"We are expecting (Hurricane Iris) to hit very hard, we are in a state of emergency."
Arreini Palacio
Belize government spokeswoman

While the evacuation was optional in Belize City, officials said it was mandatory for some coastal towns farther south and for offshore cayes popular with tourists.
Associated Press

"(Hurricane Iris) is an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane. This is going to cause extensive damage wherever it makes landfall."
Richard Knabb
U.S. National Hurricane Center, Miami

Hurricanes are one of the most dangerous natural hazards to people and the environment. Every year, immense damage is done by hurricanes and other similar tropical storms.

Hurricanes originate off the coast of Africa. When the storm system's winds reach 25 mph, it is designated as a Tropical Depression. The depression gathers strength from warm air rising off the water of the Caribbean, pressure increases and thunderstorms become stronger. When its winds reach 40 mph the depression becomes a Tropical Storm.

A Tropical Storm is given a name by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. During this phase, the weather system typically exhibits tremendous growth. Bands of clouds begin to wrap more tightly around the center. The area of low pressure becomes well-defined. An eye wall begins to form and winds increase to hurricane strength. At 74 mph, a tropical storm becomes a Category One Hurricane.

At 95 mph, the hurricane reaches Category Two status. This storm is capable of causing significant damage; bringing winds that could uproot trees, utility poles, tear up roofs, and shatter windows.

Upon reaching winds of 111 mph, the system is classified as a Category Three Hurricane. It is capable of producing major damage to life and property. Its storm surge can range between nine to twelve feet, depending on its location and the phase of the tide.

A hurricane must reach winds of over 130 mph to achieve Category Four status. Storm surge ranges from 13 to 18 feet. Signs are blown down, houses are extensively damaged, mobile homes are completely destroyed. Winds are capable of picking up cars and boats. Flooding can occur as far as six miles from the coast.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) maintains a continuous watch on tropical cyclones in the Atlantic from June 1st through through November 30th. The Center prepares and issues forecasts, watches and warnings within text advisories and graphical products. Although many countries issue their own warnings, they generally base them on direct discussions with, and guidance from, the NHC.

All times given in Belize Time

Thursday, Oct. 4, 2001

  • Tropical Depression 11 forms over the windward islands 35 miles east, southeast of St. Vincent.  The depression is moving west, northwest at 18 mph.  Heavy squalls are expected over Lesser Antilles.

Friday, Oct. 5, 2001

  • Tropical Depression 11 becomes Tropical Storm Iris in the eastern Caribbean and gains strength as it churns toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
  • At 6:00 pm, Iris is 240 miles southeast of Santo Domingo, moving north-northwest at 18 mph and carrying maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. Tropical storm force winds extend 105 miles from the storm center.
  • The National Hurricance Center tracking models predict Iris will hit the Yucatan Peninsula/Belize.

Saturday, Oct. 6 , 2001

  • Hurricane Iris hits the Dominican Republic as a Category 1 hurricane.  Three people are killed in a landslide caused by the torrential rains.  The island receives 3 inches of rain and storm surges of 4 to 5 feet.
  • Iris heads for Jamaica. The hurricane's winds increase to 85 mph with higher gusts by 11:00 pm.
  • Jamaica and Cuba issue hurricane warnings, the Cayman Islands issues a hurricane watch.
  • National Hurricane Center predicts Iris will become a major hurricane.

Sunday, Oct. 7, 2001

  • National Hurricane Center tracking models predict Iris could move south of due west.
  • Hurricane Watch issued for the Yucatan peninsula and southward. Honduras and Guatemala to the south of Belize issue hurricane warnings.
  • At 9:00 am the center of Hurricane Iris is located 680 miles east of Belize City, Belize. Hurricane Iris continues to move toward the west near 18 miles per hour, with maximum sustained winds near 85 miles per hour.
  • The hurricane is forecast to strengthen over the next twenty-four hours and forecasters warn that Iris may move south or due west.
  • The center of Hurricane Iris is located near latitude 17.3 degrees north and longitude 81.3 degrees west or about 455 miles east of Belize City.
  • 8:37 pm (according to IMMARBE Report) NEMO declares a Hurricane Warning for the entire country of Belize and advisies the public to begin evacuation of coastal areas by first light the next day. . The NEMO declaration and current weather reports are all relayed to the public in Belize by Love FM & KREM virtually concurrently with their issuance.

