According to the National Meterological Service of Belize, the 2013 Belize hurricane season was slightly below average, but you wouldn’t know it to look at some of the photos!

Belize hurricane season below average
Belize hurricane season below average? Photo by Roger Racut

Given the location of our island, Long Caye, 35 miles off the coast of Belize, we are always highly aware of the weather in the region.

So we breathed a little sigh of relief when Belize hurricane season officially came to a close on November 30. The country (and our island) was spared any major storms. Even so, stationary thunderstorms did create severe flooding at times around the country as reported in various local papers and blogs.

Belize hurricane season a breeze
Belize hurricane season a breeze

The 2013 Belize hurricane season had been predicted to be around average, with 20 storms forecast to form in the Atlantic over the the summer. Only 13 tropical storms actually happened, and of those, only two grew into official hurricanes – Humberto and Ingrid. The eleven “almost” hurricanes were Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo and Manuel.

Humberto was the first official storm of the season to grow into a hurricane on September 1 but then it quickly petered out leaving heavy rains on the Cape Verde Islands that caused some flooding. Two weeks later on Sept 14 Hurricane Ingrid was born in the middle of Gulf of Mexico but was downgraded before hitting Mexico at La Pesca. Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Manuel also hit Mexico at the same time so it might as well have been a hurricane for all the mudslides and flooding the combined storms caused across Mexico.

Low Belize hurricane season result of wind shears, dry air, cool seas

Dennis Gonguez, Chief Meteorologist of the NMSB said the relatively inactive Belize hurricane season was the result of generally lower than average humidity, lower than average water temperatures and above average wind speeds aloft.

“Although the season was just below average, the Meteorology Department warns residents not to become complacent, as next year may bring that big storm we fear,” said Gonguez. “The best way to be prepared during the hurricane season is to stay in tune to local weather forecasts, adhere to National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) alerts and store nonperishable and basic living necessities from early in the season.”

HONDURAS / HURRICANE MITCH

15 years ago this week, Hurricane Mitch tore through the Western Caribbean as the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record. It began on Oct. 22 and was still roaring as late as Nov. 9, 1998.

Hurricane Mitch, the most destructive and powerful of the 1998 storm season in the Atlantic, killed 11,000. Another 11,000 were listed as missing. 2.7 million people were uprooted from their homes. It dumped historic amounts of rainfall in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras — as much as 75 inches during it’s six-day peak in the region.

Other key facts about Hurricane Mitch

  • Maximum sustained winds of 180 mph (285 km/h).
  • Mitch was the thirteenth tropical storm, ninth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the ’98 season.
  • At the time, Hurricane Mitch was the strongest Atlantic hurricane observed in the month of October, though it has since been surpassed by Hurricane Wilma of the 2005 season.
  • Hurricane Mitch matched the fourth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record (it has since dropped to seventh).
  • The flooding caused extreme damage, estimated at over $6 billion (1998 USD).

Mitch formed in the western Caribbean Sea on October 22, and after drifting through extremely favorable conditions, it rapidly strengthened to peak at Category 5 status, the highest possible rating on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale. After drifting southwestward and weakening, the hurricane hit Honduras as a minimal hurricane. It drifted through Central America, reformed in the Bay of Campeche, and ultimately struck Florida as a strong tropical storm.