Hurricane Keith  28 Sept - 04 Oct  2000

Hurricane Keith approaching the Yucatan Penninsula at 2227z on
September 30, 2000. Satellite image from NOAA

Selected tracking maps from the The US Navy Atlantic Met site of Hurricane Keith
approaching the Yucatan Penninsula.
Warning 05
Warning 07
Warning 08
Warning 09
Warning 10
Warning 11

I spent a week in Puerto Rico tracking the progress of Hurricane Joyce and annoying the airlines by making and cancelling flights to nearly every Caribbean Island as Joyce meandered on its course lining up one island and then another and then finally diminishing to a tropical storm. By September 30 it was becoming apparant that another storm, Keith, was intensifying and heading towards the Yucatan Penninsula. I flew into Miami and then onto Cancun on the first morning flight. The rental firm suspected that I was going to chase the hurricane when I insisted on getting a four wheel drive vehicle. ( this did prove useful later on)
By this time, 0830 hrs on the 1st of October Keith was a CAT 4 hurricane  packing winds of 130mph, gusting to 160mph (210 to 249kmh). Hurricane warnings were being posted all along the coast from Belize northward.
Communications were a problem and it was not possible to access the internet at all until I found an internet cafe in Talum. It was filled with tourists all looking for information on Keith, which at that stage was coming this way. One of the people in the cafe, an American on holiday from Hawaii, decided to come with me and left his brother and girlfriend behind who did not want to be in the hurricane. We drove south to Chetumal, on the border with Belize. By this time, Keith had virtually stalled just off the coast of Belize, it stayed this way for nearly 24 hours, during which time the town of San Pedro on Ambergris Cay, an island off the Belize coast stayed in the eye wall of Hurricane Keith for nearly 24 hours !
During this time I overheard  dramatic ham radio reports coming from San Pedro describing 125mph winds and houses being demolished.
These 24 hours were very frustrating for me because Chetumal was as close as I could get to the action, the border into Belize was closed and they would not let anyone in, aside from that all the roads were impassable anyway. By October 03 Keith had weakened to a tropical depression and started to move across the Yucatan Penninsula toward Escarsega. I witnessed many similar scenes of chaos, people who were already living in poverty and who had virtually nothing rushing to save themselves, their few possessions and their animals from the flooding. I read reports in newspapers describing rainfalls of 27 inches or 700mm before Keith moved out over the Gulf of Mexico and reintensified, making landfall just north of Tampico, Mexico as a strong CAT 1 hurricane.
I was unable to get to Tampico because all the airports were closed, airports further afield were open but the distances made it too difficult. I did hear a report of a plane with 60 people on board crashing in Mexico in heavy rain, six people died. I am unsure if this was attributed to Keith. The Yucatan Penninsula is famous for it's many Mayan ruins and a visit to Chichen Itza was a must,              (the Mayans knew how to build hurricane proof buildings)
The final end to a very frustrating hurricane chase was the arrival in Miami in the middle of a violent thunderstorm, we were the last plane allowed to land and we had to sit on the tarmac for two and a half hours only 30 feet from the gate because of "avaition rules prohibiting the ground staff from working during a thunderstorm,  we are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause !!!"

Geoff Mackley  07 October 2000.

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