Hurricane Earl Hits Belize: An Update and How You Can Help

Image above: Sea Dreams’ Hotel’s magical Banyan Tree uprooted by Hurricane Earl – August 3, 2016. Photo courtesy of Purple Passion Beauty Studio, Caye Caulker.

On the night of August 3, 2016, a hurricane hit one of my absolute favorite places and homes on earth: Belize.

What was predicted as Tropical Storm Earl–Belize’s National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) did a great job of monitoring and advising people to evacuate–quickly evolved into a Category 1 hurricane. And it made its way directly for the Jewel, furiously battering Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye on its way toward Belize City and inland Cayo. With winds of up to 80mph, some long time residents said it was the longest lasting hurricane they’d ever seen and survived in Belize–up to six hours–and that it even had the movements of a tornado at times. A category 1 that felt more like a 2.

Belize City fared the worst with flooding and destroyed homes, while many of my friends and local tourism businesses on Caye Caulker and San Pedro saw their hard work shattered to the ground. No more Palapa Bar, or EZ Boy Tours’ shack (my favorite snorkeling company in Caye Caulker), and a seriously damaged Split. Sea Dreams Hotel, another favorite and great friends of mine, saw their gorgeous, giant banyan tree uprooted. It was the magical centerpiece of this small, lovely seafront property. These couple of post-Earl photos of Caye Caulker are courtesy of my dear friend Stacy Badillo, owner of Purple Passion Beauty Studio–whose business and home survived the hurricane.

EZ Boy Tours' snorkeling shop shattered by Earl. - Caye Caulker. Photo courtesy of Purple Passion Beauty Studio.
EZ Boy Tours’ snorkeling shop shattered by Earl. – Caye Caulker. Photo courtesy of Purple Passion Beauty Studio.

The San Ignacio area suffered serious flooding, including damage to its main entrance bridge over the Macal River, which cannot be crossed until a new one is built. Both ground and aerial images are heartbreaking–you can see a handful on Love FM News’ page, along with hurricane updates.

On the morning after Earl, around midday, I was able to get through via Facebook call to my Belizean family on Caye Caulker, who preferred to bunker down in their home. I can’t tell you the relief to hear my phone ring and know that they were fine, after a long night of anxiousness and insomnia about what Earl was doing to them (and of course, much worse for them being on site and going through it). They told me the details of the storm and the damage it caused on the island, and we were all stunned together. They fared well, their business wasn’t damaged, while others lost theirs.

In the aftermath, it is heartwarming to see everyone come together to clean up and help their neighbors to get up and running again, or provide food for the homeless. Still, the damages are significant. NEMO’s post-hurricane situation report states that there are 170 persons in shelters, while the Office of the Special Envoy for Women & Children reports that more than 110,000 children have been affected and are exposed to fallen powerlines, debris and wild animals, in addition to possibly suffering from storm trauma.

How You Can Help

If you’ve ever visited and loved Belize–or if you’ve even enjoyed my thousands of posts, articles, photos and guidebooks on Belize throughout the years–please find it in your heart to donate through one of the vetted options listed below. It will go a long way towards helping all the families, particularly in Belize City, who are still in shelters and lost their belongings when Earl either lifted their roof or shattered their cars. It’s still a long road toward recovery, and every dollar helps.

  • Caye Caulker Relief Fund: Launched by the owners of Seaside Cabanas on Caye Caulker, to help local small businesses on the island (with no insurance) get back on their feet.
  • San Pedro blogger Taco Girl lists a few excellent options, including the Belize Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund–scroll to the “Recovery Help” section in her post for details.
  • The Belize Red Cross’ Facebook Page also lists various ways one major shipping company is offering assistance: you can ship donations such as canned goods, clothing, or household items to this courier based in Florida. They also accept shipments of orders from Walmart or Amazon Pantry. If you are mailing to them directly, mark the boxes “Hurricane Earl.” This courier offered the same generous disaster relief services in 2010, after the last hurricane to hit Belize. Full instructions can be found on the Red Cross’ wall on Facebook, but I am including a screenshot here for your ease of reference:

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.09.47 AM

  • Belize Consulate Hurricane Earl Victim Relief: The Embassy of Belize in Washington, DC and all of the Missions and Consulates of Belize abroad have created this page for Belizeans and anyone abroad to donate funds that will go to the most critically affected victims (since supplies take time to ship to Belize).

My heart goes out to all those who were affected by this devastating hurricane. I only wish I were also there to help clean up, aside from making donations. I will be there soon enough this coming Fall to begin work on my Moon Belize guidebook updates–and even though businesses will be rebuilding or relocating, I will do my utmost to make sure no one is left out and I’ll be doubling efforts to keep track of everyone and everything for the next edition. Even if that means returning again after the fall until the last minute possible to my manuscript deadline.

If you have travel plans to Belize, know that it’s absolutely fine to visit at this time. The airport wasn’t damaged (in fact, Westjet just announced new direct flights from Canada to Belize, and Southwest added a flight from Denver), the domestic airlines and water taxis were already up and running within a couple of days, and the various communities are doing their best in cleaning up the mess and devastation of Hurricane Earl. Your visit and presence will go a long way towards boosting morale and supporting the economy when it most needs it. Belizeans are always happy to receive visitors–that’s what makes it such a special place and your stay now even more valuable.

And for all my people in Belize, if there is anything else I can do to help with hurricane relief from my end– or any information I can share with my readers to help, please don’t hesitate to reach out and send me a message. Belize is much more than work for me, as you all know. It’s a piece of my heart.

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