Monday, Oct. 8, 2001

  • Thousands of residents and tourists flee low-lying coastal regions of Belize as Hurricane Iris, the year's most powerful Atlantic storm, drives toward the coast with 145-mph winds.
  • Iris is strengthening rapidly and moving west at 20 mph towards Belize.  Honduras and Guatemala issue hurricane warnings.  The hurricane warning remains in effect in Belize as people are evacuated to emergency shelters. Maximum sustained winds increase to 110 mph with a predicted storm surge at 10 feet above normal tide level.

  • 6:00 am – NEMO declares that Belize is now under Red II Hurricane Warning for the entire country as Hurricane Iris intensifies and moves toward the coastline.  With maximum sustained winds of over 140 miles per hour, Iris is now classified as a Category Four hurricane, and is considered extremely dangerous.  Forecasters expect Iris to make landfall in southern Belize sometime later that day. The NEMO declaration and current weather reports are all relayed to the public in Belize by Love FM & KREM  virtually concurrently with their issuance.
  • The National Hurricane Center in Miami (NHC) issues a warning that “Iris is and extremely dangerous category four hurricane, the strongest of the season and expected to make landfall tonight.”
  • 9:00 am - National Hurricane Center reiterates that a hurricane warning remains in effect for Belize and is expected to begin to move south of due west. The NHC predicts coastal Belize will experience a storm surge of 13 to 18 feet above normal tide levels with huge, dangerous battering waves and that the hurricane is expected to turn south to southwest.
  • 12:00 pm – NHC Bulletin warns that a small but extremely dangerous Iris is heading toward southern Belize. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion. Iris is located 165 miles east-southeast of Belize City and moving south of due west.
  • 3:00 pm - Hurricane Iris is expected to hit the coast within hours as an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane. NHC Bulletin warns that “landfall of extremely dangerous Hurricane Iris only hours away. Preparations to protect life and property should have been completed. Mexico discontinues its hurricane watch. The bulletin further states that Iris remains east-southesast of Belize City and is moving south of due west. Iris is expected to make landfall as a category four hurricane that night.
  • 5:00 pm - The center of Hurricane Iris is located near latitude 16.8 north, longitude 86.9 west or about 105 miles east-southeast of Belize City, Belize. Iris is moving toward the west near 22 mph, and a motion just south of due west is expected prior to landfall. On the projected track, the center is expected to make landfall on the coast of central and southern Belize Monday night.
  • 6:00 pm NHC Bulletin warns that landfall of extremely dangerous hurricane iris only hours away southeast of Belize City. Hurricane force winds extend outward upt to 15 miles from the center and tropical force winds extend outward up to 145 miles.
  • 7:45  pm - Hurricane Iris, packing lethal 140 mph maximum sustained winds, slams into Monkey River and Big Creek Harbor.
  • 8:30 pm - Storm surge flooding of 13-18 feet above normal tide levels and large dangerous battering waves occur near and to the north of the crossing of Hurricane Iris over the Belize coast at 16.55N and 88.48W.
  • 9:00 pm - Belize radar shows that the center of Hurricane Iris is inland and located near latitude 16.4 north, longitude 88.7 west or about 80 miles south-southwest of Belize City, Belize, or about 15 miles west-northwest of Monkey River, Belize. Iris is moving toward the west near 22 mph, and this motion is expected to continue for the next 24 hours. An NHC Bulletin confirms this information.

Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2001

  • Iris crosses over Guatemala and destroys hundreds of houses before weakening to a tropical depression. The remains of the storm drift into the Pacific Ocean

Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2001


  • Highest winds were recorded at 145 miles per hour.
  • Highest wind gusts were recorded at over 175 miles per hour.
  • Lowest barometric pressure recorded at the surface was 27.55 inches/934 mb.
  • Was the ninth named storm of the 2001 season
  • Made landfall along the coast of central Belize
  • Very small but concentrated storm with the area of strongest winds only 15 miles across
  • Caused 12 to 18 inches to fall in Louisiana
  • Produced flooding and heavy damage in southern and central Belize as well as parts of the Yucatan in Mexico
  • Caused several million dollars in damage
  • Caused 20 deaths
  • Most powerful storm of the 2001 season
  • PDF of Iris coordinates


National Hurricane Center
World Meteorological Organization

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