Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Disasters, Environment » Preparing for an Above-Average Hurricane Season
May 27, 2021

Preparing for an Above-Average Hurricane Season

In Belize, June to November is synonymous with storms and hurricanes; it is, after all, the Tropical Hurricane Atlantic Season.  With June first just days away, on Wednesday the National Emergency Management Organization and the National Meteorological Service in the Ministry of Disaster Risk Management provided key information for the public during a conference in Belmopan.


Ronald Gordon, Chief Meteorologist

“So that is the prediction – it is going to be an above season based on most of the agencies.   Based on the probabilities for Belize, which is done by the Colorado State University, they are saying that based on the forecast of 2021, we have a fifty-five percent chance which is high. That number might look low but that is high – fifty five percent chance of at least one named storm tracking within fifty miles of the country. What is the long term average – forty percent probability. So, the chance is fifteen percent higher this year than normal that we’ll have a named storm coming near us. In term of a hurricane, that is twenty-seven percent compared to an average of eighteen and in terms of major hurricanes, eight percent compared to an average of five percent.  Those numbers might appear small but when you look at it in terms of the impact then it becomes significant.”


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

While the forecast cannot tell us if or how many storms will certainly hit Belize, this general prediction tells us that it will be an active season across the basin. And that’s why NEMO’s national coordinator says that they remain in a state of readiness, stepping up their preparedness efforts across the country.


Shelton Defour

Shelton Defour, National Coordinator, NEMO

“We have embarked since January to inspect the shelters around the country, district by district, to produce a list. That list is being vetted by the national shelter committee whereby by the weekend going into Monday it will be finalized and the list will be made public. We have been digging drains in several parts of the country as stated there. We are improving our communications system where down in the south we have put in repeaters so that we could use very high frequency emergency radios to broadcast among certain communities. We have started the process of making sure rivers are starting to be cleaned and cleared.  We have been conducting meetings and trainings countrywide since February. We have updated the family emergency plan and the COVID-19 plans for evacuation and shelter.  We have embarked on, with the direction and support of our minister and C.E.O., the restocking of our warehouses. We have five warehouses countrywide.   The NEMO system in terms of readiness, preparedness at the national and district level where committees are meeting and working through and identifying the issues, challenges and logistics – from that perspective we are better prepared and that is the leadership of the NEMO system.”


The national meteorological service is at the heart of educating the decision makers and public. Chief Meteorologist Gordon says that while the radar isn’t working at the moment, they do have a number of other tools available to use.


Ronald Gordon

Ronald Gordon

“We went through a very busy, busy 2020 season without the radar and using all the tools and resources we have we were able to use all the tools and resources we have and alert the public. Even though we consider the radar to be an important tool for us, we have different assets at our disposal that we use.  We can now pinpoint the location now of where it is going to go with improvement in hurricane models, observations and that kind of thing that has occurred over the years.  I said track forecast has improved; intensity forecast remains a challenge. We can tell you almost, not precisely, but with some level of confidence where the storm is headed. The question remain how strong will it be when it gets there and that still remains a challenge.”


Another challenge that NEMO is navigating is the issue of shelter and COVID-19 considerations.


Shelton Defour

“We have more shelters in terms of last year and the year before but we have less space because of COVID-19. So ten persons per classroom reduces the space significantly when you use to put thirty persons in a classroom you are now down to ten so sixty-six percent of regular space capacity is totally lost due to COVID-19.  And so we look at privately owned buildings that could be used as reserve but not place on the regular shelter list that if you have over spill we call up on those owners. But it is a challenge – we will not mislead the Belizean public by saying it is all fine and dandy – this is one of the biggest challenges of NEMO in terms of shelter space and making sure the buildings are suitable because they are not NEMO owned.”


In 2016, when Hurricane Earl made landfall as a category one – NEMO says that they had to repair some two thousand five hundred roofs and the construction of over three hundred homes were rebuilt. And so we must also play our part in safeguarding our lives and our property and that starts with having a hurricane preparedness plan and building more resilient structures.


Shelton Defour

“The theme for NEMO is to ensure you have a family emergency plan – doesn’t matter who you are; the taxi driver; camera operator; a public officer – doesn’t matter who you are. It can be three or four things you have written down. This is our plan – we will notify grandmother; stock up on water; whatever food we can buy; secure the building; prepare to move to a shelter to safeguard our lives – whatever it is – and obviously with COVID-19 at the center; making sure you take COVID-19 preparedness in terms of vaccinations; social distancing; facemasks; hand sanitizer, etc… listen to your radio and television.  What we have seen a lot in Belize – if you look to those hurricane clips – I am getting pictures for when we have thunderstorm or what we call freak storm of wind gusts of twenty to thirty miles per hour; wind gust for maybe twenty minutes with rainfall – complete roof failure. People are losing their roof and that shouldn’t be happening. These clips sell for less than two dollars at hardware store that can help anchor your roof.  One of the things again, if you are going to build along the coast and rivers where storm surge could occur, build smart and allow the water to run through. This should be made of very weak material so that it washes away but the structural integrity remains intact because the walls are not concrete where the waves would push against it and push down that house.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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.

Advertise Here

Comments are closed