Tue | Aug 11, 2020

‘SURREAL DORIAN’ - J’can family safe after dashing to shelter as hurricane kills 7 in The Bahamas

Published:Wednesday | September 4, 2019 | 12:10 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
In this photo taken on Monday, boats litter the area around a marina in The Bahamas after they were tossed around by Hurricane Dorian. At least sevendeaths have been reported.
In this photo taken on Monday, boats litter the area around a marina in The Bahamas after they were tossed around by Hurricane Dorian. At least sevendeaths have been reported.

Jamaican Patrice Moore has been living in Freeport, Grand Bahama, since September 2007.

The Jack Hayward Junior High School music teacher told The Gleaner that it was her first time experiencing a Category Five hurricane when Dorian slammed The Bahamas this week. It was unlike anything she had experienced before.

“My earliest recollection of going through a hurricane was Hurricane Gilbert in Jamaica, and back then, it was a category three. And as a child, that was devastating, but this is a whole different level of devastation,” Moore told The Gleaner yesterday.

The fierce weather system, which began pounding The Bahamas late on Sunday, inflicted most of its damage in the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, leaving at least seven people dead, with Prime Minister Hubert Minnis telling citizens at a press briefing last night to “expect more deaths”.

“It is relentless,” Moore said of the battering as she spoke with our news team yesterday. “We’re still having high winds and heavy rain. It’s just real excruciating to go through this. It’s moving painfully slow and causing so much damage in its path.”

While her home did not suffer any major damage, parts of her shingle roof blew off, causing a leak in the kitchen.

“Grand Bahama is very flat. There are no mountains or hills here, just very tiny slopes, and what it has done is cause storm surges of up to 15, 20, 25 feet of seawater to come and just totally inundate communities here,” she said.

The former member of the Katalys gospel band said that on Monday night, she fled her home for fear of flooding.

“I had neighbours who were just two or three blocks away from me who were totally flooded out, and neighbours below me who were flooded out. I was advised by the police that it would make sense for me to get out before the floodwaters came up on me,” the teacher said.

Moore hurriedly packed an evacuation bag and made a dash for a shelter with her two sons. But getting to the church, which was on a slope nearby, would not be an easy feat.

“It was difficult for me to get out [of] the house because of how strong the winds were, and it was very treacherous driving through water to get to the shelter, and when I got there, I was there for quite a while before I was able to get out of the car because of how strong the winds were,” she explained.

“My sons are 16 and seven [years old]. They experienced Hurricane Matthew three years ago, yet this experience was a lot more traumatic, especially going to the shelter. I think, for them, that’s when it became surreal. My younger son was so nervous, he kept saying his stomach was trembling and hurting,” Moore said.

They spent the night at the shelter and returned home yesterday to survey the damage.

“I have pretty much lost all the trees in my yard. I had a number of fruit trees, especially mangoes – mangoes I had brought from Jamaica.. I had a Julie tree, I had an East Indian mango tree, and they are all down,” she said.

Still, she acknowledged that things could have been much worse.

“Most of the communities to the north of me are totally flooded out. They have had to be rescuing people with jet skis and boats and they’ve been asking for persons to lend their life jackets and boats ... . A Jamaican family had to be rescued ‘cause they were hiding in the roof, sheltering in the roof to avoid drowning in their house.”

The music teacher said she should be heading back to school shortly.

“I foresee them opening pretty soon, even though they are in one of those flooded areas, but because they are on a little hill, I heard that they are not as flooded as some of the others.”

Though the hurricane has affected communication in the country, Moore said she has been able to keep in touch with other Jamaican teachers and church members via WhatsApp.

Moore said her family in Golden Valley, St Catherine, has been in communication with her since Dorian was reported as a threat to The Bahamas.

“They have been worried sick, especially last night (Monday), when I had to leave the house to go to the shelter. This whole experience has been almost like a family reunion for me. I have heard from relatives all over the world, who kept calling to check to see how I was doing. They were buying me credit to be able to stay in touch with me for long,” Moore revealed, adding that her family is close-knit.

Executive director of the Association of Bahamas Marinas and former director of tourism for the Jamaica Tourist Board, Basil Smith, who lives in Nassau, said they had been getting the tail end of the hurricane.

“Some days, very cloudy and then some days, heavy rain ... . We had a day without electricity – an islandwide blackout yesterday (Monday), but that seems to have now been resolved. Social media has proven to be the most useful medium of communication during the crisis period of the storm,” he said.

Smith said the hospital in Grand Bahama has had to be abandoned and there were reports that raw sewage was flooding the floors.

“The devastation on Abaco is absolutely catastrophic. There is no other word for it,” Smith summed it up.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com