We continue to have weather! For more or less the whole of October, the clouds have been on and off in the sky, and the tropical waves of thunderstorms have flown over one after the other from Honduras and the south east Caribbean. The heat was still intense, and the humidity level having dropped immediately after a deluge would soon begin to build up again as the hot sun evaporated the moisture fast. Then two weeks ago, the clouds intensified, with a marginal overall drop in temperature, and the rains began in earnest. After a few days, folk were saying that it was unusual to have quite so much at once and one of my work colleagues reassured me that we would see some sun before leaving in the beginning of December. And the rains still fell, 20 inches in three days at one point. The new pavement which has been under construction on either side of Albert St and taking aeons, holding up the final tarring of the road for even longer, had covered over the storm drains. The workmen have made the drain pipes from the alleyway to our flat and to the Womens Dept on the other side of the road level with the top of the pavement, not the bottom of the alley, so we had to place planks of wood or broken bricks strategically to avoid the 2 -3 inches of sitting water. As one would expect, the water soon became a rich mix of the dust and general detritus of the drains, the rubbish from the street, and the vegetation which began falling in the intense precipitation.
When coming back from a meeting after one exceedingly intense shower, the whole street was flooded. I turned down various streets and kept coming to impassable sections. At least, impassable to me some people waded through with their bare feet up to their knees, but there was no guarantee that there was no sewage in them. I caught a taxi in the end.
And then two days later, there were anxious reports about the amount of water coming down the rivers. The whole of western Belize is mountainous, and indeed the two main tributaries of the Belize River, the Mopan and the Macal, bring waters from even further west: the Mopan from the Peten region of Guatemala (where Tikal and Flores are) and the Macal from the Pine Mountain Ridge (with the Rio On Pools). By last Tuesday the whole of the San Ignacio region around the rivers was flooded, Stann Creek area near Dangriga (which is often flooded), and concerns about the lower Belize River basin were expressed. On Wednesday, the three branches of the Ministry of Human Development one of which is the Womens Dept were deployed to put the hurricane emergency plan into action, only this time it was for flooding. The WDOs in the Womens Dept had responsibility for assessing the need for and distributing food.
I didnt see some of them for days at a time, and now the stories are emerging. The 3 mile road into Crooked Tree was under water after one mile from the northern highway. Many in the village were flooded. The lagoons around Birds Isle are vulnerable because the waters come into the lagoon from the north from the Orange Walk region, and start the flood process. Then the Black Creek, a tributary of the Belize River which we canoed one morning, back-floods from the south, further flooding the region.
One colleague was in a boat up the rivers near Burrell Boom with the coast guard, wearing a life jacket, and sometimes wading chest-high through waters. She said they were keeping an eye out for snakes and crocs, both of which would not be too keen on the flood waters. She herself is not a good swimmer, so felt a little worried at times. Most of the farmed produce in the river basin has been flattened and ruined, and a lot of the animals will need to be killed. Fortunately there have been only 7 casualties, which given the volume of water and degree of flooding was pretty remarkable.
Despite more rain forecast for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it fortunately did not come, averting what could have been an even worse situation. If it had continued Belize City would have been the next target and there were serious concerns about the Citys ability to withstand the volume of water coming towards it, and coinciding with a high tide. The sewage system is precarious as it is.
Nevertheless, more rain has fallen than has ever been recorded in October. By now, Wednesday, the waters are receding. A member of a group this afternoon, who lives near the sea south of Belize, said that the volume of water emptying from the rivers caused much higher tides and some flooding from the sea in their region too. Over the last few days she has seen a snake each day in her garden as they search for some dry land.
A cold front was forecast and duly came in on Monday. Although not officially over till the end of November (some of the most memorable have been in November) a cold front often means the end of the hurricane season. Certainly there is a freshness in the more north easterly air, almost a familiar autumnal smell, and no humidity which is such a joy. The wind for it is more than a breeze is gusty and if not cold, is less balmy than we have been used to. Unfortunately the biting things have had a field-day in the wet, but the temperature being in the mid- to late 60sF, about 20C, has been most pleasant. But it is interesting to see how relative cold is. After weeks and weeks of temperatures in the 90sF, well over 30C, many people are obviously cold. Women are wearing tights, covering their shoulders or even wearing long sleeves. Children are wearing denim jackets over their school uniforms in the early morning. I even saw one wee laddie with a red woollen hat pulled down over his ears as I walked to the bus station yesterday morning! Last night I awoke a little chilled, the sheet right up around my shoulders instead of vaguely covering me in places, and got out of bed to place a quilt over my toes. Who knows, I may even wear my jammies yet!
And I read today that there is lots of snow back home in Scotland cold really is relative! And that is early, making for a long winter. Poor things, after a summer which was a wash-out, starting with a cold snap now is truly tough.