Hey Peeps! I don’t usually do non food posts, but I’m posting this for the long time fans who have been asking how we are doing after Hurricane Earl came through. Plus it’s cathartic to put it all down on “paper” so here goes…
Going into it we decided not to leave the island like many others did, because even though we live right on the beach it’s a concrete house and we would be riding out the storm in the second floor condo – so we weren’t too worried about flooding or wind damage.
Right up until the day Earl hit, they were still calling it a tropical storm, with the potential to mayyyyybe be a category 1 hurricane when it actually hit us. It didn’t seem like a big deal and the locals who had weathered many storms, including Category 5 hurricanes weren’t worried in the slightest. What could go wrong?
Even so, we made preparations to be without power and water for days if necessary (because let’s face it that happens all the time here anyway) and battened down the hatches so to speak.
Still, we weren’t really concerned and even took a bunch of photos of the storm surge coming in and the waves hitting the sea wall. It was cool and there was a sense of anticipation, but not really fear.
The locals were coming out in droves from the neighborhood behind our road to take pictures and ooh and ah at the big waves. It was like a big Hurricane Earl party out front for about 2 hours.
Then the wind picked up and the waves started going up the beach past our house and people took off for home.
As it was getting dark, the storm was almost on us and the wind was howling and the waves were crashing over the sea wall and up into our yard near the house. We lost power shortly after dark and by then I was starting to get pretty nervous – but all we could do was settle in and ride it out.
By then the spray from the waves was already coming over the tops of the palm trees out front and hitting the second floor patio doors.
We all slept in an interior bedroom with no windows and it did muffle the sound of the storm, but even so it sounded like a freight train bearing down on us and just went on for hours and hours. The concussion of the waves hitting the wall and house was terrifying as well, because I had no way of knowing or seeing if they had breached the downstairs or not.
The condos have floor to ceiling windows along the front wall so that we have an unobstructed view of the ocean, but the owners decided not to board them up because the storm was supposed to be a non-event. We moved almost everything of ours up to the second floor, but I was worried that the wind and waves would crash through the windows and flood the downstairs – then it would be ruined and we’d have to find somewhere else to live.
Hungry Jr. slept through most of it, but Mr. Hungry and I barely slept at all in spite of being exhausted. It was SO HOT and we didn’t dare open up the room in case the uncovered windows in the main house shattered from the wind. They never did and I was so grateful, and frankly surprised because we could see and feel them flexing in and out as though the house were breathing.
At about 3:30 in the morning I ventured out to the main part of the house and the wind was still howling, but noticeably less than it had been a couple of hours earlier. I could still hear the waves crashing all around the house, and there was about an inch of water on the floor. We were on the second floor, so I was convinced that the downstairs was full of water and started to panic a little. I pulled myself together somehow and went back into the room to wait since there was nothing else to be done. It gets light here at around 5am so I knew it wouldn’t be long before we could survey the damage.
Miraculously I fell asleep and woke up around 6:30. I was shocked to see that the waves had receded almost to beach level, but the outside damage was extensive.
The waves had literally wrapped around the house and kept going, pushing tons of debris and sea grass almost to the main road.
The palapa on the beach next door was obliterated and the little peninsula of palm trees was eroded right to the rubble they’d built it on – miraculously the palms over there stayed put.
The sand next to the house was washed away almost right to the foundation in spots, and the water pipes were exposed and hanging in the air.
Our picket fence and gate were damaged, and the palms out front as well as our dock took a serious beating. Almost all of the pretty landscaping inside of the fence was killed by the sea water so it’s grey and completely dead looking now – I don’t know if it will come back.
Inside the house there was water in every unit, but it turns out that was from bad flashing, so it leaches in through the concrete – all of the windows were intact and none of the furniture or our belongings was damaged, which was a huge relief.
So there was some damage but we were feeling pretty OK about things, until Mr. Hungry went out with a friend to make the rounds and make sure everyone in our network was safe and sound. The north part of the island beachfront was unrecognizable!
He texted me that one of our favorite hangouts, Palapa Bar and Grill, which is a restaurant built over the ocean on a big dock was completely gone and the debris had washed up onto the beach. We were JUST there the other night with friends – and now the pier just ends where it used to be.
Almost all of the dive shops, a friend’s spa, and other businesses build on top of pilings were obliterated.
El Diablo, a huge waterslide that ends in the ocean was destroyed and the debris blown into a neighboring resort.
So many businesses and prominent features of island were just gone. It was a mess, and so sad.
Nobody knows what happened – these same businesses have weathered much stronger (on paper) storms than Earl, so people are shell-shocked. This was supposed to be the equivalent of a strong t-storm – instead it was devastating to the island’s economy and psyche.
It’s hard for me to see and I’ve only lived here 3 months – for those who have lived here for years, it’s even harder to see the beaches and landscape permanently altered and all of their favorite places just gone.
They are saying now that Hurricane Earl was a category 2 storm when it hit San Pedro, and that we received a sustained blow from the strongest part of the storm on the north side. The storm surge was much stronger and higher than anyone anticipated, and that is what accounted for most of the beachfront damage.
Most of the interior sustained only minor damage, which is something at least, because that’s where most of the local people live. The storm didn’t keep the kids from coming out to play just hours after the storm passed either – summer vacation is almost over, so you might as well make the best of it and go swimming!
I was amazed and impressed at how fast the cleanup began. Belizeans are hard working people and they are good in a crisis for sure! It was incredible how much progress was made in cleaning up debris on the main roads in just a matter of hours, and in spite of the damage, the majority of the island had power back within a day.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get power back until just yesterday – can I just tell how how thrilled I am to have AC and internet again!? SO. MUCH.
Looking outside still makes me sad, I don’t know how much the HOA will be able to salvage of our beautiful palms and other landscaping that was ruined in the storm.
Still, I’m grateful that we made it through Hurricane Earl safe and with minimal damage, especially in light of the destruction in town.
Having seen how resilient and resourceful the people on this island are though, I’m optimistic that they will bounce back stronger than ever – and I’m happy to be here playing our small part in getting things back to normal.
Even if normal looks a lot different than it used to.