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
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.