many of the little villages in the south along the Temash River and some other streams there were getting inundated and that’s expected under these conditions. With five inches of rainfall you can get that type of flooding indeed.”

Marion Ali
“Of course, flash floods won’t prepare anybody to move out. You’d have to do it in a hurry.”

Ramon Frutos
“Right. In flash floods you don’t have much time. You don’t have much to react so you’ll definitely keep monitoring the water levels from hour to hour and see how it’s behaving. But not only that, you should keep abreast of how much rainfall you’re getting.”

Rudolph Williams, Hydrologist
“The rivers that are in flood stage will continue to remain in flood stage and probably even get above the record especially down in the south in the Temash, the Sarstoon, in the Golden Stream and the north Stann Creek, Sittee. We are expecting that even the Mullins River can also experience some increase in water levels tomorrow evening and going into Wednesday. So, those are the areas that are hot spots right now. In the north we have some flooding going on but that is not a quick responder to rainfall events. But all the areas that have experienced floods so far, the people should be on the lookout, be vigilant and try to heed the warnings of NEMO and make sure that you be ready to move quickly.”

And move quickly is exactly what the National Emergency Management Organization has done. NEMO’s new Coordinator, Noreen Fairweather, says they have already sprung into action in the two most southern districts.

Noreen Fairweather, NEMO Coordinator (Via Telephone)
“We have some of the communities in the Toledo district that have been inundated. Primarily, we’re looking at Crique Sarco, Santa Ana, Golden Stream, Santa Theresa, and those areas. Those persons are secure. We have a few people in the village of Jordan that we are sending additional assistance to. As we speak, we have some people from BATSUB assisting us in getting some tents to help with the shelter for the night. They are on high grounds, they are safe, but they need additional capacities in terms of housing them throughout the night. For the most part, the prime areas of concern right now are those areas where we have those villages inundated by the flood waters. The area of particular interest right now is Jordan because they have been totally cut off. In Stann Creek District but the community at risk right now that has been cut off is Gales Point because of the situation where the road has been eroded, the culverts have washed off so they have some challenges in terms of getting out of Gales Point. But assistance has been provided to them in terms of boating them across so they can pick up their supplies and so on out of Dangriga.”

And while southern Belize braces for more torrential rains, on a broader picture, Frutos projects a very busy hurricane season.

Ramon Frutos
“It will be an active hurricane season but our area of the region usually get the big storms them later in August and September and even into October. So that’s the time that we really have to focus on for these big storms that can come across the Caribbean into our area. At the moment, most of the rest of the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean is clear. However, the forecasters and the meteorologists are looking at an area of disturbance moving off the coast of Africa. This area of disturbed weather will move into the Eastern Atlantic Ocean and develop probably into a depression before this week is out. It’s very possible and it is something that we need to watch.”

Fairweather says District Emergency Management Offices have been opened in Punta Gorda and Dangriga and hurricane shelters in the affected villages will be open for residents who want to seek refuge. Marion Ali for News Five.

Meanwhile, Frutos says the Doppler radar that is being installed at the Met Service will not be fully operational until September, two months before the close of the season.

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