Monday, June 27, 2011

Batten down the thatches

Hurricane Season starts here in Belize on June 1st; but, no one really worries about a storm until the unusual day when the winds stop, the tide drops, there are no waves breaking on the Barrier Reef, and the water is the temperature of a hot bath. Then a strange calm descends on the island and combines with an intense concentration of energy – usually realized by the sound of hammers – and all radios are tuned for the latest weather forecast. No one talks of anything else.

We all make lists of things to do before the storm: closing storm shutters; nailing pieces of plywood over windows and doors; moving boats to a safe harbor; testing the generator; stocking the larder; bringing in the potted plants and the lawn furniture; and, one of my favorites, getting someone very agile to climb the coconut trees to remove the coconuts. In a storm, they become missiles.

Fortunately for us, we usually have time to get ready. I say usually because Hurricane Keith took most everyone on Ambergris Caye by surprise. It went from a tropical depression to a full fledged hurricane overnight. If residents hadn't evacuated the island by noon, they were stuck here. They looked for the highest and strongest building for shelter. There was no getting off the island. That was an exceptional storm. Usually we have a day or two to prepare.

Once the hammering sound dies down, a walk down the beach is ominous. The houses and hotels are boarded. The beaches are empty. There are no boats moored on the piers or anywhere in sight. And strangest of all, even the dogs disappear.

Today the winds are from the east, there are waves breaking on the reef, the tides are normal but the water by my pier is almost as warm as a hot tub. It's early in the season. The coconuts are still on the trees at Caye Casa (see photo). I won't really start worrying until September or until I hear a lot of hammering.