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October 2, 2000 12:30EDT - Relief Efforts
On-line donations for Ambergris Caye are accepted at http://AmbergrisCaye.com/towncouncil/keith.html. Also, Jeff Gram (Jeff@aprivateisland.com) has initiated the San Pedro Cleanup. Contact him for info on how to donate. And of course, the Red Cross always needs more money for their relief effort.

- - - 2000 Hurricane Season - - -

- Re: Keith - 2 months later
  • From: "Marty Casado" <Marty AT Casado.net>
  • Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2000 13:53:44 -0800

The following is excerpted from a couple articles in the San Pedro Sun, sanpedrosun.net, and Dan and Eileen Amison. This report is from very early on, all electrics and water fully restored, a couple resorts waiting til Dec. 1, nearly all fully open now.

Now all tours running, fishing fine, diving great, action was above the waterline with keith, no damage to reefs....

Nearly all ground damage besides roofs to back side of island, tourist oriented east shore much less problems...

                  Never Fear - We're Still Here and We'll Be Ready for Tourist
                  Season!!!  is the message the people of Ambergris Caye want
                  the world to know. This tropical paradise is located about 36
                  miles off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean Sea or
                  17.92N/87.95W on the map. In another part of the world during
                  the last week of September, a tropical depression was forming
                  off the coast of Central America and nobody even remotely
                  expected what affect it would have on this tiny island.
                      After it was named, Tropical Storm Keith was expected to
                  travel north through the Caribbean Sea, somewhat affecting the
                  Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, before heading into the Gulf of
                  Mexico. As it reached warmer waters on Friday, Keith developed
                  very quickly, literally before everyone's eyes.
                      On Friday, September 29th, the weather was typical in San
                  Pedro, tropically delightful. Although the circumstances were
                  stated to be "not favorable for development" as reported by an
                  evening call to the National Hurricane Center in Miami,
                  Florida, Area Representative Patty Arceo called a 5 a.m.
                  meeting for the next morning with San Pedro's Mayor Alberto
                  Nuñez and National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO)
                  Operations Officer, Jim Janmohamed. In the meantime,
                  conditions of the storm progressed at an alarming rate. Its
                  winds had reached 74 miles per hour; making it a hurricane.
                  Following a phone call with Central Government and an 8 a.m.
                  meeting with San Pedro Town Council it was decided to skip the
                  Phase I/Preliminary Alert, and go directly to Phase II/ Red 1,
                  signaling a hurricane watch. This meant that hurricane
                  conditions were possible in the next 36 hours. The community
                  was alerted that the San Pedro Roman Catholic School would be
                  their hurricane shelter and it would be opened at 3 p.m.
                      At this point, Saturday, September 30th, a 9 a.m. meeting
                  of the San Pedro NEMO Committee was called and by 10 a.m.
                  Phase III/Red II hurricane warning flags were flying. Keith's
                  winds were already 80mph and it was likely to strike within 24
                  hours. The National Weather Service in Miami made this report
                  in the afternoon, "The eye of Hurricane Keith was located near
                  latitude 18.0 north/longitude 86.8 west," or about 90 miles
                  east of San Pedro. Little movement had been reported and all
                  the officials expected a north/northwest drift on Sunday.
                  Around 3 p.m. the Government Press Office informed that
                  reports from the reconnaissance aircraft indicated that
                  maximum sustained winds had increased to 100mph with 970
                  millibars of pressure; Keith was now a Class 2 hurricane
                  within 75 miles of the island. Hurricane warnings were
                  extended along the coast of Belize from Corozal south to
                  Monkey River. People in low-lying areas were warned that storm
                  surges could be 4-5 feet.
                      No mandatory evacuation was called because of the hasty
                  turn of events with the weather, but tourists were urged to
                  leave the island. Boats were cautioned not to sail for the
                  seas were too rough and planes had to cease flying by 2 p.m.
                  Late in the afternoon a curfew was declared for 8 p.m. for
                  safety reasons and liquor sales were ordered ceased by the
                  government. To be more beneficial to the people of the islands
                  in such peril, S.P. NEMO made a decision to station Area
                  Representative Patty Arceo as Operations Officer on
                  neighboring Caye Caulker because of her familiarity with the
                  area and its people. Mr. Janmohamed remained on Ambergris Caye
                  in constant communication with the Area Representative, and
                  working together, they efficiently coordinated all emergency
                  efforts. All NEMO committee members were assigned individual
                  tasks and each of them, to this day, continue to carry them
                  out tirelessly, unwavering in their commitment to serve the
                  people of La Isla Bonita.
                      By 6 p.m. Saturday afternoon, we were informed that the
                  center had moved to 87.0 degrees west or about 60 miles from
                  San Pedro. Winds were at 105 mph and waves were expected to
