The Miami Herald traveled to Abaco after Hurricane Dorian. This is what we saw
The images coming from the islands of the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian are heartbreaking.
Flooding, debris, collapsed homes. A tropical paradise in shambles.
Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds at 185 mph and gusts of 220 mph hit the island chain hard.
Parts of the Abacos and Grand Bahama islands are under water, hundreds have been rescued but thousands are still missing. On Thursday, the official death count was at 30, but it’s expected to rise as damage surveys begin.
Dorian was the strongest hurricane in modern records to hit the northwestern Bahamas, according to forecasters. The storm is tied with the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to make landfall. The only recorded storm more powerful was Hurricane Allen in 1980, with 190-mph winds, though it didn’t make landfall at that strength.
By Wednesday, according to the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism & Aviation, Dorian had moved out of the Bahamas, which consists of nearly 700 islands, 30 of them inhabited.
The Coast Guard and other search and rescue teams have been deployed, and aid is pouring in from all over, including South Florida. Recovery could take months in some areas, years in others.
Although some islands were severely hit by Dorian, others did not face much of its wrath.
Here is a look at the Bahamas before and after Dorian slowly raged through and uprooted hundreds of lives.
The Abacos are a group of islands and cays that form a 120-mile-long chain stretching over 650 square miles, including its two major islands, Great Abaco (sometimes called Abaco Island) and Little Abaco. Great Abaco is the third most populous and second largest island in the Bahamas, and is known for its yachting.
After Dorian, Great Abaco was “uninhabitable,” residents said. In Marsh Harbour, one of the largest towns on the island, most of the homes were destroyed by the storm.
The Mudd, a poor area near Marsh Harbour that was home to thousands of Haitians, Haitian Bahamians and other migrants, most of them undocumented, is gone.
Errol Thurston, a Marsh Harbour resident who went to Florida days before the storm hit, flew over the island Thursday and said 90 to 95 percent of the island was destroyed. He’s collecting supplies and raising funds for the victims.
“It literally looks like an atomic bomb went off,” Thurston said.
Grand Bahama Island
Grand Bahama is the second most populous island in the Bahamas and home to Freeport, a major city. Grand Bahama also suffered from being in the path of the storm, which flooded shelters and swamped the airport.
All the patient rooms in Rand Memorial Hospital were flooded. Hospital officials said only 10 beds were available, and they were occupied.
The Humane Society of Grand Bahama, built on a 10-foot elevation near the Atlantic Ocean in Freeport, also suffered a major loss — 113 dogs and cats killed after five feet of floodwaters filled its halls during the peak of Dorian’s fury.
On Friday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio also wrote on Twitter that industrial fuel tanks had flooded, causing oil to spill into the sea. U.S. government hazmat teams were arriving soon, but the spills had been contained, he wrote.
Unscathed islands or ones with minor damage
While Hurricane Dorian ripped through Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands along with a few cays, many islands and vacation destinations were not hit or were only lightly affected by the storm.
Islands that were not impacted by Hurricane Dorian remain open and are receiving visitors.
In the Northwest Bahamas, these include the Bahamian capital of Nassau and neighboring Paradise Island, as well as Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Andros, according to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation.
Islands in the Southeastern and Central Bahamas remain unaffected, including The Exumas, Cat Island, San Salvador, Rum Cay, Long Island, Acklins/Crooked Island, Ragged Island, Mayaguana and Inagua.
Although unaffected, the Exumas had many on social media worrying because one of its cays — Big Major Cay — is home to the internationally known swimming pigs.
Cruise line islands
Royal Caribbean said Thursday it hopes to reopen its private island, CocoCay, on Saturday.
Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley told Travel Weekly that inspectors estimated winds reached speeds between 96 and 129 mph and the north side of the island suffered the most damage. The south side was mostly untouched.
Disney’s island, Castaway Cay, which is near Great Abaco, remains closed as it waits for an inspection.
The island was hit with tropical storm conditions and because of this Disney said “we have some cleaning up to do related to landscaping and will need to make minor repairs to the roof of one small covered pavilion area.”
The pier and ship channel need to be evaluated before the island reopens.
Carnival Corp.’s private island, Half Moon Cay, near Eleuthera, received some damage, but all in all, it survived the hurricane. Holland America, a Carnival Corp. Line, posted on Facebook that there was some minor beach erosion but no structural damage, “and the horses and stingrays are all doing well.”
Holland America Line ships are scheduled to return to the island on Oct. 21, starting with the Zuiderdam. Carnival Cruise Line is scheduled to return on Sept. 12.