This is Belize: We prepare, we sit and we wait . . . for Earl?

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It is mid-afternoon and the surf is picking up energy. The sharp white line in the distance is the barrier reef with pounding waves coming in from the east to rile it up
It is mid-afternoon and the surf is picking up energy. The sharp white line in the distance is the barrier reef with pounding waves coming in from the east to rile it up

We woke up this morning to a glorious Caribbean sunrise with swatches of blue sky amid the gauzy clouds and golden amber glow. A flat sea, still wind and barely visible reef greeted me and my cup of coffee. And mosquitoes, the most murderous panicky mosquitoes I have ever encountered here.

Tonight, I suspect,  will reveal to us one of those many variations of hell that the imaginations of god-fearing mortals have conjured through the ages.

This hell has a name and it is Earl.

Latest satellite view of Earl shows that he is knocking on the front door of Belize.
Latest satellite view of Earl shows that he is knocking on the front door of Belize.

Earl is a giant, slothful swath of weather, 90 miles wide on either side of its core, that is slowly — painfully slowly –making its way toward Belize. They say it is traveling at 14 mph and that is not a good thing because it is building strength and shape behind that wall and could well be a hurricane by the time it reaches us.

We’ve been preparing for this for what feels like weeks.

On Tuesday, the atmosphere was quietly intense in San Pedro as people went about the business of survival — buying food, water, plywood, batteries, waterproof storage containers. No panic. No stress. This morning, the lines were long to leave the island by water taxi.

Good morning from Ambergris Caye, Belize. If there wasn't a hurricane bearing down on us, I'd say what a glorious Caribbean morning we have. So calm, the sea is so flat, the air is so still, the humidity hangs on us like a soggy old jacket. The sun spins a soft dewy golden gauze through clouds surprisingly whispy, for an approaching hurricane. Earl is on the horizon but this morning the hummingbirds go about their business as if nothing is amiss. We take greater precautions because we are more fragile. We wait and wait and try to think of the one thing we have not yet done that will ensure our safety. And wonder if it is not prayer. And yet it is almost embarrassing to say "Dear God, deliver us from Earl." Who comes up with these names anyway? — at Ambergris Caye, San Pedro, Belize.
Good morning from Ambergris Caye, Belize. If there wasn’t a hurricane bearing down on us, I’d say what a glorious Caribbean morning we have. So calm, the sea is so flat, the air is so still, the humidity hangs on us like a soggy old jacket. The sun spins a soft dewy golden gauze through clouds surprisingly whispy, for an approaching hurricane.
Earl is on the horizon but this morning the hummingbirds go about their business as if nothing is amiss. We take greater precautions because we are more fragile.
We wait and wait and try to think of the one thing we have not yet done that will ensure our safety. And wonder if it is not prayer.
And yet it is almost embarrassing to say “Dear God, deliver us from Earl.”
Who comes up with these names anyway? — at Ambergris Caye, San Pedro, Belize.

Everywhere, people are exhorting others to “Stay safe.” “Hunker down.” “Be careful.”

We’ve done all we can do. We have new flashlights and batteries, lighters, Sterno cans, candles, extra water. Everything loose has been gathered up and put away or tied down. Kendrick and Gilroy spent two days trimming back all the palm trees on the property and removing all the coconuts. Those things apparently fly around like cannon balls in a really strong wind.

Even though our residence is only 40 feet from the edge of the sea, few of our neighbors here have resorted to boarding up with plywood. Some ground-floor units are boarded up, to protect them from the inevitable water surge. Already you can see that water will play a major role in this weather drama.

Some of the more experienced pier owners on the island have been removing planks so that the surge has some place to go, other than launching boards up into the air.

Rose has tucked away everything in her Pilates studio and taken everything she can off the floor.
Rose has tucked away everything in her Pilates studio and taken everything she can off the floor.

The barrier reef surf that was barely visible this morning is now roiling white foam, framed by tall North Shore-class waves. The first of the waves have  reached shore — crippled by the reef, modest things that barely break over the retaining wall — but we are expecting seas five to six feet above normal, which means eventually the reef will do little to slow them down. Some spectacular crashes into the retaining wall are expected soon.

The accompanying rain, too, will be extraordinary — as much as 18 inches in some parts of Belize. That means flooding in the flat and low north and flash flooding in the more-mountainous south. And no part of this country is likely to escape unscathed.  Earl’s reach is 90 miles on either side of its core — which seems to be bearing down for a direct hit on Belize City.

