Recently, it rained 3 inches during the course of the day and certainly the roads here in Ambergris Caye were not in great shape but that didn’t do anything. Later in the day, the water is almost dried out and you are done with it. You don’t really get flooding here on the Ambergris Caye because this is just the sand bar. The water comes up and the water goes down.
Most people do not build on the ground floor or they elevate their living space because if there were an actual flood from hurricanes, storm surge, and anything of that nature, you would have rising water. There is nobody right on the ground to begin with. Unless you just didn’t plan for anything then flooding is not really an issue.
Fire is also not an issue here in Ambergris Caye. The only real issue that you have to think about here is hurricane storm surge. The reality is, from a geographical standpoint, we are not in a place that is prone to a lot of tropical systems coming through in the advanced stages of development. So we get tropical waves. In the 15 years that I have been here in Ambergris Caye, we have had a couple of wind events. They weren’t really direct hit by hurricanes. They weren’t sustained winds in a 100-mile an hour range, and that happens. Occasionally, we get a couple of squalls that blow through in the 60-mile an hour range. Most people here in Ambergris Caye are prepared for that. It is something that you are always expecting and you don’t get anything other than leave your veranda furniture ending up going into the neighbor’s yard, so you have to go and pick it up the following day. For the most part, people are fairly prepared.
Towards the 4th quarter of the year, people always keep an eye on the weather and there could be a system that develops right in front of Belize and passing over us. We could get a lot of rain and winds but we expect that. Rain is not really a big deal here in Ambergris Caye. The roads will be flooded but homes won’t be flooded and there won’t be any other issue associated with that.
The other issues that you might have with these types of extreme weather events are problems with utilities. Power could go out and cable could go out. Water could also go out, so most people have redundant systems. Most people build back up or stand by generators that they can use when the power goes out. These generators automatically come on when there is a power outage so there is still no interruption of service. There is not a huge distribution of city water outside of town to begin with so most people have systems that catch rain water. Cable nowadays is bundled with Internet service. When the cable goes out, you can just plug in your Google TV, your Chromecast or whatever app you need and just keep going. You can download a few shows and you are ready to go. Although the utilities are now more reliable than they used to be, the power still goes out on a monthly basis for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Since I have been here, we have had one earthquake and it was kind of freaky. It was my first earthquake and it is not something that happens regularly. We are not really on or around any fault line. The closest fault line is well south of us. That earthquake around 5 or 6 years ago but there was no damage reported on Ambergris Caye. The earthquake was centered somewhere off the coast of Honduras, so they might have had some issue in the Placencia area. A chicken pen caved in or something like that but it’s nothing to concern yourself with.
You might find a place in Ambergris Caye that is 12 feet above sea level but the reality is we have a great reef. The barrier reef in front of Ambergris Caye comes up almost to above the water line so a lot of what happens rolls and breaks on the reef. That is really a saving grace because the reality is that Ambergris Caye is a sand bar. Without the reef, this place will not exist to begin with. After that earthquake, we all stood by and waited and nothing really happened. We do tsunami drills, hurricane drills, and earthquake drills. They have NEMO and emergency management organizations but the reality is that there are things you can do for planning and to make sure. Most people’s homes are well-built and elevated above sea level. In this area where we live, the highest water we ever had was 4 feet above the regular waterline, which is about 6 feet above ground. That is our ground floor. Most people are building about 6 to 10 feet above that.
The southern portion of Ambergris Caye has lower lying land than the northern portion of Ambergris Caye but the southern portion also has a more solid reef structure than the northern portion. You get more rolling waves on shore under extreme conditions on the north than they do on the south end. If you base everything on the ocean level, then it makes it easier. People here in Ambergris Caye are not too worried about tsunamis or extreme conditions. There are lots of things that you could be concerned out. I could be concerned about getting hit by a bus or getting bit by a dog but the reality is it is not something that crosses my mind on a daily basis. You cannot stop anything from happening. You just have to be prepared.
(Elevated island cottage, Ambergris Caye, Belize, pictured.)