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Jul 14, 2005

Weather chief on Emily: Prepare

Story PictureThere is crime news, including a murder and armed robbery… political developments in the form of a Cabinet shuffle, and new management at D.F.C…. but we’ll lead tonight’s broadcast with the story that is likely to make this weekend a time of stress for most Belizeans: Hurricane Emily. With that storm now at category three and likely to strengthen, News Five’s Jacqueline Woods sat down with the man in the hot seat at the weather bureau, Carlos Fuller.

Carlos Fuller, Chief Meteorologist
?At this stage it is best for us to look at our hurricane plans. Do we have one, if we do have it, what does it entail. If you are in a vulnerable area, know where you would go to if indeed we are threatened. Stock up on some supplies that you know you will need anyhow, for example batteries, make sure that your radio is working, make sure you have a bit of canned food to be able to last, so that you have these kind of things in place in the event that we have to go in the preliminary phase you will implement it.?

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Chief Meteorologist Carlos Fuller says based on all the computer modules, by the time Emily gets into the Western Caribbean it will be a major hurricane. Fuller says if a preliminary phase is required, that call may be made as early as Friday depending on the storm?s position.

Carlos Fuller
?Emily is moving at a relatively fast clip, almost at twenty miles per hour, which is about two times faster than a normal hurricane would travel. So in that case, we would have to declare the preliminary phase earlier than normal. And so it is possible that we may declare the emergency phase as early as tomorrow evening if Emily continues on a track that would take it toward the northwest Caribbean.?

On its present course, Emily could be in our neighbourhood by weekend.

Carlos Fuller
?It certainly going to be in front, on our front door on the weekend, but whether north of us or south of us, it?s too early to say.?

Fuller says Emily is taking a path similar to that of other major storms that came from the Eastern Caribbean and affected Belize.

Carlos Fuller
?For example hurricane Greta back in 1978 was on this sort of track. Hurricane Iris, a couple years ago also took this track, as did Chantal that same year. So hurricanes that tend to form the in early part of the season, July and August tend to follow this track if they do affect Belize.?

From early morning, the Belize Weather Bureau has been swamped with telephone calls. The staff has been busy monitoring the hurricane and have gone on their emergency schedule to be ready for an imminent strike. However, one essential piece of equipment that won?t be in operation is the radar… a long running embarrassment for the department.

Carlos Fuller
?Certainly it will affect us significantly, because unless we get it up and going by then we would not have our own eye on it. But we still have other capacities, for example we do have satellite imagery that we do receive every half an hour, so we can track the hurricane, get updates on it every half an hour on it. We do have a system of telecommunication, which allows us to receive information on a continuous basis through our own receiving system directly to the Washington Centre. So we have other options of monitoring the hurricane besides the radar.?

Fuller says the radar has outlived its usefulness and cannot be repaired. While the old equipment is scheduled for replacement, it?s a major project that will probably take until next year to complete.

Carlos Fuller
?So it is just a huge capital investment worth two million dollars, so it is not something you replace very often and as I tell people don?t forget that we are the only country in Central America that has one.?

In the meantime, all eyes are on Emily and Belizeans are praying that once again the country will be spared. Fuller say they have also been closely monitoring a high pressure system that is preventing the hurricane from making that northerly turn toward the Yucatan. More than likely that factor will keep the storm on its present path and make it more of threat to the country.
Carlos Fuller
?I would like to remind the public to keep updates on the television, on the radio, so that they are aware of what is happening. Don?t listen to rumours, track it yourself and listen to the advice coming out of Belize, whether it?s from NEMO, the Met Service, our local emergency preparedness officials, because they are the ones who will be putting the systems in place to make sure that we are ready for this onslaught which we hope doesn?t come.?

Jacqueline Woods for News Five.

Belize’s peak hurricane season is not until September, so Fuller says to prepare for the worst. The country has a history of multiple hurricane strikes. For example, in 1931 Belize was hit three times and in 1974, hurricane Carmen and Fifi struck the country within two weeks of each other. Fuller says being threatened now so early, does not bode well for the rest of the season.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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