Hurricane Rina, where are you going?
The northern part of the country, stretching from Belize City to the northern border is under hurricane watch and it looks that Rina, a category two hurricane can further strengthen. With winds of up to one hundred and ten miles, and moving at three miles per hour, it can become a hurricane a category three by morning. Late this evening, Hurricane Rina shifted westward which means that the northern part of Belize, in particular, will experience the brunt of the storm. Rina is two hundred and fifty eight miles east of Belize. At its headquarters in Belmopan, NEMO is in full swing. Evacuations are ongoing from the cayes and it is expected that in the Corozal District, on Wednesday residents will be moved inland. News Five’s Delahnie Bain reports.
Hurricane Rina is now a category two storm and will be even stronger in the next twenty-four hours when it is expected to affect Belize. Today residents from San Pedro, Caye Caulker and Corozal, who would be the path of destruction, started evacuating. The University of Belize gym and Scarlet Macaw buildings in Belmopan were opened as shelters. While those were unoccupied up to this afternoon, NEMO Coordinator, Noreen Fairweather, says hundreds of persons left the islands.
Noreen Fairweather, NEMO Coordinator
“Throughout the course of the day, we have been continuing with the evacuation of the islands. As we speak, about fifteen hundred or so persons have been evacuated; twelve hundred of those by boat and another three hundred plus by air. Most of the persons that have been evacuated off the islands, have opted to move in with friends and family or in homes in the case of those who work on the island and have home on the mainland. But we still have shelter available here in Belmopan at the UB campus, the UB gym. Even those that have come to Belmopan have friends and family in this area and so they have opted to go to those homes.”
“At three p.m. Hurricane Rina was located near latitude seventeen point for north, longitude eighteen point four west. That position is about two hundred and fifty, two hundred and sixty miles east of Belize City. The new development is that Rina is moving towards the west now at three miles per hour. Winds have intensified to a hundred and ten miles per hour; that’s a borderline category three hurricane, almost a major hurricane.”
NEMO has not yet started evacuations in the northern districts, but Fairweather says that may be necessary on Wednesday.
“We haven’t done any evacuation in the mainland area. We are monitoring the storm as we speak. The sea conditions are getting a little bit more unfavorable. The reports we are getting right now, just outside the reef we have wave action about six to eight feet and we expect that later on throughout this even that will start to translate within the reef in the inner lagoon. What they are going to do is that this evening we will cease the evacuation process. We will not be evacuating anybody by night. We have an evacuation plan in terms of who goes to the shelter depending on the category of the storm. As it stands right now, it’s all external. Once winds are over a hundred miles per hour, the evacuations are external, which means that those communities that are on the coast will move inland to the designated shelter for them. But that determination will be made tomorrow.”
While Hurricane Rina is moving dauntingly slow, it is intensifying quickly and has shifted its direction. Chief Met Officer, Dennis Gonguez says that could mean bad news for northern Belize.
“Well the forecast is still for a west, northwesterly track and then a more northerly track on Wednesday morning. However, we have to monitor it during the course of tonight to see whether it starts to assume that more west, northwesterly track so we have to pay close attention to the system tonight to see if it assumes that westerly track or it assumes the forecasted west, northwesterly track and then eventually northerly.”
“And if it does go the forecasted way; that means that we won’t be directly impacted?”
“Yes, it would make a turn before reaching our shores and it would make landfall somewhere around Playa Del Carmen, however, if it continues on that westerly track then we’re in major trouble.”
The forecasted path is for Rina to turn away and only bring rains, but as it stands, the hurricane is still a major threat. Delahnie Bain for News Five.
Evacuation operations from the islands were discontinued at five and will begin in earnest at five in the morning. NEMO says that it remains on full alert and urges the public to take necessary actions since Rina could become a powerful hurricane. More on the hurricane later in the newscast.