As Hurricane Dorian’s wrath terrorized Abaco, Alfred Russell, 56, a fisherman, was faced with two choices: swim or drown.
So he swam for roughly three hours from Fox Town to Crown Haven – both situated in North Abaco.
Around 1 a.m. on September 1, shortly after he fell asleep on his boat, which was docked at the Fox Town harbor, Russell was awakened by a loud bang.
“I was sleeping,” he told The Nassau Guardian.
“Honestly now, I was in a deep sleep. I didn’t even know the weather had come down because I was resting. When that storm come down and that boat fall on top of me, that’s when I really catch myself.”
Russell added, “The boat sank [and] only the Lord help me get out. I get out through a little window that I pushed on the side for the breeze to come in. It took me about 25 minutes to find the glass. The water was starting to come in.”
It was pitch black outside, he said.
The surrounding areas that were once roads lined with businesses, homes and other establishments – were now submerged in water.
“The land did look like when you out in the ocean,” said Russell.
“All you could’ve seen was like trees. Trees and things [were] all over the place floating and I been there for about three hours trying to get from Fox Town to Crown Haven.
“It took me long.”
Dorian made landfall on Abaco on September 1, with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (mph) and gusts of 200 mph. It is the strongest hurricane to ever hit the northern Bahamas.
Russell described his experience battling the violent storm surge and winds of Dorian as “something I don’t ever want to do again”.
“Man, I was so tired, all I was was tired,” he said.
Russell paused as he recalled the events of that night.
He said he was unable to keep up with the velocity of the winds.
“That just was pushing me around,” Russell said.
“When the rain wasn’t hitting me, the wind was blowing me to the other side of the road as I tried to swim. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy. It was rough.
“Everyone say that I was gone but only the Lord been with me. All kind of things was hitting me. I even knocked up to a car in the road. I thought it was a shark under there.
“I screamed, ‘Oh, Jesus, I gone!’
“But it was car. The car was at the bottom of the water and I bucked up to it.”
During his journey, Russell said, he observed trees and electrical poles bending and falling at Dorian’s mercy.
“I just was watching out so none of the trees or lamp poles did fall on me, because a lot of the lamp poles and things like that had already done fall,” he said.
“All the wires was in the water and I didn’t want to get shocked. When I saw all of the transformers down on the ground in Fox Town, that was frightening.”
Russell arrived to Crown Haven around 3:30 a.m.
He said the roads were unrecognizable because it looked like ocean.
“You couldn’t see nothing,” Russell said.
“When I stopped to my sister’s door, the water was like eight feet. I thought everyone had drowned. She wasn’t home so I swam to another person’s door. That person wasn’t home. I swam down farther to my friend’s house and that was gone. It’s like everywhere I went the water was so high.”
Russell said he was able to seek refuge at his mother’s house on a hill, around 4 a.m.
“If I had to swim for another hour, I wouldn’t have made it,” he said.
Russell said he now experiences nightmares and flashbacks about that night.
“I’m a fisherman and I’m used to the water but right now I’m afraid of the water,” he said.
“Sometimes I have flashbacks so I wouldn’t even go in the water right now…
“You know, when you’re lying down on a pillow, you wake up in that fright and you think it’s still going on.”
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice