Rhiannon Thomas, a 47-year-old Grand Bahama native, has lived in Hope Town, Abaco, for more than 20 years.
However, Thomas said she is now preparing to restart her life in the United States – with no intentions of returning home anytime soon – after Hurricane Dorian decimated Abaco earlier this month.
“I’m not sure if I’ll come back,” Thomas told The Nassau Guardian.
“I was telling my friend the other night [that] if I didn’t have a special needs child, if I had two typical children that can attend any school, I think I would’ve gone south. I think I would’ve gone to Exuma. I think I would’ve gone to Eleuthera.”
She continued, “…On the other side, I want to get as far away from the ocean as I possibly can. I want to be inland surrounded by mountains. I don’t want to see water right now. I’m having a real tough time with the water, the sea which is where I grew up and where I was born and raised.”
Thomas said she is “pretty shaken up” in the aftermath in Dorian – a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane with a death toll of at least 50.
She said she is trying to release that fear “and remember the calmness that the water does bring to my soul”.
However, she admitted that that journey has been difficult.
Thomas, whose husband was killed in a motorcycle accident nearly four years ago, described the moments leading up to Dorian as surreal and terrifying.
“Nobody really expected it,” she said.
“We had only really found out the Saturday morning after the last ferry left the island that it had turned into a Category 5.
“And even still, at a Category 5, we were like, ‘It is fine. Hurricane Floyd was a Category 5. We’ll be okay. We’ll get through this.’
“I mean I think that that saying of ‘crippled with fear’ happened probably after that last ferry left. My house was pretty much secured, but I just remembered thinking, ‘Oh my God, I have to ride this out. I have to keep my children safe.’”
Thomas’ ceiling collapsed during the storm. She said no one was hurt during that incident.
When asked to describe Dorian, Thomas said, “The sounds of tornados passing by and the sounds of things hitting the building of the home and the windows flexing and bowing – you just can’t possibly explain unless you’ve gone through it. You just will not be able to explain to anybody who hasn’t experienced it.”
She said it feels as though someone has “dropped a bomb in the middle of your life”.
“I mean I still have friends [that] I don’t even know where they are,” Thomas said.
“I had the opportunity to go back to Hope Town after not being in Hope Town for 48 hours, and it was important for me to find someone who was not on the ground, someone who had energy that would help me secure my house.
“I was able to go back to my house and put tarps on my roof and get rid of toys, books and clothes that were wet and soggy. There was nothing to do with them except to toss them off of my deck. I can’t even say throw them over the railing because I don’t have any more railings left. I just had to literally throw it outside in the yard, and the sight as I drove away.”
She paused before saying, “I put the shutters back up and I walked away from it for right now. There’s nothing else I can do.”