By Marion V. Ali
An unusual Tropical Storm Ana made landfall between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina just after daybreak on Sunday. The US National Hurricane Centre downgraded Ana to a tropical depression that same afternoon.
Ana is the second earliest landfalli tropical storm on record in the Atlantic, according to Weather Channel’s Hurricane Specialist, Michael Lowry. The storm developed a full three weeks before the official start of the hurricane season, which opens on June first.
In Belize, the City Emergency Management Organisation (CEMO), has begun hurricane preparations in the city. It has completed inspection of the hurricane shelters it plans to use in the event of a hurricane, up to a category two in strength. According to the Emergency Management Coordinator, Wayne Usher, the organization is taking a holistic approach.
“We take people from the housing, fire and health departments, the city engineer and the city planner. The entire team looks at the structural integrity of buildings. We look at the roofing, the electrical aspect, escape routes and whether they are in the immediate path of flooding or water flows. And, we also look at garbage disposal and whether there is room to set up a first aid centre at these shelters,” Usher said.
Altogether, there are 19 declared shelters for Belize City – Thirteen are on the south side, six on the north side. These shelters, Usher advised, are for people who absolutely don’t trust their homes, either because of the structural integrity or because they are prone to flooding.
While families seek refuge at the shelters, they are expected to provide food, water and whatever necessary medication they need to last three days. After three days, CEMO, through assistance from the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) and the Department of Human Services,will provides what is necessary if there is a need.
As part of the preparation on Wednesday, CEMO held training sessions at City Hall for people who will work at the emergency operations centre. It plans to hold another on shelter management next week.
Public officers who are on standby during a hurricane watch will also be part of the training.
For the first time, a team from Belize City went to San Pedro to monitor the island’s evacuation arrangements. That helped the disaster preparedness team anticipate the influx of people that will be seeking shelter on the mainland and the kind of transportation needed to shuttle them inland if necessary.
As a follow-up to the training, CEMO will hold a symposium on June third and fourth that will address the issue of flooding.
Overall, the 2015 hurricane season is expected to be relatively quiet, with a prediction of seven named storms, including three hurricanes. This is well below the average set over the past three decades when there were about 12 named storms developing each year.