Thursday, August 11, 2016

Storms, Surge, and Hurricanes

This is the first Sunday I've not had to work in some capacity 2 years.  It's felt pretty weird really.  I've even gone over to the "shop" a couple of times - maybe subconsciously hoping it would magically be there this time, but nay not really.  I fancy myself as someone who accepts whats happened pretty quickly and already am planning for the next phase before the seas let the sands settle.

Don't get me wrong - the destruction of your business is not an easy thing to witness; but crying never cleaned spilled milk.  Strength and determination in the face of adversity is what must be brought to the table.  So we brought it.

In case you've missed what happened over the past few days I'll give you a brief catch up - Hurricane Earl hit Belize; only a category 1, but it doesn't mean Mother Nature didn't inflict a lot of damage.  We saw about 8 feet of storm surge and 75 mile per hour winds.  There were 24 foot waves crashing on the barrier reef; had that reef not been there we would've all been swimming for sure.

Who wants a day by day?  Well here it is -

Before the Storm:

Ecologic Divers Hurricane Earl Storm Surge Belize Category one
Rollers coming in about 2pm - 12 hours from Earl's arrival
We first started watching the tropical wave Saturday, but really paid it no attention till Sunday.  We were hopeful on Monday it would go north, or south, or die...but it kept on trucking.  Tuesday rolled around and it was obvious the best course of action was to Boy Scout away (as a Boy Scout is always prepared).  Most of the crew was on a big private sail but those left packed and hauled and got all the mission critical gear and equipment to safety in storage and the house.  We went to sleep that night hoping the forecasts of strengthening would not come to pass.  They did.

Wednesday - Earl is a Knocking:

Coca-Cola Belize dock Hurricane Earl
Enjoying a Coke and Cookies with Ash
It's official; we're getting our clocks cleaned, so be ready.  Packed up even more stuff to get it out of the office, haul the tanks to storage, hide the boats in the mangroves, take the catamarans to our super special spot, screw boards over the windows, kiss the crew and send them home to take care of their families.  We were all out by maybe 1pm, and the storm was supposed to make landfall about 12 hours later.  The outer storm was hitting us, winds were pickings up, rain was sporadically spitting and the surge and waves were already getting high.

I came back to the empty shop several times that afternoon.  Once to enjoy a coke and some cookies with my pal "Ash" as we studied the amazing surf breaking on the reef.  When I was locking up the last time I dropped my keys - they went straight between the boards and into a very dark ocean.  I promptly texted Germain, our accountant, to let him know I'd need his keys the next day.  About 2 hours after I was watching from the relative safety of the sea wall at the Phoenix...watching wave after wave hitting our building at higher levels.  I knew then that I wouldn't need that key in the morning...and I'd never see my favorite military boonie hat again.

Belize barrier reef waves surf surge Hurricane Earl
Huge surf by our measure - 1/2 mile away watching 15 foot rollers
crash on the reef
That night the winds got amazingly intense.  Arriving at high levels and sounding like phantoms - if you've played Halo, think of the noise the Banshee makes.  It was so creepy to hear them coming and going, but not even feel them.  At about 930 the first wall came down off the shop, and the building was listing to the left.  Reports of other shops already being swallowed had come in over the radio. Earl was still 4 hours away...

Thursday - Earl arrives and leaves - and claims no lives!!!:

Where once there was a lovely dock - there shall be again.
Ecolgoic Divers 2.0 coming soon!
Earl's eye came over Turneffe and rolled right over Belize City around 2am or so; the northern most wall was about 10-15 miles south of us in San Pedro.  That's a hit.  We had northerly rotation winds that were driving white capped waves south, till it shifted around midnight to the westerly blow. I'm going to avoid posting many pictures of the devastation because I'm pretty sick of looking at it.  It's easy enough to find if you want.  The vast majority of piers were destroyed, or heavily damaged. Even big names like Palapa Bar and Ramon's lost it all.

Surge was still rolling in, and the beaches were completely covered with debris.  It's very surreal to walk a beach and see splinters of your shop scattered everywhere for nearly half a mile, then much more sporadically after that.   This was largely a day of letting things sink in.  Eric and I pulled boards from the surf and piled them on the sea wall, trying to just clear a little walk way and feel like we were helping somewhat.  The shop was gone, but the boats were not. We reorganized around what we had left; securing the boats, and planning our next steps.  We walked the beach and talked to our neighbors, trying to help and assuring that everyone was okay and accounted for.  That done, we counted it a successful day.

The days since:

Ecologic Cats Belize
Its only been a few days since, but we've been busy.  We've enjoyed a few sailing trips, brought the boats back around and put them back on the "dock"...or...ah...the rubble?!  But it's just nice to see them there.  Gives a sense of things getting better.  I can't explain the utter joy that was in my heart when the cats were back out front - ready to take on the days ahead.

Ecologic Divers Hurricane Earl Belize Ambergris Caye

Now we re-build.  Well tomorrow we sail, but then we demo/rebuild.  For quick updates be sure to like and follow Ecologic Divers Facebook page - I'll be posting on there often.

If you want info on helping out financially see Tacogirl's blog about it by clicking HERE; also lots more photos and information as well.    The best way you can help if you were/are planning a trip - JUST COME!!!  BELIZE is ready people.  Just come.  Visit, explore, spend money!  Give these communities a reason to keep working.
Found my keys...

And those keys I dropped in the ocean - the guys found them...but the door has seen better days ;)