Last October around this time, Hurricane Keith slammed into the Central American country of Belize with 140 mph winds as it was the most powerful hurricane of the 2000 Hurricane Season.
Well, this year, the Central American country formerly a British colony, was hit again as Hurricane Iris came a calling this week with its 140 mph winds as it became the most powerful Atlantic hurricane of the 2001 Season to date.
Despite being small in stature, Iris brought devastating conditions to coastal towns throughout Southern Belize, and also brought heavy rains and gusty winds to other Central American countries such as Guatemala and Honduras before moving into Eastern Mexico.
About five days ago, what would become Hurricane Iris had emerged as a tropical depression in the Western Atlantic near the Windward and Leeward Islands. Over the next several days, Iris would go through some struggles in its development, but once it got past the island of Jamaica in the Caribbean on Sunday, things would rapidly change.
From Sunday night, October 7th, 2001, when Iris just had winds of 90 mph to its landfall in Belize at around 11 PM EDT on Monday night, October 8th, Hurricane Iris developed into such a monster that it registered as the strongest hurricane of the 2001 Atlantic Hurricane Season. A few hours earlier, the hurricane's winds had reached 145 mph despite the hurricane force winds only stretching some 15 miles out from the center of the small tropical system.
It would be the second time in a year that the country of Belize in Central America that lies south of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. As a matter of fact, it made landfall almost a year to the day that Hurricane Keith slammed into Northern Belize near Belize City with 140 mph winds. However, Keith was a much larger system, and had quite an impact on that area.
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Belize always seems to get hit with powerful storms. Back in 1961, Hurricane Hattie lashed what was the capital of Belize City, and forced the government there to move the capital inland to Belmopan, away from the coast, and future devastating hurricane landfalls. Last year, Hurricane Keith devastated the small barrier island of Caye Caulker, a few miles from the Belize coastline.
This time, Iris caused damage to the south near the city of Monkey River Town, and may have even impacted lives of Americans as 20 people that were on a diving expedition from Virginia are feared dead. Apparently, the dive boat, the MV Wave Dancer, capsized under the weight of the ferocity of Iris. There were a total of 28 people on board at the time the storm hit some 80 miles to the southwest of Belize City.
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In addition, many coastal towns in the area were devastated by the storm's effects as seas rose between 13 and 18 feet above normal. Many homes were lost in the town of Placencia, which is a resort village specifically for fishing. Most of the homes affected, if not all, were constructed of wood with stilts to support them, which is not strong enough to withstand the wrath of Iris. Other portions of Central America and Mexico were hit hard too by the storm as Iris lashed places such as Guatemala and Honduras received heavy rains and gusty winds as well.
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