So, while the Tsunami warning turned out to be a scare and not a catastrophe, the fact is NEMO and the National Met Office couldn't simply dismiss a warning coming out of the Tsunami Warning Center.
Today, the Chief Meteorologist told us about the warning they got, and why her office was duty bound to ring the emergency bell at such short notice:
Catherine Cumberbatch - Chief Meteorologist
"A tremor was felt across the country last night, the data we gathered from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center shows that there was an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 that hit off Swan Island. That's just north of Honduras, and that had a depth of like say 20 miles - was the depth of that earthquake. It hit at around 8:52 p.m., local time, and we received the first message from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center like 6 minutes after. We received the first Tsunami message which shows that there was a Tsunami warning for the entire coast of Belize, and if that wave - that wave was forecasted to reach us around 10:30 p.m. the same night."
"At 8:58, I informed the National Emergency Management Coordinator - that's Col. Defour. At 9, he received that bulletin, all evidence is on the computer. He received that bullet at 3 minutes past 9. Thereafter, I called the Minister, Hon. Edmond Castro, informing Love FM. Information was disseminated away to the Love FM. They called. From there, we heard the sirens were kicked off. I don't know how familiar everyone was with the sirens, but the word was spread easily and quickly through the different media houses that a Tsunami warning was out for the coast of Belize."
"When we got another update - that was like 26 minutes after the first, they gave us an indication what the forecasted height of the wave would have been, and they were suggesting that the wave, upon reaching our area would be like 0.3 to 1 meters above the normal tide, which would bring it like 3 feet above the normal tide, if it would have reached. And [it] all depends on the force of which the wave would have come in, how far inland it would affect. But, it would have affected mostly just the coastal areas of the country, because as it impacts the land, it would start to - the wave would start to fall apart."
"The Tsunami wave did not reach us, and at 10:52 p.m. the Pacific Tsunami Center issued its final bulletin stating that all threats was lifted were lifted from the two remaining countries that were under threat, which were Belize and Honduras, and that the possibility of a tsunami wave for those 2 countries, Belize and Honduras, was not possible again. This is one thing that you cannot forecast, and as I said, the Pacific Tsunami Center, they are the ones who does the monitoring."
"It must be a comforting to you that the population of Belize takes the warnings of your office and NEMO very seriously."
"It is. That means what we are doing is being catching to people. People are taking in what we are actually doing, and what we are issuing and to head from any warning, and any advice coming from those 2 institution."
And you may have been one of those persons who went to the sea side to check to see if the sea was receding.
We've seen dozens of pictures taken all along the coast which capture the waters receding, going way back, leaving boats in the cayes on dry land - as if the sea was preparing to roll back with a huge surge. Today, the Chief Met Officer told us that what you saw from Belize City to Corozal was not caused by the Tsunami that was expected to make landfall in Belize. She said that it was caused by a spring tide, and here's how she explained it:
Catherine Cumberbatch - Chief Meteorologist
"Normally, it is said that whenever a Tsunami wave is coming, one of the first indications that you would get is that the water would start to recede. I don't know many people really observed - it's just when something happened, then observation would normally take place, but if you - I can recall over the past few days, the water in Belize was receding, and one of the main causes of that receding of the water, which took place last night - and people said, oh, yes, now, the water is receding, that means that the wave is coming. What we had is what we call a spring tide. And what is a spring tide? A spring tide is when you have largest difference between the high tide and the low tide, and that usually occurs after when you have a full moon and a new moon. And if you can recall, if you were observing, in the beginning of the month, is when we had a full moon. So, after that, the tide difference between the high and the low was very large, and this usually occurs when the earth, the moon, and the sun are aligned together. So, their gravitational force is extremely strong on our earth water body. So, that's why you had that great gap. The water receding in Belize was not from the Tsunami. It was from the spring tide."
According to Cumberbatch, if a Tsunami should hit Belize, the sea would have pulled in far more than those few feet that we saw last night along the coast and in the cayes.