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Remembering Hurricane Hattie – 56 Years Ago

Hurricane Hattie struck Belize on October 31, 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 Caye Caulker 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, a village was built on the outskirts of Belize City and named Hattieville.

Due to the devastation of Hattie, the government chose to construct the new capital city 50 miles inland on high ground and safe from tidal waves. Because of the severity of the hurricane, the name “Hattie” was retired and will never be used as the name of an Atlantic hurricane again.

Below are some amazing photos of the destruction in Belize City caused by Hurricane Hattie 53 years ago.

Hattie victims line up at Department of Housing and Planning: Office of Central Authority, and Department of Information and Communications.
Old Market in Downtown Belize City
The building in the center was the Royal Bank of Canada, today the Belize Bank. At the rear left of the photo you can see the Supreme Court building with its signature architecture.
The large building on the right with the sign was Belize Estate and Produce Limited.
Not sure where this building was or is in Belize City. Someone has suggested it may be the Peace Corp building… but I really can’t say. Any clues anyone?
Not sure where this one is.
The panoramic scene at the Old Swing Bridge, a crossing still in action…
This building, says CBA engineers Philip Waight and Paul Satchwell, fell down off its posts and ended up partly in the street. Waight’s family home also fell off its posts, he said on The Adele Ramos Show.
This photo is smack downtown in Belize City. The building to the right is Hofius Hardware – to the left is the present-day First Caribbean International Bank on Albert Street.
These men were discussing disaster relief efforts 3 days after Hattie.
On the Barracks… how our ladies did it back in the day and they looked uncomplaining!
Relief via helicopter airlifted to the Memorial Park in Belize City.
All photos and captions courtesy of Adele Ramos:  “The Adele Ramos Show” Belize City.
Author: Adele Ramos – adelescribe@gmail.com
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