REMEMBERING: HURRICANE HATTIE 56 YEARS AGO
Hattie formed inside the Caribbean Sea and traveled north towards Cuba. Then, unfortunately for Belize, turned west and tracked directly into Belize City. Hattie's eye had winds of 115 miles per hour with gusts estimated at 200 miles per hour. The eye passed between Belize City and Dangriga causing 307 deaths in Belize City alone. It was this hurricane that resulted in George Price, and the People's United Party (PUP) to relocate their Capital City from Belize City to the safer location of Belmopan. Hurricane Hattie strikes 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.
Hattie first affected the southwestern Caribbean, where it produced hurricane-force winds and caused one death on San Andres Island. It was initially forecast to continue north and strike Cuba, prompting evacuations on the island. While turning west, Hattie dropped heavy rainfall of up to 11.5 in (290 mm) on Grand Cayman. The country of Belize, at the time known as British Honduras, sustained the worst damage from the hurricane. The former capital, Belize City, was buffeted by strong winds and flooded by a powerful storm surge. The territory governor estimated that 70% of the buildings in the city had been damaged, leaving more than 10,000 people homeless. The destruction was so severe that it prompted the government to relocate inland to a new city, Belmopan. Overall, Hattie caused about $60 million in losses and 307 deaths in the territory. Although damage was heavier in Hattie than a hurricane in 1931 that killed 2,000 people, the death toll from Hattie was less due to advance warnings. Elsewhere in Central America, Hattie killed 11 people in Guatemala and one in Honduras.