NEMO Mandates Essential Workers to Report Tomorrow

NEMO Mandates Essential Workers to Report Tomorrow

The latest release from the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) is reminding those employed under the essential services umbrella that they are mandated to report to work tomorrow.  The reminder is specifically for those stationed in the districts of Belize, Corozal, Orange Walk, and the islands of San Pedro and Caye Caulker.  The essential services include security forces, medical personnel including ambulance services, immigration and customs, private security firms, public utilities (both workers and auxiliary staff), sanitation workers, social worker, workers in the productive sector industries, media workers, employees of the Belize Port Authority, Office of the Governor General, National Fire Service, the Belize Electricity Limited, Belize Telemedia Limited, Belize Water Services Limited and Speednet Communication Limited (SMART).  The notice from NEMO also indicated that the Philip Goldson International Airport will remain open tomorrow, but the Port of Belize will close at nine in the morning until the all clear is given.  In terms of the current status of Hurricane Beryl, we can tell you that the Red One flag has been hoisted which signals the second phase under the National Hurricane Response Plan.  This means that the weather effects of Hurricane Beryl could begin within 48 hours.  Tonight, there are tropical and flood warnings in place for the Belize, Orange Walk, and Corozal Districts. The storm is currently less than a thousand miles away from Belize City and remains a powerful storm despite making landfall in Jamaica. The storm now barrels toward the Cayman Islands and is forecast to continue on a northeastern path. Chief Meteorologist Ronald Gordon says the storm will then move toward the Yucatan Peninsula and weaken.

Ronald Gordon, Chief Met Officer, NMS: “The track is for Beryl to continue on a west northwesterly track for the remainder of today and take a turn more towards the west later tonight or tomorrow Thursday. And that forecast track Beryl is expected to move south of the Cayman Islands tomorrow still as a major hurricane and then weaken slightly as it moves more into the northwestern Caribbean Sea and eventually making landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico as either a strong category 1 or weak category 2 hurricane. Not much has changed since this morning in terms of the track forecast. It remains still relatively the same place as it was. We remain under a tropical storm watch from Belize City, Northward to the border with Mexico including the islands of San Pedro and Caye Caulker. And again, reminding residents in those areas that a tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area. In this case, within the next 36 hours or so. The radius of tropical storm force winds, since that is what we are looking at here, extend on the south, the southern quadrant or the southern semicircle of the storm, extended to about 80 miles. And if you look at the map between the projected location of landfall and the border with Mexico that’s a little bit over I would say 100 miles. Therefore, we are looking at the possibility, like I said, there’s a small chance that the extreme northern parts of the areas under watch would experience tropical storm force winds. if the system takes the most probable path and moves within the center of the cone. There is always that small chance that it moves on the southern edge of the cone which would necessitate of course us upgrading this thing to a warning, a tropical storm warning or even a hurricane warning. That is a very small chance. We, of course, keep monitoring for that particular reason. We look at any slight jog to the west, any shift in terms of the track, and we make that determination. But we are not there yet.”

Since the hurricane formed in the Atlantic Basin, forecasters have had a difficult time predicting the storm’s exact path and strength. Given the unprecedented changes in Beryl’s conditions, Gordon was asked if there was a possibility of the storm being pushed south by wind shear in the Caribbean Sea.

Ronald Gordon, Chief Met Officer, NMS: “So it is due east of Belize City at the moment and moving west, northwest westerly away. Well, not away but generally towards us but already moving north of Belize City. I should emphasize a location, no? In terms of whether there will be in a system to push it back down, we still are not completely, I would not want to say no, there’s always that small probability that you could have some anomalous feature developing that would do that. And that would be perhaps the rich building a bit stronger than the models are suggesting. But again, we have to go with the model consensus. There are several models that are pointing in the same direction and that gives us more confidence that they are seeing the same thing and therefore they are heading into that general direction. It has weakened compared to this morning as we know it was at 1.45. It’s down to 5. It’s interacting with the Jamaican terrain, which is also having some effect. But it is a resilient system. In physics, we have something we call inertia. That means a force that is moving or something that is moving resists changes, especially if it has a high momentum, moving really fast. Therefore, it is hard to spin down. And that’s what perhaps we are seeing with this particular system, given the fact that it was a category five hurricane at one point spinning down and weakening it has that resistance. But all indications, having said that, are that it will continue to weaken. The forecast still says that it will be a category one or two hurricane at landfall, well it was earlier saying a category one but there’s a possibility it may be a category two. It was forecasted to remain a major hurricane tomorrow as it passes near Cayman, which is still the forecast. So again we know that Intensity forecast, well no forecast is exact. And intensity forecast in particular, there is some leeway. So we are watching that also and to see whether it will slow down or weaken to the extent that the models had indicated.”

The storm’s stronger winds are forecast to mainly affect the Yucatan Peninsula, but its current trajectory indicates that Belize will experience at least four to six inches of rainfall. Principal Hydrologist Tennille Hendy says that could increase.  She noted that the showers are anticipated to cause flooding in several areas.

Tennille Henry, Principal Hydrologist, National Hydrological Service: “We expect that those areas that are in the north that are still suffering from persisting flood flooding conditions, we expect that to continue and for those who have expect a compounding effect given the very conservative six inches of rainfall that is expected. Our flood forecast will be updated as the system progresses and so we will be providing that update to our usual stakeholders. So as the system passes, we’ll be having updated flood forecasts. What happens is that when the soil is at normal if we want to say, it’s not been a drought period or intense wildfires impacting the soil moisture, the soil is very loose. And so it allows water, any element to be subsumed or passes through that medium with the drought, it then compacts that soil somewhat and it reduces that function of any element being able to pass through it. So it effectively stops the ecosystem function. So if something is hard, nothing can go through it, it just runs over it. So this is one of the elements that has severely impacted flooding and flood levels and how long they persist in combination with the effect of nearby rivers or lagoons or creeks, their abilities to absorb that water that has run off into those systems. If they are already full they cannot perform that function. They’re at maximum capacity and the water has to go somewhere and it will take the least path of resistance and it might be through our yards. It might be, you know, in our wells if they’re low enough. And so we need to account for all of these things that may happen that we have not seriously looked at before. So we absolutely need to safeguard our domestic wells if we have them, if they’re low enough have them covered to prevent any runoff from entering those wells, because then it travels underground and it not only affects you but it affects persons downstream of you.”

We noted that the storm could change paths and encourage citizens to stay informed through official channels. NEMO will have another press conference in the morning to discuss any updates.

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