                  reach 10 feet. With slight change in its coordinates, Keith
                  became a Category 3 hurricane at approximately 9 p.m. that
                  evening when 115 mph winds were recorded. Midnight found the
                  hurricane at 18.1N/87.4W  40 miles east/northeast of San Pedro
                  with 120 mph winds. Because of its slow movement, the greatest
                  threat was from heavy rainfall and flooding which proved to be
                  true on Sunday. By 3 o'clock Sunday morning, Keith had reached
                  Class 4 hurricane status with 135mph winds. At 6 a.m., it was
                  nearly on top of the island  within 35 miles, 18.2N/87.5W and
                  San Pedro was experiencing surface winds of 55 - 73mph. It was
                  further reported that by noon the same day, Ambergris Caye and
                  Caye Caulker were experiencing hurricane force winds with
                  extended gusts of 120mph. At 1:45 p.m., Prime Minister of
                  Belize, Hon. Said Musa addressed his people over the radio,
                  assuring them that "operational committees and personnel are
                  fully activated and on a high state of alert and preparedness
                  to respond to Hurricane Keith." PM Musa ended his message by
                  saying, "At this time our hearts and prayers are especially
                  with the people in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker and
                  CorozalÖwe shall weather this storm as a united people."
                      Suffice it to say, Keith did not go away for a very long
                  time and it kept circling the island, up and down the east
                  coast and coming around to the west as well, battering it from
                  all sides. Likened to Hurricane Gilbert, this horrid,
                  stationary mass of sinister weather traveled everywhere except
                  where predicted. North, northwest, west, southwest, east,
                  southeast; it seemed to never leave Ambergris Caye for very
                  long that weekend. For the most part, Keith "wobbled and
                  drifted" due east of San Pedro for quite a time before
                  traveling south, at which point the eye was actually touching
                  Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker at the same time. After that,
                  it cut across the southern tip of Ambergris Caye before
                  heading in its west-northwest trek to Mexico. Unlike the
                  damage from Hurricane Mitch, Keith took its toll on the
                  western, leeward side of the island. The people in smaller
                  houses along the lagoon suffered the most, already in a low
                  lying area. Boat owners who tied their precious cargo to the
                  mangroves or stored them in dry dock, thinking it was safe
                  harbor, were sorely disappointed when the brute force of Keith
                  came "around to the back." Winds were enough to tear roofs off
                  of strong buildings and make 30 foot boats fly like airplanes,
                  (ironically, one ended up on the airstrip). Water rose in
                  excess of five feet, depositing a multitude of debris
                  everywhere imaginable. The houses that were totally lost
                  numbered 51 in all, with countless others suffering minimal to
                  extensive damage. Preliminary reports estimate roughly US$200
                  million worth of damage to the country of Belize. Although it
                  was a Category 4 hurricane, the damage was not as devastating
                  as it could have been, and was mainly contained to roofs,
                  structures, property and landscaping. Caye Caulker has a
                  similar amount of damage and challenges to its island. Yet, at
                  the time of this writing, four days later, the wonderful
                  results of the cleanup and repair are astounding in both
                      Monday morning brought a calm to the island as people
                  peeked out of their houses and tip-toed cautiously through the
                  streets careening their heads back and forth, amazed at how
                  much and how many had survived. The eastern beachfront of the
                  island, where most of the resorts and businesses are located,
                  fared the best. Most of the docks are intact and just the
                  beaches needed cleaned from roof debris, sea grass and some
                  falling palms. Tears of joy and pain intermingled in the
                  embraces between friends greeting friends, family reuniting
                  with family. It was like Hugfest 2000 in the streets. Only the
                  news that the hurricane might possibly return, sent the people
                  back to their homes, providing they had one. Most of the
                  injuries appeared to be cuts, abrasions and puncture wounds. A
                  truly small amount of human casualties have been confirmed
                  (two so far), with a few more missing, yet even one life taken
                  is sadly missed.

The holiday season is upon us and the start of a new tourist season. With that in mind, here is an update on the status of businesses damaged during Hurricane Keith or unable to open at first. These businesses were first
reported in the issue following the hurricane.
   Some businesses opened with partial services at first and then continued to rebuild or repair until now; some are still repairing. A few delayed opening until the season was closer to starting. Many of the resorts repo
rted little or no cancellations from visitors due to the storm, adding most only rescheduled their dates to visit. Several businesses commented on their surprise at the number of "hardy" tourists who never cancelled and w
ere "real sports" about the conditions (lack of electricity, phone, few restaurants open, etc.). Consistently, tourists commented on how remarkably fast the island was cleaned up and utilities restored.

