Belizeans were taken by surprise as the 2008 Hurricane Season's first storm in the Atlantic Basin; Tropical Storm Arthur formed Saturday. Churning up incessant rains and flash floods, the storm wreaked havoc across the nation. Up to press time, five persons had succumbed to the storm's wrath and two more had been reported missing in what is being cited as the worst natural disaster in Belize's modern history.

The systems started off as Tropical Storm Alma which took shape in the Pacific Ocean and made landfall last week Thursday over Nicaragua and part of El Salvador. As it made its way thru land and dissipated, Alma resurfaced over warm water and entered the Atlantic. The move from Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, having the system cross over from one body of ocean to another had Alma turn into Arthur, the first storm in the Atlantic for 2008. Arthur's fury packed maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (mph or 65 kph), as it drenched southern parts of Yucatan, Belize and neighboring Guatemala. The government of Belize issued a tropical storm warning for the nation's coast on Saturday, while the government of Mexico issued their tropical storm warning spanning the country from Cabo Catoche south to the border with Belize.

With incessant rain for four days, Tropical Storm Arthur and its aftermath toppled trees, broke down cable wires, displaced roof and zinc sheetings and swept away an unconfirmed number of homes in southern Belize. Reports indicated that some areas received up to 10 inches of rain while others are estimated to have recommodations. The councilors who are a part of NEMO are going around and making sure that everything is being taken care of. It is very important to mention that people should listen to the official reports coming from people in charge." No official word or warning was issued for evacuation of the cayes. NEMO and other committees have been activated as full mobilization of resources became necessary to deal with the emergency situation in those areas.

At a press conference on Monday, June 2nd, in Belmopan, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said it was a terrible loss but they are determined to make sure it won't surprise them again. "This is a national emergency, this is a national disaster. We first of all express condolences to those families that have lost loved ones, to those that have seen lives lost. That is the most naturally unfortunate aspect of this tragedy that has unfolded and that is unfolding. In terms of people that were stranded on rooftops and that sort of thing, that situation is under control. The water in those areas has receded to the point where those people are not in any danger. There are people who as the waters have been receding, have been telling us that they simply are not going to leave their homes and their villages. Boats are actually stationed in Gales Point, in Mullins River, and in Sittee so that we have the situation being constantly monitored and if it appears that there is going to be resurgence, we will press these people again to evacuate and we will have the means for their evacuation," stated Honorable Barrow.

With the devastation caused by Arthur many believed that a fair warning should have been issued by the various government agencies. Minister of NEMO, Honorable Melvin Hulse also spoke to the media and addressed the complaint that "no warning was issued." "Let me just say that we have been accustomed to flooding but nobody expected a flood of this magnitude and certainly we had no warning because these floods are beyond anything we have experienced in the last thirty to forty years. So that is one of the quirks of nature and because of that, as you can see from the picture the Prime Minister showed you and the fact that a bridge like Kendall, as high as it is, and has withstood tremendous floods from the 1989 and 1988, has gone completely in its totality. So the extreme swiftness and the power of a flood that came down. But we've moved on from that. The fact is that the flood came and people lives were affected. The fact is that the rivers have receded but they have not gone down to their original stages. Another night or day of rain can very easily bring the water back up and then that will not recede as quickly. But because we are physically in place, what we experienced today will not be repeated. We have food and clothing in place," stated Minister Hulse.

And, now that Belize is picking up the pieces left behind by Arthur in its wake, The Sun contacted Chief Meteorologist Ramon Frutos to find out more on the status of the 2008 hurricane season. According to Frutos because the air flow remains very unstable, residents should expect more rainfall however, the rains will not be as intense and persistent as what affected the country over the weekend. When asked if the Met Office had given sufficient notice about tropical storm Arthur and its effects on low lying areas, Frutos replied that they had been monitoring the situation since Thursday last and had been keeping NEMO abreast of the situation. On Saturday, the Cabinet Secretary was made aware of the progress of the storm and on that day, after consultation, a tropical storm watch was issued.

Projections for this year's Atlantic hurricane season are for an active six months. Experts are predicting fifteen named storms, eight of which are expected to develop into hurricanes, while two to three will move across the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. The 2008 hurricane season commenced on June 1st and will end on November 30th.