Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hurricane Dean Arrives

Diane and I decided, perhaps foolishly, to weather the impending Hurricane Dean in our house in Belize. Our house is constructed with steel reinforced concrete so I thought we were safe. The closer the storm came to Belize, the larger it looked on the satellite images that Diane and I were continually monitoring on the Accuweather web site. On the same site, I could see the projected path of the storm and it definitely appeared as if it was moving in a West-Northwest direction toward Southern Mexico. The storm was projected to hit land very early in the morning on Tuesday August 21, 2007. Everything appeared safe for us.

Around 2:30PM on Monday August 20th, we lost electric power and access to the internet. I was concerned about power surges when the power went back on after the storm so I shut off the main circuit breakers.

Diane and I were sitting on our porch as we noticed large dark clouds in the eastern sky. The winds started to gust and the large trees close to our house swayed and creaked. The sky darkened quickly. Thoughts of the satellite image of a storm larger than the whole Yucatan Peninsula ran through my mind. I thought maybe I needed to board up my windows! Then I looked at the two large palm trees within 100 feet of our house with large coconuts dangling in the wind. I thought to myself, in a strong wind they may behave as cannon balls! About that time, Diane had located our portable FM/Shortwave radio.

We were happy to find that the local FM radio station was still broadcasting. This radio station provided an outstanding service. It was taking calls from citizens all over Belize. Important announcements, evacuation instructions, up to the minute storm information, storm preparation instructions and messages. These messages were from all over the world. Some were general messages wishing the country of Belize good luck. Some were messages to individuals from a distant family member in another country. The announcers did an amazing job. We even heard the head of NEMO (National Emergency Management Organization) and the Prime Minister addressing the people. This was one station that apparently everyone was tuned to throughout the night.

After achieving some type of contact with the outside world, a lot of my apprehension concerning our safety vanished. The wind started to die down around 5:00PM. We continued to listen to the station until we were satisfied that the storm would not hit near us and then went to bed. Throughout the night we heard the wind gusting. The gusting would continue for only a few minutes and then it would die down. We awoke unscathed! We experienced no property damage. We also received very little rain considering the size of the storm.

The many emails my wife and I received from concerned friends and family were certainly heart warming and very much appreciated.

Luckily for us, this storm was uneventful. There are some people on the islands and in northern Belize that did not make out so well. There has been a lot of property damage in these areas. There are also problems with water, sewage, and electric service. Hopefully, all of these problems will soon be corrected and everyone will be able to get back to life as usual in Belize. According to the latest report, not a single person was killed or severely injured as a result of this storm.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hurricane Dean Approaches - Last post before storm

In addition to browsing the internet, I have been listening to local radio in order to gain up to the minute news on Hurricane Dean. I just heard that there are very long lines of customers at the gas stations hoping they can fill up prior to the storm. They also said that grocery stores are jammed. I am glad that Dane and I took care of these things on Friday.

At 1:30PM they announced that the electric could be shut off at 2:00PM today. I will lose all communications at that time.

Right now the sun is shining and there is no indication at all that tomorrow at 8:00AM a category five hurricane will be striking land just above the northern border of Belize.

When I get electric or when I get to an Internet café that has electric, I will make another post.

Hurricane Dean Approaches

I received quite a few emails regarding Hurricane Dean and questions about our safety.

We were certainly apprehensive about the early news reports. It appears, that our area of Belize will not receive the brunt of the storm. In fact, Our area of Belize is not under any storm watches or warnings at the present time. We live in the center of Belize in the hills. The eye of the storm is about 450 miles east of us and is heading west northwest. The strongest winds are on the west and north side of the storm.

Diane and I are staying put. We live in one of the best built homes in the country.

Sometimes we think about living on the islands or on the coast but the threat of storms is too great. There are not that many but when they hit, they can be devastating.

I do have a concern about those people that have opted to remain on the islands to ride out the storm. I just got an email from a blogger who lives on Ambergris. She is staying and is looking for rain boots.

I think we have a good chance of being affected by the storm mainly due to electric service problems. Last week we lost power for seven hours one day and the weather was great! We managed without electric before and we will manage again.

We have a good supply of bottled drinking water. We also have plenty of canned food. We filled the fuel tank in the truck and we have plenty of butane.

The storm is predicted to hit landfall by 8:00 AM Tuesday morning.

I will make another post before the storm hits if something changes and I have an internet connection.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Belize Letter 12

I decided to get back to projects and stay off the internet for awhile. I wanted to get the top half (about 400 foot) of our drive way leveled and then add stone. I first had to get rid of some of the dead trees, vines, stumps etc. that seemed to be encroaching on the driveway. To accomplish this I hired a D7 Bulldozer (and operator). In addition, I wanted to widen the driveway and line it with Madre De Cacao trees. As I explained in an earlier post Madre De Cacao is an amazing plant. All one has to do is chop some branches off existing trees (they are everywhere down here) and plant it about 12 to 16 inched deep. That is all there is to it! In a few months a tree will be growing. I have planted some branches that were five inches thick! This is like sticking a log in the ground and having it grow into a tree. It is also called the living fence post because wire can be strung between the trees and it would make an excellent fence. I placed some pictures on the web at the link at the bottom of this post.

Diane and I found some ceiling fans for the porch and I mounted and wired them. In between these tasks I have been cutting grass and putting stone around the fence and around the sides of the house. I will get some pictures uploaded soon either to Picasa or too the website on these projects.

We found a great Italian restaurant in San Ignacio on a recent trip. We had pasta bolognaise (with homemade pasta) and it was outstanding! We also ate some of the best tasting bread in Belize. We will definitely return and I will write down the restaurant’s name.

There are lots of neat things to be seen on a daily basis. The bugs are incredible down here. I have a picture of a six inch grasshopper that decided to spend some time on the wall of our deck. This bug is not only big but the undersides of his wings are red! I also have a shot of a tiny bird that made a nest in one of Diane’s plants. We have been seeing a tiger heron walking around are land. I haven’t been able to get a good picture because I have no telephoto lens. This is a very big bird! But really blends in well with the landscape.

We have bananas! Two of our banana trees are producing fruit! See pictures. Did you ever see a banana blossom?

St Margaret’s creek forms the western border of our property. This is a very unusual creek. In the rainy season it can be 3ft deep and 30 ft wide. In the dry season, about 3 months in duration, just before the southern end of our property, the creek flows into a small whole in the bottom of the creek (entrance to an underground cave). No water flows past our property during these months. In the rainy season, however, the water flow is too great for the opening and flows down past our property. In the rainy season it can be 3ft deep and 30 ft wide! What is also peculiar is that there are lots of fingerlings in the shallow pools at our property. About one mile downstream (to the north on the way to Five Blues Lake) there is a very similar opening in the creek bed which is the entrance to another underground cave.

Pictures mentioned in this post are here: