Thursday, October 13, 2011

How Often Do Hurricanes Affect Belize and Ambergris Caye?

Ambergris Caye is one of the best Caribbean Islands to live on when it comes to concerns from hurricanes. In my last blog post I spoke about why I feel safer here then any other Caribbean Island. In this blog post I'll give you some more stats and details.
First, look at this: Since 1951 there have only been 7 hurricanes that have hit Belize directly. Other have come close but as we all know its the direct hits with the high winds surrounding the eye of the storm that causes most of the problems.
In any given year Belize has only a 17% chance of getting hit by a hurricane. By comparison the State of Florida has 65% chance of getting hit.
Why doesn't Belize get too many hurricanes?
1. We are located very far to the west. The normal weather patterns usually turn hurricanes northward by the time they work their way across the Atlantic.
2. Also, we have a fairly short hurricane window. While the "official" window is from June through November history shows that almost all of the hurricanes to hit Belize have done so in the months of September and October. Hence we have a smaller window of opportunity then do other Caribbean Islands.
Finally, the main things that cause damage in a hurricane are high winds and storm surge. Most everything that is built here is built to withstand such high winds. We use solid concrete construction with hurricane resistant windows and doors. We also pour solid concrete roofs. When looking at the damage caused by a hurricane you'll find that most of it is due to the high winds ripping of the roofs. We prevent that from happening by building the way we do.
Also, the reef acts as a huge protection for us. In some places like Cancun and in Florida the water depth can be several hundred feet just a little ways offshore. This allows for the formation of damaging waves and storm surge. Ambergris Caye has a reef running its length just a few hundred yards of shore. This reef acts like a protective wall. It takes the brunt of the wave action so those that do reach the shore are limited in the damage they can cause.
So, in looking at all of the variables involved I would say that hurricanes should not even be a concern. We rarely get them but if we do you'll be able to get off the island to safety quickly, and most likely come back within a day or two. You property will most likely be as you left it accept for some debris in the yard. Within a few days all will be cleaned up and the skies will be blue!

Hurricanes and the Weather in Belize - Is my property at risk?

Hurricanes! We've all seen pictures of them on TV and see the destruction they can cause. So naturally when someone is looking to buy property in the Caribbean the question comes up "What about hurricanes?"
Well, I can tell you from personal experience (along with my own research) that when it comes to hurricanes I'd rather live here then anywhere else in the Caribbean. Why?
The simple reason is THE MAINLAND. Belize is one of those few countries that has 2 components to it, the mainland and its islands. Ambergris Caye feels a world away from the mainland. When you are here you feel like you are in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. But in reality the mainland is just a 15 minute Tropic Air flight away.
This is a HUGE benefit. Something that other Caribbean islands don't have and its one reason why I feel so safe living here.
Here is why. Belize keeps a close eye on all tropical storms and hurricanes. If it looks like a larger one is heading for San Pedro the whole island evacuates to the mainland. This happens very quickly even though about 20,000 people live here full time. When an evacuation takes place all of the planes in the Tropic Air and Mayan Island Air fleet work non stop running people to the mainland. In addition all of the water taxis run non-stop.
So within 24 hours the island can look like a ghost town. Many of the locals go to families homes on the mainland. Tourist either go to the International Airport and fly out of the country or they simply go someplace where they won't be affected.
For instance, several years ago my wife and I evacuated for Hurricane Dean. It looked like it was coming right for San Pedro. So we flew to Belize City and hopped on a bus to Windy Hill. A beautiful resort in the Cayo District. We went site seeing and even went cave tubing in the Barton Creek Cave system. We had a great time and when the hurricane passed by we simply flew back to Ambergris Caye.
What struck me in all of this was watching CNN. It showed pics of tourists stuck in the international airport in Jamaica and a few other Caribbean Islands. They were stuck and couldn't get off when the hurricane hit because once those big jet liners left they weren't coming back for anyone.
This is when I realized just how cool it is to live on Ambergris Caye and know that if a hurricane where to come for us we'd be able to get off the island and get to somewhere safe quickly. There are some other good things to note about storms and hurricanes in Belize. I'll comment on these in other blog posts.


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