On May 2 of this year, I was just finishing up my 7th week in Belize. We had this fabulous group at the time, a group of franchisees and home office staff for the company Maidpro, a professional maid service business model provided by the founders Mark Kushinsky and Richard Sparacio. Mark and Richard got into the housecleaning franchise industry in college when they were looking for someone to clean their dorm room…. and the rest is history, as they say.
After dinner, most of the group was in the dining hall playing spoons, a very raucous game. All during the after-dinner talk there had been flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, something we rarely see in Belize. When I walked outside to go to bed I became captivated by the lightning storm taking place all along the entire coast of Belize, because from way out at Glover’s Reef, we have a view of the entire coastline. About every 2 or 3 seconds a giant bolt of lightning shattered the sky, sometimes way up by Belize City, and sometimes it was way south by Punta Gorda. I stood there on our beach and watched it for a while and then ended up with other members of the staff at a picnic table over by the dining hall, continuing to watch the storm.
I hate to admit it, but not once did it occur to me to go shut my windows to my cabana, tell anyone else to do so, nor did I go tie down any paddleboards or bring in seat cushions like we usually do so they won’t blow away in high winds. It was a spectacle miles and miles away, and it didn’t seem like it would affect us at all. After about 30 or 45 minutes of this great light and sound show, suddenly there was a clap much, much closer. “Ooooh, that’s closer!” we all said, and then, the blast of air hit us, just like that.
I have never, ever felt anything like that wind. We later speculated it was probably 75 miles/hour, which is Category 1 hurricane speed. We actually saw 54 on our anemometer, but it had been under-reading for weeks and weeks, and I had noted we needed a new one. The next day Belize radio reported winds of hurricane force.
We ran into the dining hall, and the rain followed us into the hall. Our thatch roofs are water proof, but not, we found out, when the water is being shot at the roof as if out of a firehose. There were about 25 of us in the dining hall, and we were all getting wet. It was pitch black outside. We couldn’t see much, but a bolt of lightning would illuminate the outside for split seconds, and while standing by the back door, we would get glimpses of strange stuff, like kayaks on the volleyball court, and 6 cases of empty beer bottles strewn and broken all over the back steps of the kitchen.
We all huddled in there for about an hour, and finally it was safe to go outside. There we found an entirely different landscape. Trees were down, the kayak palapa was down (!), the luggage palapa fell, the BarBQ grill and 15 gallon tank was blown about 30 feet!!! The palapa on the end of the dive shop dock was blown off the dock and over the dive shop and it came to rest on one of their other buildings, about 200 feet from where it started. There were coconut leaves and coconuts all over the place, along with windsurf sails, paddleboards, kayaks, lifejackets, and seat cushions all over the caye. It was a MESS.
And oddly enough, the 5 people who had gone to bed early didn’t even know it was stormy. They were on the lee side of the island, and it was calm over there. Crazy.
The next morning we were VERY, VERY glad we had an island-full of professional maids! Although we offered a snorkeling activity, they all refused to go and wanted to help us clean up instead. Between the 25 of them and the 8 of us, we had the island completely cleaned up in 3 hours! The palapas won’t be put back up until the beginning of next season, but the place was spic and span in no time. Thank you Maidpro!
For me, it was a once in a lifetime experience. I have never been in hurricane force winds before. It was fantastic. No one was hurt, and we got to see Mother Nature at her best. What a night!
(Click on each image below for a better view.)