Relief for Belize as Hurricane Beryl Shifts Toward Yucatan

Relief for Belize as Hurricane Beryl Shifts Toward Yucatan

Belizeans will sleep a little easier tonight as Hurricane Beryl is not expected to make landfall with the Jewel and bring only minimal effects to the north. After days of uncertainty and anticipation, this evening the Meteorological Service of Belize confirmed that the category three storm made a significant shift toward the Yucatan Peninsula, sparing Belize from the devastating effects of sustained hurricane and tropical storm force winds. Nonetheless, Hurricane Beryl is still expected to bring heavy showers, winds up to 73 mph, and four to six inches of rainfall in northern portions of Belize, which remain under a tropical storm watch until the system arrives in Mexico. This evening, Chief Meteorologist Ronald Gordon provided insight into the situation and how Belize will be affected by Beryl’s outer bands.

Ronald Gordon, Chief Meteorologist, National MET Service: “Given that the center of the system will make landfall way to the north of us and the radius to which tropical storm force winds extend do not come all the way down to Belize I do not expect sustained tropical storm force winds as I said previously, but we may have winds gusting to tropical storm within these bands and these will be mostly affecting the north of the country in terms of the strength of those winds. Otherwise the bands outside of that area can have squally and gusty winds, heavy rainfall, strong thunderstorm activity, intense lightning, but we don’t expect gusts. Or I should say, based on the location, these areas may not see gusts up to tropical storm force, but they will see gusty winds which can cause structural damage and even sometimes you can have trees being uprooted or branches coming off trees. We do know that within thunderstorm sometimes we have micro bursts that can result in roof damages even if you’re not near the center. So certainly these are some of the impacts that we may see as the system makes landfall north of our border. I wanted to share one other tab in relation to the… Anyway, I will just describe it. So the other picture was a bit more complicated anyway. It describes the wind shear pattern over the system currently and we see moderate wind shear indeed as was expected. However, there’s also what we call a pattern that is basically winds at the higher levels of the atmosphere kind of diverging and that is supporting upward motion and that may also be a factor which is favoring some intensification. But I think the most important thing to do right now is to sum up as it relates to the impact to Belize. Again, I repeat, do not expect sustained tropical storm force winds. We do keep the tropical storm watch from Belize City northward including the islands. And in the case that we may have winds gusting to tropical storm force within these bands.”

While the expected extent of showers has decreased, certain areas of the country remain susceptible to flash flooding. Principal Hydrologist Tenneille Hendy spoke about the need for residents in coastal and low-lying areas to remain cautious as the forecasted number of inches of rainfall may increase locally.

Tennille Hendy, Principal Hydrologist, National Hydrology Service: “We have a flash flood warning for the coastal road and for it to be a little bit more specific we’re speaking in the areas of the Sibun Bridge located in La Democracia Village up until the Gales Point cutoff. So we’re advising residents and motorists who are in this area to exercise extreme caution when they’re using this coastal highway. We also have a flood alert which means that flooding is possible and you need to be prepared. And that is an effect for the Sibun River at Freetown Sibun. Of course, the Sibun River runs through from the west all the way down to just south of Belize City in the deep water port area. So we’re asking for communities in these areas just to remain alert and to stay tuned to our advisories so that we can make the best decisions when determining our traveling arrangements. We also have a flood warning in effect for the Belize and Corozal districts. And we’re not only speaking about the major river systems that are in these districts but we’re also speaking about tributaries, meaning rivers, creeks, and streams that are associated with those larger river systems. We expect urban flooding to occur on those systems. Particularly other areas of the country are also reflecting elevated water levels, and this is associated with the outer bands as Chief Met explained. And we also have that trans boundary influence that I’ve been speaking about or referring to since the beginning of this week. The rainfall that has been occurring in late June in Mexico, we’re now seeing those rivers coming into the country via the trans boundary influence and we expect this to continue occurring until they’ve basically exited their countries coming into us as a downstream country. With the passage of Beryl in that same area again we can expect this to continue happening or occurring for the upcoming days ahead.”

Despite the decrease in expected impacts from the storm, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) remains on a twenty-four watch. Shelters on the islands and the northern districts have been opened as various district committees have been activated. National Emergency Coordinator Daniel Mendez spoke about the organization’s preparedness and its advice to citizens.

Captain Daniel Mendez, National Emergency Coordinator, NEMO: “Our coordinators across the country and in particular in the northern districts and in the Caye Caulker area and San Pedro area remaining close communication with community leaders particularly in the Corozal and Orange Walk district we remain in close communication with our river monitors with all the village and town and city leaders to closely monitor these water levels and to update these as necessary. All our EOCs are activated and they continue to prepare for Hurricane Beryl if necessary. Particularly those areas in the north are on heightened alert for tonight. We remain, we have done our restocking and our warehouses are prepared again as reported. Shelters will be opened in some parts of the country particularly in the north in preparation for the effects of Beryl. These will be available to people who may need this service in the next few hours. Again, the National Emergency Operations Center will be in full operation tonight. We will be on 24-7 watch for the next few hours and as long as necessary. And we will continue to monitor the passage of Hurricane Beryl as it makes landfall later tonight. And we will be providing any updates as necessary as soon as this information comes in from the affected district.”

As of news time, we understand that almost six thousand people left Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker via boat and airplane. We’ll have another update from NEMO tomorrow morning.

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