“I thought I was going to die. The house landed on top of me.”
These were the words of Jim Bell who survived Hurricane Dorian. Bell hails from Delray Beach, Florida, but resides on the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas which were pummeled when the storm stalled out overhead for almost two days.
Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas on Sunday, September 1, 2019, with wind speeds clocked at a punishing 185 mph. Yesterday, September 4, officials tallied 20 dead from the monster storm rated Category (Cat) 5. According to the United Nations, 70,000 victims need aid immediately.
Cat 5 hurricanes produce catastrophic damage to well-framed buildings, destroying a high percentage by causing complete roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles isolate residential areas with utility outages that can take months to repair. Most of an area scoured by Cat 5 winds, rain, and storm surge will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
From a plane, the Bahamas resemble a bombing range.
Bell, who was trapped on the floor of his home for about two hours, freed himself and crawled to a shed where he waited out the brunt of the storm:
“I’m banged up, but I’m all right. I was an hour-and-half, two hours in that rubble in 185 [mph winds]. And I crawled out.”
Another Abaco resident, 75-year-old Donnie Carey, reported that he and his wife fled their house and went to that of a friend. The storm surge, which he thought was about 25 feet, forced water “bursting in the bottom of the house.”
The couple decided to leave rather than drown. At that point, a bad situation turned much worse:
“The roof started to peel off. It was unbelievable.”
Robert and Phyllis Cornea, residents in Abaco Islands for more than 50 years, lost their home on Sunday. Robert told CBS Evening News:
“All the main buildings, gone. It’s gone. Everything is gone.”
Phyllis had escaped wearing only the clothes on her back:
“Take a picture of me because it’s all I have left, what you see me in. I’ve been in this [outfit] four days.”
Adrian Farrington was a father who told the tragic story of watching his child, lifted onto the roof for safety, get swept away by the watery surge:
“I still can see my son getting dragged across the roof reaching up.”
Farrington put his son’s survival in the hands of the Lord:
“You had sharks swimming in the water. Anything can happen.”
Nancy Albert lost her home in the Abaco Islands after sheltering in place:
“We opened the door to the bathroom. There was nothing left. It was gone. The house was gone.”
A stunned Chevon Williams described her harrowing experience:
“We went in the bathroom, and we put some mattresses over us and just started praying.”
Josh Morgerman chases hurricanes and said that Dorian was “the most intense cyclone” he had seen in his 28 years of documenting fierce storms. On September 3, he first took refuge in a solid-concrete school in Marsh Harbour, a town in Abaco Islands.
At 3:12 pm on Monday, September 3, Morgerman tweeted:
“Winds pounded the building with the force of a thousand sledgehammers. Crept out during eye to find school mostly destroyed, cars in parking lot thrown around & mutilated. Barometer said 913.4 mb [millibars of pressure].”
A group abandoned the school as the peaceful eye of the hurricane passed overhead:
“Frantically piled into few functioning cars (one of them mine) & relocated to government complex before backside struck. Building filled with terrorized refugees, many who had swam [sic] to safety or abandoned collapsed houses. The calm eye saved lives — gave victims chance to relocate.”
The storm chaser added a third Twitter message which underscores the complete devastation in the Bahamas:
“Whole neighborhoods were swept by mighty surge higher than anything in memory. Areas above water had catastrophic wind damage. Many deaths reported from drowning, flying debris, & collapsing houses. Medical clinic overwhelmed. An absolute catastrophe. SEND HELP TO ABACO ISLANDS.”
On Tuesday, September 4, Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced:
“We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history.”
To help provide aid and support to Bahamian victims of Hurricane Dorian, visit this NBC New York web page for an alphabetized list of charitable organizations which are gratefully accepting donations.