News

Awaiting fate

J'can on Grand Bahama battens down as new weather system approaches

BY ANIKA RICHARDS
Associate editor — news/health
richardsai@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, September 14, 2019

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NASSAU, The Bahamas — At least one Jamaican in hurricane-ravaged Grand Bahama has battened down ahead of a weather system that is expected to bear down on the islands in north-western Bahamas this weekend.

In fact, the disturbance, which was forecast to become a tropical depression or tropical storm yesterday, according to a 3:00 pm bulletin issued by The Bahamas Department of Meteorology, prompted the department to issue a tropical storm warning.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), at a press conference yesterday, also called for those in Grand Bahama with compromised roofs and damaged buildings to make preparations to move to the designated shelter on that island.

The islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco, both of which were pummelled by killer storm Dorian last week, along with Berry Islands, Bimini, New Providence, Eleuthera, and Andros, are the islands under tropical storm warning.

The Jamaican, Lenworth Smith, who has been living in The Bahamas for the past 46 years, told the Jamaica Observer that he is just waiting.

“The sun is out now, but we are preparing for this bad weather again tonight,” he said yesterday afternoon. “I, myself, have already closed up all my shutters, just sitting here waiting.”

Admitting that the damage to his house was minuscule compared to the devastation he is seeing around him in Grand Bahama, Smith painted a picture for the Observer.

“Here on Grand Bahama, we had, particularly in the eastern end of the island, a lot of damage... People have lost houses, people have lost family members, some of them they have found dead... some they haven't found as yet,” Smith said, explaining that Grand Bahama runs from east to west, with Freeport being 47 miles from the eastern end of the island. Another 25 miles to the west is West End.

“We had a lot of water damage because people had 12, 13, 14, 15 feet of salt water going through their homes,” Smith continued. “In fact, one of the things that really happened, especially at the eastern end of the island, is that the sea from the north met the sea from the south.”

The Jamaican, who is originally from Franklyn Town in Kingston, said having a two-storey house did not make a difference, since people had to be on their roofs or in their ceilings.

“There's a lot of people who had to be saved by boat,” he recalled.

Smith told the Observer that the homes of some Jamaicans in Grand Bahama have been totally destroyed but he has not heard any reports of Jamaicans dying or missing.

At least 50 people have died as a result of the category five storm, with another 1,300 reported missing.

Smith pointed out that people on Grand Bahama have been getting a lot of help, especially from people in south Florida. He said, too, that there is sufficient food and water on the island. “There are some bureaucratic hiccups, but that will happen in the best-run governments,” he said.

Pointing out that the residents have been without potable water since September 1 when Dorian made landfall, Smith said, “We have been surviving.”

“As I tell people, I have been through [Hurricane] Gilbert, but this [Hurricane Dorian] was, to me, in terms of material loss, even worse,” he added. “As I said, we are preparing for whatever this evening brings.”

At the press conference at its Gladstone Road offices yesterday, NEMA spokesman Carl Smith said the agency is taking the necessary precautions in relation to the weather system.

“The weather system will slow down logistics, but we have contingency plans in place,” he said.

In addition to asking people to go to the shelter in Grand Bahama, the NEMA spokesman said provisions were also being made for those in official shelters in the impacted areas.

Director of the Meteorology Department Trevor Basden explained to journalists at NEMA's office yesterday that a tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions could affect the listed islands within 36 hours or less.

“In terms of flooding and rainfall accumulation, yes you would be having pockets of heavy rainfall in the north-west Bahamas and it could produce some flooding, because The Bahamas is flat and the soil is already saturated... it can't take any more water or rainfall, so it will just start to flood,” Basden said.

Ahead of the impending weather system, Edward Pratt, a Bahamian in Grand Bahama, told the Observer that he believes the houses on the island can withstand a tropical storm.

“Our homes that are built legally, according to our construction code, can withstand much. However, we were not prepared [for] or expected the flooding from tide surge during Dorian hovering over us for two days.”

Another Bahamian in Nassau, who spoke to the Observer on condition of anonymity, said her brother was affected by Hurricane Dorian in Grand Bahama but that he was doing okay. She said, however, that she was not worried in light of the new developing weather system, insisting instead that she was trusting God.

“This, too, shall pass,” she said.


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