Earl left a mess along the seacoast of Ambergris Caye.
You probably already know that.
Mercifully it seemed uninterested in the rest of this long and narrow island.
But the coast…. It moved down the coast at 75-plus miles an hour and shaved off nearly every pier, like a razor carving bristles off a man’s jaw.
How did so many well-built docks disappear?
My uneducated theory: The winds blew north to south, the waves and surge crashed in east to west. The combination set up a corkscrew motion that lifted and twisted the piers away from their pilings. Of course once whole piers were plunging into the sea, the debris set off a domino effect, crashing pier to pier until there was nothing but lumber landing on shore.
That’s what I’m thinking.
Our own waterfront ended up with huge amounts of lumber, some that went through the glass doors of several first floor condos.
Our closest neighbor has sent a crew over to retrieve what remains of his commercial, dive-shop dock. It is easy to spot his lumber — it is all brand new, still green. The dock had hardly been up more than a few months. It really sticks out from the rest of the weathered and sea-butchered logs and lumber.
There are curiosities among the wreckage. A large section of dock landed flat and upside down at the steps of Felize, the bar that sits like the hub of a wheel in our complex. Only the wreckage is literally surrounded by palm trees that are undamaged. How did it get wedged in there? It also had to pass between two buildings and make a right-hand turn to get to that spot!
Just down the road, two freight containers were push around like baby carriages. One scraped across a dirt road and slammed up against a large tree. Wedged between the container and the tree was a large cylindrical barbecue grill, about five feet up in the air. Its legs hung limply, making the whole thing look a bit like an Angus cow got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I had business at Town Hall in San Pedro Town yesterday afternoon so I took a walk along the beach behind it. Something you couldn’t do the day before — take a walk on the beach. A lot has been cleared away but what an enormous job still lies ahead.
If I didn’t have landmarks on shore, like Wahoo’s, Estel’s, Fido’s and a few hotels here and there, I wouldn’t have the slightest idea where I was standing or what I was looking at. Such is the breadth of devastation.
If you watched the Weather Channel during the storm, you saw their storm chaser Jason Morgerman reporting live from Belize City. He apparently does this all the time — inserts himself into the paths of hurricanes and cyclones and tropical storms and, well, reports first hand on how crappy the situation is. (He must be the envy of every local TV weather reporter who has to stand out in a rainstorm and get splashed by cars as they confirm that, yes, it is raining out.
The point being, Jason has apparently been through lots of these things.
Here’s what he had to say, upon reflection, after Earl had passed: “Hurricane EARL is a testament to the fact that *all* hurricanes are serious. While the losses aren’t yet tallied, this Category-1 hurricane (Cat-3 on the Oz scale) dealt an epic and historic blow to this city of 61K people—one they won’t soon forget. So in the future if I hear someone say, “only a Cat 1,” I’m simply going to tell them about Hurricane EARL in Belize City.”
(“Cat-3 on the Oz scale” is a reference to the Australian ranking system which is broader and includes tropical stoms within its 5-point scale.)
Everyone I talk to questions the low ranking of Earl –only a Category 1???
I think the experts would say the category reflects only the force of the storm. The direction from which it approaches, the sea level of land (zero feet in our case and Belize City), and even the quality of buildings and infrastructure in the community — all can affect the outcome.
So now, we continue to dig out from this blizzard of wood and debris. The sun is shining, more or less, the sea is calm, the breeze is stiff and refreshing, the saws are buzzing, the hammers slamming, the piles being made and carted away.
There will be another big hole in San Pedro Town — really, all of Ambergris Caye — for some time to come.