October 31

This Day in History

Disaster

Oct 31, 1961:

Hurricane Hattie strikes Belize

Hurricane Hattie strikes Belize on this day in 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 Caulker Cays 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, the village was rebuilt and renamed Hattieville.

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