Hurricane Hattie Strikes Belize
Hurricane Hattie strikes Belize on October 31st in 1961, killing more than 400 people and leaving thousands homeless. Almost half of Belize City was demolished by the storm.
The storm that would become Hattie had formed two weeks earlier in the Atlantic Ocean and then moved slowly west toward Central America. When it reached the coast of Belize, known at the time as British Honduras, it was a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour and gusts reaching 180 mph. It was the strongest storm to hit Belize to date. With accurate weather predictions still in their infancy, an attempted evacuation was only partially successful.
The barrier islands of Turneffe and Caulker Cays were totally submerged by the storm surge. Hattie then brought a 12-foot surge to the mainland, flattening all buildings near the shore. Stann Creek, a small fishing village on the coast near Belize City, was completely destroyed. Following the hurricane, the village was rebuilt and renamed Hattieville.
In the days after the storm, throngs of survivors numbering in the thousands roamed the streets for days digging about in the crumbled ruins in search of any kind of food. Hattie damaged Belize City badly enough to force the government to relocate to a new capital further inland: its present location in Belmopan.
Some permanent towns, such as Hattieville, were formed from temporary shelters built for those made homeless by the hurricane. Violence broke out in the aftermath of the storm, causing the British frigate, HMS Troubridge, to land 125 officers and men to aid colony police in halting widespread looting and pillaging.
On the 44th anniversary of the hurricane in 2005, the government of Belize unveiled a monument in Belize City to recognize the victims of the hurricane. The name Hattie was retired the following year and will never be used by an Atlantic hurricane again. It was replaced by Holly in 1965.
All photos and captions courtesy of Adele Ramos: "The Adele Ramos Show" Belize City
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