    In a interview with Belize Electricity Limited it was learned that electricity has been restored to all parts of the island except the San Pedrito area which suffered extensive damage. This is expected to be finished
in the next two weeks. The status of telephone service appears to be the same, with the aid of many fixed or regular cellular phone lines. Anyone having trouble reaching a particular number should inquire whether a new nu
mber has been issued by contacting directory assistance at 113. One of the most anticipated utilities, Coral Cable Vision, is making its way to the south end of the island, having reached this office on Coconut Drive just
 last week.

		  All in all, San Pedro is doing it again - fortunately,
                  what they do best - coming together in a crisis and
                  proving to the world that you can't keep a good island 

- Re: Caye Caulker
  • From: Azbev AT aol.com
  • Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 22:20:57 EDT
I just received a cell phone call from my daughter, Annie Seashore, from Caye 
Caulker. There was a lot of static, but I did learn they are OK with only a 
little damage to one of their three buildings.  85 people are sleeping in the 
school. She has taken into her home one of the homeless families.  
Helicopters have delivered food and supplies. They lost one boat and the rest 
are damaged but repairable.  Their pier is still standing.  It sounds as if 
it was better on the front of the island. 

She said they did not expect such a severe storm (125 mile per hour winds), 
and many people were not prepared.  (How can you prepare for a wind like 

Hope other dfamilies are getting news from the island.

Beverly Seashore
Sun City West, Arizona

- Report #2, Keith
  • From: ronnablo AT btl.net
  • Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 18:12:01 -0500
We are now in the aftermath of Hurricane Keith, and the reports of 
the situation are coming over the radio in a constant stream.  The 
reports are that we are doing fine.  

San Pedro was, apparently, the worst hit, but so far the only 
reports I have heard have been of damage to property, no loss of 
life.  The same is true for Caye Caulker, the other major tourist 
island.  The  major coastal communities are Corozal, Belize City, 
Dangriga and Punta Gorda.  Regular classes resume tomorrow in 
Corozal and Punta Gorda.  Dangriga never reported very much bad 
weather so I'm assuming they are doing fine as well.

I spoke with my friend in Belize City this morning. They have been 
without electricity for three days and the streets are a general 
disaster area, but there too, the only deaths she knew about were 
a dog and a cat!  I have not yet heard of any human casualties over 
the radio.  This morning, in Belize City, most people were just 
sweeping water out of their homes, and resigned to the fact that a 
big storm hit but life does go on.  

Inland some major highways have areas of flooding, and of course 
the smaller roads to smaller communities have lots of flooding, but 
the rain has pretty much stopped and we don't anticipate the 
flooding or such things as landslides to be a major problem.  We 
drove into town to see the river between San Ignacio and Santa 
Elena this morning and it is brown and swollen and very high, but 
few homes or businesses will have been affected.  The local 
produce market will be out of business until the water goes down, 
but the vendors always find somewhere else to sell their produce in 
such situations.

I have heard a general local request for contributions of food and 
clothing for those who have lost their homes, but I have not heard 
any need for international help at all.  We've just got a mess to 
clean up.   A few people will need somewhere else to stay until 
they can rebuild what were likely just small wooden houses with 
zinc roofs anyway.  The businesses are reopening all over the 
country, as are schools and government offices.  Hurricane Keith 
has been an inconvenience for most people, and a large handful of 
families will have to rebuild from scratch, but the community is 
responding well and taking care of each other.  A local bakery 
made more bread than it could sell (over 1000 loaves - which is a 
tall order for a community our size) and contributed it to the victims 
of the hurricane.  A Chinese restaurant in Belize City just kept 
frying chicken for residents of its neighbourhood to make sure 
everyone had something to eat.  (I have to say, that particular bit of 
information came as a surprise to me - the Chinese community is 
not well-liked in Belize and the fact that they would ignore the 
prejudices and just make sure everybody they could feed was 
being fed during the crisis impressed me considerably.)

From a tourism point of view - if it is the barrier reef that interests 
you most, it will have been adversely affected by the storm.   Two 
years ago after heavy winds from Hurricane Mitch the barrier reef 
was covered with sediment. If horseback riding through the jungle, 
climbing Mayan ruins, canoeing down scenic rivers and getting a 
feel for the culture are what interest you - don't change your travel 
plans.   I received a report from Maya Mountain Lodge this 
morning, one of the better tourist resorts in our area, and they were 
completely unaffected by the storm.   The inland tourist areas will 
be ready for business this winter.

If you are wondering why there was such devastation with Mitch 
and so little with Keith, it is really very simple.  The Honduran 
government didn't give people enough warning with Mitch because 
everyone expected it to hit us.  Also, for some reason with Mitch 
people did not want to leave their belongings behind and so 
everything - refrigerators, televisions and human beings - got swept 
away by the flooding rivers.  Population is another factor - with only 
200,000 people in the whole country of Belize, it was relatively 
simple for evacuations from affected areas to take place.  A local 
bus company provided free transportation for anyone in Belize City 
that wanted to take refuge inland.  The local airlines did the same 
for people wanting to leave the islands, if I am not mistaken.  We're 
smaller and we weren't too attached to our appliances to recognize 
that our lives are more important!