The last of the water taxis and the last of the airplanes have left Ambergris Caye for the day, until the ersatz hurricane passes. I’m told the municipal water supply is shutting down at 2 p.m. for the duration of the storm. Shops, banks and government agencies are locked up tight for the most part, except for emergency staffing.

Our friends at Daydreaming Belize and Marbucks have opted for the "better safe than sorry" route. Their bouotique B&B has been an act of love from the start and who can blame them for taking every means to protect it?
Our friends at Daydreaming Belize and Marbucks have opted for the “better safe than sorry” route. Their boutique B&B has been an act of love from the start and who can blame them for taking every means to protect it?

Friends heading to Rio for the Olympics left the island earlier today and will ride out Earl in Belize City before flying to Brazil. Their first flight, from San Pedro, was delayed by one of several short but intense drenchings we’ve had since the shimmering, placid, sunrise.

At this point there is little to do but wait, like generals awaiting the long dark line of the advancing enemy to appear on the horizon.

Hot shopping item today in San Pedro. Almost every hardware store has plywood out front. Inside batteries and flashlights are selling like crazy. Some folks were gathered around the portable generators at Costillo's looking ready to buy. At Caye Supply, plastic containers of all sizes are selling. Food stores are all busy but we didn't see any frenzied shopping. All the places I went into at mid-morning, to pay bills and do banking, were almost completely empty. Finally, a slight breeze is picking up, sending dust everywhere but the storm is coming. You can feel it advancing like the Dark Army from the east, building pressure as it marches inexorably in our direction. What kind, how powerful and how damaging is still to be seen. — at Ambergris Caye, San Pedro, Belize.
Hot shopping item on Tuesday in San Pedro. Almost every hardware store has plywood out front. Inside batteries and flashlights are selling like crazy. Some folks were gathered around the portable generators at Costillo’s looking ready to buy.
At Caye Supply, plastic containers of all sizes are selling. Food stores are all busy but we didn’t see any frenzied shopping. All the places I went into at mid-morning, to pay bills and do banking, were almost completely empty.
Finally, a slight breeze is picking up, sending dust everywhere but the storm is coming. You can feel it advancing like the Dark Army from the east, building pressure as it marches inexorably in our direction.
What kind, how powerful and how damaging is still to be seen. — at Ambergris Caye, San Pedro, Belize.

I scan the Internet for the latest wire reports from the acronym-laden world of weather and disaster response — NOAA, NEMO, NWS, etc. — as Rose prepares food, including some extraordinary oatmeal cookies. We both keep an eye on the TV reports which are growing annoyingly repetitive.

The Kindles are charged up and loaded. The flashlights ready for the inevitable power failure. There is extra ice in the cooler.

It is hunker-down time. And time for reflection.

It had been a nice gentle ride for two and a half years.

This day was inevitable, as much a part of Paradise as everything else.

Be safe. Hunker down.

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10 thoughts on “This is Belize: We prepare, we sit and we wait . . . for Earl?

    Kristen said:
    August 3, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Good luck! We’re watching your reports. Take lots of pics and as suggested, hunker down!

    Like

    Frank J said:
    August 3, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    I just promised myself I will not make an ill comment on my weather here in San Diego today and wish your family and all of the great people I have met on my visits the very best in getting thru this ordeal.

    Like

    Marge Trolinder said:
    August 3, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    May all the beautiful people of Belize be safe during the storm. Keeping you and Rose in our thoughts and prayers.

    Like

    domoh said:
    August 3, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    All the best Bob & Rose, stay safe and dry.

    Like

    Jeff Rose said:
    August 3, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Good luck, Bob. Look at it this way: Check “riding out a hurricane” off your bucket list!

    Like

    Helen Armstrong said:
    August 3, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Be safe Rose and Bob, we are thinking about all our friends and aquantaces in San Pedro.

    Like

    Donald Quigley said:
    August 3, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Please be safe.

    Like

    Tapestry Communications said:
    August 3, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    I saw a weather forecast on Twitter and saw “Belize” and went to your blog – stay safe….may your nirvana be protected…

    Like

    Mike Brunette said:
    August 3, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Hey Bob & Rose, we were supposed to return to San Pedro on Thursday but can’t get back til Sunday. Guess we’ll miss this one and hope our little town doesn’t get hit too badly. Looking forward to swapping tales when we see you next.
    You are all in our hearts and minds.
    Mike & Ann

    Like

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