Tropical Depression Fourteen is ripe for further development and its effects of wind and rains are expected to reach the north of Belize by Saturday morning. Belize’s weather experts at the National Meteorological Service are currently monitoring two systems in the Caribbean Sea. As of midday today Tropical Depression 14 was in the Caribbean and was centered near the Nicaragua/Honduras border and was heading west at eighteen miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of thirty five miles per hour. Of the three systems in the North Atlantic, Tropical Depression Fourteen is the one of most concern for Belize. Love News sought further details on this weather system from the Deputy Meteorologist for the MET Service, Ronald Gordon.
Ronald Gordon, Deputy Chief Meteorologist: “Within the forecast cone which gives you the level of uncertainty with the system the lowest possible track based on the current forecast is that this system makes landfall just north of Belize or just north of the border, that is the current forecast. Now your question about whether that could change, yes it can and that’s the reason why we advise folks to continue monitoring. So we will continue monitoring here at the National Met Service and then when that system makes it’s west-northwest turn and eventually north west we’ll certainly feel more comfortable. As this system approaches us and if it takes the worst case scenario at the moment for us which which would be that it takes that southern most trajectory we could expect weather conditions to gradually deteriorate especially starting tomorrow Friday and continuing through the rest of the weekend. We are expecting based on the current forecast that the major threat from this system would be rain fall for the country. There’s possibility of three to four inches of rainfall especially over the north where the center is expected to be closer. There’s also the possibility for some gusty winds up north not to the extent of Tropical Storm but possible gusting to tropical depression strength in the extreme north of the country.”
The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) are also on alert with Tropical Depression Fourteen. According to NEMO Coordinator Sheldon Defore they are ready in the event an evacuation from Ambergris Caye would be required. As a matter of fact, Defore says they were able to test their readiness during the onset of Covid-19 earlier this year.
Sheldon Defore, NEMO Coordinator: “NEMO we are planning for the worst case scenario as we normally do. We look at how bad this situation can become and plan from that end moving to where we are. So in the event we have to do things like evacuating the coastal communities the National Transport and Evacuation Committee will activate go into action utilizing the system that we have with the buses and the boats to ensure that we move people according to the plan in terms of their pick up points from the respective piers in San Pedro to Belize City where buses will wait for them and take them to the designated shelters that they’ve identified which is a routine for NEMO as you would know. We have been doing this for quite some time now, as a matter of fact during the COVID first wave experience for San Pedro we did three coordinated evacuation of people from the islands using the exact NEMO system for evacuation which in my view worked relatively good. So I am confident that what we have in place in terms of in particular the Belize City Emergency Committee referred to as CEMO couple months ago we did an evaluation of the evacuation system from not only San Pedro to Belize City but from Belize City to inland Belize and from Dangriga and Corozal moving people inland. So we have a national evacuation system and I have confidence in it that it can work. There will be challenges of course but we have a plan, we have looked at it, we keep updating it and try to perfect it if you will but that is always the gold. So in our view if we need to evacuate people we will do so.”
Major Sheldon Defore appealed to the public to not overreact and to just ensure that their emergency plan is in place and ready to be activated.
Sheldon Defore, NEMO Coordinator: “That is one of the things we want to ask the media when they look at these things to try to make reference to what exactly we’re dealing with because you heard hurricane at one point in time, you know not saying that is not possible and prior to that. A couple weeks ago we heard one comment “Oh you better be ready because hurricane is coming this weekend.” and things to that extent. So right now the probability for development which was at 90% has occurred meaning that it has jumped to 100% because we now have a Tropical Depression which is a tropical cyclone from there it goes to a Tropical Storm and then to a hurricane. The projection looks as if though it will reach to Tropical Storm with hurricane effects as it continues to track which I was told and I’ve seen the new track is more northwesterly but within the cone of error if you wish Belize is still in spot. So we are looking at this as if though more than likely it can make landfall on the country. So in the next update from the MET at 3pm today we’ll make a determination whether we need to declare a phase which then warrants certain actions by the public but at this point in time the general public is advised to go through your emergency plan whether you’re a business institution, family or individual what is it you need to do considering COVID-19. We know the hardship and the suffering and how difficult and challenging this would be we are not in NEMO ever thinking that this will be a routine type operation. This will be one of the most challenging times in the history of Belize however we cannot lie down look up to the sky and say well what should be ? We as leaders and managers still must and as individuals put our plan into play. It doesn’t matter if your plan is .5%, 20%, 30% you must have a semblance of something that you will do – 1,2,3 I need to know my shelter that I will go to, if I will move I will move early, I cannot buy up any groceries, I can only buy one chopped ham and one pack bread with a bottle of water you know ? If you can’t and you’re in a shelter NEMO will provide the basic items not plus, not anything beyond the norm that we would usually do because we’re talking about survival, weathering the storm and so we will do our very best to assist people in need which we have done for the last two decades and that speaks to also like fire victims. I just wanted to touch on that to that when you see there’s a fire the vast majority of people who are fire victims they get assistance from NEMO and it’s a basic food package and other items that we offer in the shelter it will be no different. So the chances of this becoming a tropical storm and hurricane is there and that is what we are planning for.”
Defore and MET Officer, Ronald Gordon assured Love News that the advisories and updates will be posted online in a timely manner and the media houses will be updated as much as is required.