In the evening hours of Monday October 8, 2001. Hurricane
Iris hit the south of Belize.
The hurricane made landfall near Independence in the Stann
Creek district. At that stage Iris demonstrated sustained
winds of over 140 mph. From Independence, Iris moved in
a WSW course and left Belize less than two hours after landfall.
The resulting destruction was immense as was to be expected
from a hurricane of this
strength. What was immediately clear though, was the relatively
narrow path of the
hurricane. Iris was a small but extremely powerful
hurricane. Unusual was also the
very discrete path of destruction. In total approximately
775,000 acres (310,000 ha)
appear to have been severely affected by the force of the
The level of destruction within the affected area was dependent
on the type of ecosystem. Most severely damaged were the
lowland broadleaf forests, particularly near the coast.
Hill forests were usually severely damaged on the windward
side while seemingly unaffected on the leeward side. Savannas
and pine forests appeared to be affected least of all, with
most pine trees (Pinus caribaea) still standing and
having a more or less intact crown. Other tree
species with apparently a great resistance to the wind forces
exerted here include the Palmetto (Acoelorraphe wrightii)
and seemingly green and intact stands of this species stood
out very clearly in savanna regions all along the coast.
Another species with a great resistance appears to be the
Royal Palm (Roystonea regia), although entirely leafless
in the Monkey River area,
most boles of these palms were still standing.
The entire October 25, 2001 report by Jan Meerman can be
downloaded as a
The long term effects of Hurricane Iris can best
be described as fire risk. This mainly as the result
of the large mass of dry, combustible material. The
1992 dry season was relatively benign and relatively
few forest fires erupted in the areas affected by
the hurricane. 1993 was not so lucky. Early May a
milpa fire near Golden Stream escaped into the Golden
Stream Corridor Preserve (Yaax Che) and quickly
blossomed into a massive forest fire that crept northward
into the hills of the Columbia
River Forest Reserve. The satellite image to the
left was taken on May 9, 2003, 16.45hr local time.
Two smoke plumes are clearly visible in the Golden
Stream/Columbia River areas.