After Earl: Trying to recall what was where, and is no more

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Navigating the beach to the San Pedro Express Water Taxi dock is still treacherous. No matter. The water taxi dock is too badly damaged touse. They have moved operations down to Municipal Pier by Central Park.
Navigating the beach to the San Pedro Express Water Taxi dock is still treacherous. No matter. The water taxi dock is too badly damaged touse. They have moved operations down to Municipal Pier by Central Park.

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.

This scene is repeated all up and down the sea coast of Ambergris Caye. Ripping dock remnants, stacking boards.
This scene is repeated all up and down the sea coast of Ambergris Caye. Ripping dock remnants, stacking boards — interspersed with the bright citrus colors that once festooned many of the waterfront establishments.

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.

What remains of Wahoo's dock in downtown San Pedro.
What remains of Spindrift Hotel’s dock in downtown San Pedro. The building housed Aqua Scuba.

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!

Contractor Tomas Santos and his crew are rebuilding the Wahoo dock and says he will finish with it on Monday. He's ready for more work.
Contractor Tomas Santos and his crew are rebuilding the Spindrift Hotel dock, which housed Aqua Scuba, and says he will finish with it on Monday. He’s ready for more work.

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.

Tanks gathered on shore.
Tanks gathered on shore.

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.

Dos Amigos and the Coastal Water Taxi statiion were battered but unbowed. How they withstood is unreal.
Amigos Del Mar and the Coastal Water Taxi station were battered but unbowed. How they withstood Earl, I can’t imagine.

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.)

You can read his harrowing experience in Belize City here.

Amigos del Mar from the north side.
Amigos Del Mar from the north side.

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.

This beach area in front of Fido's was completely unpassable on Thursday. The popular bar and restaurant lost a lot of thatching from its roof and .....
This beach area in front of Fido’s was completely unpassable on Thursday. The popular bar and restaurant lost a lot of thatching from its roof and …..

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.

This was once Fido's dock. I remember sitting in the restaurant one rainy afternoon, watching a young teen couple seeking shelter under the canopy entrance to the dock. Rain poured, they chatted and laughed and the innocence and purity of it all was captured forever in my memory.
….. This was once Fido’s dock. I remember sitting in the restaurant one rainy afternoon, watching a young teen couple seeking shelter under the canopy entrance to the dock. Rain poured, they chatted and laughed and the innocence and purity of it all was captured forever in my memory.
Estel's survived. That cheers hundreds of islanders who must have their fryjacks and eggs there every day! That would include me if I could afford it! Well, once a week, maybe twice....
Estel’s survived. That cheers hundreds of islanders who must have their fry jacks and eggs there every day! That would include me if I could afford it! Well, once a week, maybe twice…
One of Ecologic's boats returns to the spot where its dock and office once stood.
One of Ecologic’s boats returns to the spot where its dock and office once stood.
"Mind the gap" will be the byword here for a long time to come.
“Mind the gap” will be the byword here for a long time to come.
Last shot of a tattered and broken down dock. There are many such remnants up and down the coast.
Last shot of a tattered and broken down dock. There are many such remnants up and down the coast.
Let's see .... this was ......?
Let’s see …. this was …..ah, the Ocean Ferry Belize dock (previously known as Caye Caulker Water Taxi)!
And finally, notice how this piece of dock is surrounded by palm trees. It had to come up between two buildings and make a right-hand turn to land where it did, but how it did not mow over the trees is beyond me.
And finally, notice how this piece of dock is surrounded by palm trees. It had to come up between two buildings and make a right-hand turn to land where it did, but how it did not mow over the trees is beyond me.

 

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8 thoughts on “After Earl: Trying to recall what was where, and is no more

    Debbie Styles said:
    August 6, 2016 at 10:08 am

    We were wondering why they don’t use the new water terminal on the other side of the island. Especially now.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      August 6, 2016 at 10:39 am

      Many people are asking the same question. There was lots of resistance to using the new water terminal when it was completed but now would be the perfect time for the town to order the water taxis to the terminal. It would benefit them too.

      Like

    Linda Young said:
    August 6, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Thanx for the update. We hang on every word and picture you post. Take care, and watch where you step.

    Like

    Carole Kocian said:
    August 6, 2016 at 10:33 am

    You should see the first big waves coming ashore lifting those pier planks up like they were never nailed down.

    Like

    YAMILETH said:
    August 6, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Is so sad to see all damaged, Spindrift Hotel owns its own dock just a small correction is not wahoo’s dock, Aqua Scuba diving operates on the mentioned dock.

    Like

    johnhenryeast said:
    August 6, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    And Bob it’s Ocean Ferry Belize not Caye Caulker Water Taxi. It changed last year.

    Like

    KCX said:
    August 7, 2016 at 7:35 am

    Friends across the waters, our hearts and wallet opens up for you, Clearwater Beach, Florida USA #1 beachtown USA. Record Summer Season thus far…..adding over 1000 new hotel rooms 300.00 US a night. We understand tourism dependancy for our livihood…..

    As such we truly feel your sickness and anguish. Frustration and sore muscles as you begin to clean up friggin Earls mess. I know without question however that Belizians and the ex pat communities of not only San Pedro, Caye Caulker, San Ignacio are a strong and resilient people.

    Think positive vibes, that replacement of docks, dive shops. Coconut. Palms, bars….. so sad Palapa and. Also Lazy Lizard in CC devastated. Maybe the good Lord is saying Go Slow on those Belikins. Also do not read any deaths from storm, so there is that.

    It will all look more beautiful then ever in just a few short months. Tourist that have been coming to Clearwater Beach are finding all the charm and character is gone…..only a few mom n pop motels remain. Price sky rocket ….400.00 a night is avg. Shhhhhh…. People not coming back here… too many high-rise, crowded beach, expensive, they will be looking for places like San Pedro. Who cares if you spend 200.00 more on airfare when the hotels are less then half the cost and for 10 bucks you can get a fresh caught lobster?

    Expect an increase in tourism……. visitor loss study shows San Pedro. Dominican Republic, Panama and Cuba is where they are going….we are losing our tourism base too.

    Anyway, some of the Clearwater Beach peeps and I put together a little something and Scott has already sent the cumilation of funds. Okay, best to all… be down for a dive trip for my winter break in Dec… Godspeed KCX

    Like

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