If anyone wants more information than this, feel free to write to me 
and I will answer what I can.

in Belize

- Re: Caye Caulker
  • From: Azbev AT aol.com
  • Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 15:54:26 EDT
Thank you for your reply.  I talked to the task force in the State Department 
this morning, and they said there are no reports of fatalities.  My son in 
law up in St. Paul has been cruising the internet and tells me that the sun 
is shining over Caye Caulker and several big boats have been able to get out 
there with food and water.  It has been a tough couple of days, but much 
tougher for our families on those islands.  No reports of the extent of 
damages has come through.

Beverly Seashore
azbev AT aol.com
Phoenix, Az.

- State Department Phone Number for inquiries regarding Keith
  • From: "Perez, Damayra" <PerezD AT usa.redcross.org>
  • Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 07:39:45 -0400

Individuals seeking information about family members, who are United States
citizens, effected by Hurricane Keith should contact the US Department of
State Overseas Citizen's Service at 1-202-647-5225.

This is the standard procedure for U.S. citizens during international
disasters.  The above phone number is public and may be given to American
Red Cross chapters and/or individual inquirers.

In addition, the State Department has established a Hurricane Keith Task
Force which may be reached at 1-202-647-0900.  This Task Force provides
general information about Hurricane Keith.  

Damayra Perez
9American Red Cross
Tracing Associate - Americas, Europe, Middle East
International Social Services
perezD AT usa.redcross.org

- Hurricane Keith
  • From: ronnablo AT btl.net
  • Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 17:56:10 -0500
Hi everybody in Internetland,

It has taken me a couple of days to be able to send this to you 
because our internet service has not been great, even before Keith. 
By some miracle I managed to get through a few minutes ago so 
there is hope that this one will go through too.

First of all DON'T freak out at the look of the satellites.  It is NOT 
as bad as it looks.  Somebody please tell CNN that - some CNN 
correspondent talked about the devastation they assumed was 
happening in Belize, and we are REALLY afraid that will hurt the 
tourist business.  Belize is not being devastated by this hurricane.  
There have been no reports of loss of life on the radio, and even one 
of the islands has been checking in periodically to say "we're all 
fine".  San Pedro, the one you will likely have heard about in the 
weather reports, has not been heard from very much, at least not 
the people in hurricane shelters.  Some of the resorts have 
checked in with "everybody's just fine".  I have heard of one house 
collapsing on San Pedro - but please remember that the quality of 
houses in Belize is not the same as in the U.S..

There have been reports in Belize City of downed electricity poles, 
some roofs flying off of houses, but I talked to a friend in Belize 
City on the telephone yesterday afternoon and she said that the 
general feeling is one of calm and just waiting out the storm.  I 
made it clear to my friend that she and her husband and some 
other friends were welcome to stay in our home (we are up on a hill 
in a mountainous area), but no one has come.

Of course, we are getting flooding, but so far the flooding has been 
no worse than it gets in a heavy rainy season without a hurricane.  
I can't speak for on the islands because they aren't communicating 
with us much, but inland the same places that always flood are 
getting flooded, and places that don't usually are not yet flooded.

I'll leave it at that for now, but I want everyone to know that this 
hurricane, at least in Belize, is nowhere near on a scale of 
Hurricane Mitch.  We are not done with it yet but so far we have 
just been bored from having to stay inside out of the rain, and every 
community that has checked into the radio station has said they 
are fine - one community lacks a hurricane shelter but they are so 
far inland I don't think they will be in much danger.

in San Ignacio

- hurricanes
  • From: "Wendy&Darren" <mrdream AT www.caymanjobs.com>
  • Date: Sat, 30 Sep 2000 20:13:47 -0600
        Our names are Wendy and Darren Casson. We are on Caye Caulker, Belize. We are getting hit quite bad right now by Keith. Most buildings on Caulker are quite high off the ground so it will be interesting to see what happens by tomorrow evening. Keith has been quite mild up to about 2 hours ago. The "experts" have been predicting that Keith will head nnw but he keeps drifting west along the 18th parallel directly at us. No evacuation has been called but a hurricane warning has been issued since this early this afternoon. Rain hasn't been substantial up until this point. We expect this to get a lot worse before morning. Hurricanes in the dark....yeech. We still have power in most places and phone is alive and well at this point. The winds are gusting to 105 miles per hour and really rocking the house. We are hoping the predictions are correct and Keith will turn north and start to move a little faster away from us. We are ending this so we can send it (while we can).
Darren & Wendy Casson
(on our honeymoon)

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