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Mean Hurricane Dean Hammers Corozal for 3 Hours!
posted (August 21, 2007)
Hurricane Dean passed over northern Belize early this morning. No deaths are reported, but there is great loss to property and to crops - particularly papaya, and experts believe the impact on the district could be far reaching. And while that's long term, in the short term, there is no electricity across the Corozal District, and in parts of Orange Walk and San Pedro. The center of the category five storm passed just north of Chetumal and hurricane force winds extended over Corozal, Orange Walk, San Pedro and Caye Caulker. Our 7NEWS team went to Corozal to experience firsthand the passage of the storm and Jules Vasquez found surprising strength in the back side of Hurricane Dean.

Jules Vasquez Reporting,
It's a scene captured at 6:00 this morning, and it looks almost placid - sheets of rain billowing across Corozal Town and coconut trees lashed by gusts from Hurricane Dean. And while it may look pretty - these are 75 mile an hour winds with gusts of 100 miles an hour or more - and if you don't believe just look at the fallen zinc sheets. By 6:00 am when these images were taken those very powerful winds had been going for 3 hours. We first felt the tropical storm force breeze picking up at about 2:00 am when I first felt its sting.

It's 2:15 am in Corozal Town and this forecasters say is not the worst of the breeze. They say the worst of the breeze will be here in about an hour to two hours time but right now, it is almost unbearable. One can hardly stand in it, the rain is coming in sheets, and we're going back inside.

A few minutes later - we were at the bay.

We're here at the Bay and what residents have been talking about for hours is that the water has actually receded from the Bay. If we shine the light down there, you can actually see where the waters have receded. You can see the money sea bottom surface where the water has receded. Usually water is up here, it is rolling with waves on any average day but actually, as I said earlier, the breeze is blowing in the opposite direction and it is actually blowing the water back away from the shore.

And while the Bay looked ominous - on the roadways it was ominous.

It's ten minutes to three. This is the San Andres Road and this is the strongest wind we've felt so far. As you can see, branches are starting to break off here. These are from a tree on the road. Any tree that overhangs the road is likely to have branches broken off and they are strewn across the road. But again its only ten minutes to three and landfall is not expected until about 3:30 or 4 so we are still an hour away and these strong winds are already snapping these trees.

But it was calm inside the DEMO Office where Major James Requena was in charge.

Major James Requena, Corozal - DEMO
"In Corozal we are experiencing winds in excess of 75 miles an hour and these are still remnants of the tropical storm winds. Within the next half an hour to an hour, we should start experiencing hurricane force winds."

Three hours later those hurricane force winds would continue to bear down on Corozal they had diminished slightly but we could see the effects of three hours of pounding in shattered roofs, fallen trees, zinc shorn from rooftops, and other curled back like pieces of paper.

It was supposed to have been a fast moving storm. It was supposed to have flashed over Corozal Town in a quick time but it didn't. These winds, and in fact winds much stronger than this, have been battering this town for three solid hours. In fact what you see behind me now is the subsiding of these winds. We've been inside for the past two and a half hours because we simply could not come outside because the winds were too strong.

And even after 6:00 with those subsided winds, walking down the corridor to get to the street was hard with the wind's tunneling effect. And when we did get down, the sting was worse.

While the storm beat this town for three hours last night, the fact is that many of the lampposts, most of what we can see here in Corozal, are still standing. This is four hours after the strong breezes starting coming. Its 7 in the morning and there are still pounding. Residents say Chantal was not nearly as strong as this. Let's go.

Those very strong winds would continue until 7 am.

Our thanks to the Gomez family of Corozal for putting our news team up at short notice. And after the break, Jules Vasquez will join us to have part two of that story - what happened after the winds stopped when we went out to assess the damage done to Corozal Town and villages in that district.

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