Hurricane Richard was the seventeenth named storm and the tenth hurricane of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. Richard developed from an area of low pressure that stalled in the Caribbean Sea in mid-October. It slowly organized, and the National Hurricane Center declared it a tropical storm, giving it the name Richard on October 20, and it did not gain hurricane status until the morning of October the 24th. The hurricane continued intensifying to peak winds of 90 mph (150 km/h), and the minimum central pressure dropped to 981 millibars, thus creating a category 1, borderline category 2 hurricane.
Throughout Belize, Hurricane Richard caused an estimated BZ$49.2 million (US$24.7 million) in damage; BZ$14.5 million (US$7.3 million) to infrastructure and BZ$34.7 million (US$17.4 million) to agriculture. An estimated 200 houses were destroyed or heavily damaged. Only one direct human fatality has been blamed on the storm, when a small fishing vessel sank amidst rough seas in the hurricane. Two indirect fatalities were reported after the hurricane.
While the material damage was relatively low, the damage to natural vegetation was extensive. The private Protected Area Runaway Creek (damage described as "moderate with
with most of the damage consisting of delimbing and defoliation [comm. Steven Brewer]) was in the immediate path of the hurricane. Savanna habitats along the coastal road were largely unaffected, but Oaks sustained heavy damage by being toppled [comm. Alan Graham]. Guanacaste National Park was heavily affected (see pictures). The Belize Zoo, needed to be closed for a full month allowing for repairs.
Damage to wildlife is also apparent with particularly the Spider Monkey populations in the affected areas being heavily impacted. Similarly Toucans have been seen at unusual places since the hurricane and these are certainly refugees. Species such as Toucans and Spider Monkeys depend on fruit for their nourishment and most fruits have been stripped from the trees. While direct mortality was probably not a hugh issue, long term survival and reproductive health of the populations of many species is probably negatively affected for at least this year. Impacted fauna will largely consist of nectar and fruit feeding species such as the Spider-Monkeys and Toucans, but also includes Kinkajous, Fruit eating Bats, Hummingbirds, Curassows, Trogons and others.
Further inland, the Green Hills Butterfly Ranch was affected with many trees down, fortunately, there was no damage to the buildings and the place could be opened to the public within only one day after the hurricane.
Particularly badly hit was the Yalbac forest, although furthest away from the coast it probably suffered more heavy damage than any other area.
During the coming dry season wildfires are going to be a major threat to these hurricane damaged forests.
In April 2011, the number of wildfires started to increase and some of the forested areas within the Hurricane Richard path have been severely affected. These fires raged for nearly 2 months, affecting (nationally)
86,400 ha / 213,500 acres of broadleaf forest. Download the report on the 2011 fire impacts