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Hurricanes in Belize and Historic Storms

Palm trees bend in hurricane force winds in Belize.
Hurricane Keith hit Belize in October of 2000. Photo © Ian MacKenzie, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The hurricane season in the Caribbean runs June 1–November 30. Historically, Belize hurricanes usually occur in October and November. The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) in Belize has a thorough emergency plan ready to be enacted in the event of a hurricane, and it provides information on emergency shelters and helpful district organizations. Belizeans always know when it is hurricane season from the echoes of neighbors hammering wooden shutters over their windows. NEMO has also devised a warning system using flags to indicate the imminence of a hurricane threat.

Hurricanes That Made History in Belize

  • 2007: Hurricane Dean. Corozal was affected the worst by Dean, which hit as a Category 5 hurricane 25 miles north of the Belize/Mexico border. There were no major injuries, but the government estimated the damage to Belize’s papaya industry at $30 million and to the sugar industry at $3.6 million.
  • 2001: Hurricane Iris. In early October, Iris devastated the Placencia Peninsula and Toledo with winds of up to 145 mph. It took the lives of 21 people.
  • 2000: Hurricane Keith. Hitting the Belizean Cayes, Keith brought a lot of rain to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker for three days. Hurricane Keith was designated a Category 4 hurricane with wind gusts of up to 155 mph. However, it was its slow-moving speed that made Keith such a problem, especially to the Cayes, where Keith caused $150 million in damage. As Keith moved to Belize’s mainland, it quickly diminished into a tropical storm.
  • 1998: Hurricane Mitch. Although Mitch made landfall in Honduras and not Belize, this hurricane caused severe damage to various areas within the country. Mitch was a catastrophic hurricane with winds up to 180 mph.
  • 1961: Hurricane Hattie. Tracked directly into Belize City, Hattie’s eye had winds of 115 mph with gusts estimated at 200 mph. The eye passed between Belize City and Dangriga, causing 307 deaths in Belize City alone. It was this hurricane that resulted in George Price and the People’s United Party (PUP) relocating their capital city from Belize City to the safer location of Belmopan.
  • 1955: Hurricane Janet. The eye of Janet packed winds of up to 135 mph and made landfall on a small Mexican village north of San Pedro Town. In Corozal Town, the eye reached winds of up to 170 mph. There were devastating winds and massive flooding in the northern districts, 16 deaths, and 20,000 people left homeless. In San Pedro, the houses on back streets were damaged, the beach homes and lots were reduced to large mounds of sand, and the width of the beach increased by many feet.
  • 1931: Unnamed hurricane. In early September, this hurricane swept through Belize City and the Northern Cayes at 110 mph. There were an estimated 2,500–3,000 deaths.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Living Abroad in Belize.