Dorian victims in U.S. contemplate coming home

Mercedes Lowe, 44, has lived in Hope Town, Abaco, since 1998.

She is one of many storm victims who sought refuge in the United States following Hurricane Dorian – the strongest storm on record to hit The Bahamas.

Lowe, who is currently living in Cocoa Beach, Florida, said she is unhappy abroad and is eager to return home to assist with reconstruction efforts.

“I don’t want to live here because my house needs to be fixed and that’s why I’m leaving,” she told The Nassau Guardian.

“I’m leaving this week to go to Nassau and then I’m flying to Hope Town to fix my house and see what I can do to move back because I really want to go back home. I miss my house and I want to go back home.”

Lowe said she made the decision to temporarily relocate to the U.S. after the storm so that her 17-year-old, who is a senior in high school, could complete her education without interruption.

“That was the only reason I left,” she said.

“I’m not scared to go back. I’m not scared to work, to clean. I’m not scared to live without a generator, to not have power. That does not scare me. I’m ready to go back at any time.”

Dorian struck Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September, decimating chunks of the islands.

The storm left thousands displaced, hundreds missing and at least 67 dead.

Marsh Harbour, Abaco, was one of the areas worst affected by Dorian.

Candace Malone, 28, was in Marsh Harbour when the storm hit.

Like many residents who experienced the storm in Abaco’s capital, Malone described Dorian’s wrath as “a nightmare.”

“The rain still scares me,” she said.

Malone left Abaco and moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, a week after the storm.

“I am not sure how long I will stay here,” she said.

“I’ve been here seven weeks with a close friend, Sharon Sanders, who has taken me in and been nothing but amazing. I would love to start over here but I have to take it day-by-day…This is the best place for me right now.”

Malone said she wants to return home, but the lack of basic utilities like water and electricity makes it “almost impossible” for her to move back.

Although electricity is expected to be restored to North Abaco by mid-November, Lory Kenyon, 55, said the lack of basic utilities is also one of the things preventing her from returning to Hope Town at the moment.

Kenyon and her 11-year-old daughter moved to Vero Beach, Florida, in the immediate aftermath of Dorian.

But, Kenyon’s husband did not join them.

She said he decided to stay in Hope Town to reconstruct their house and help rebuild the settlement.

“[Abaco] isn’t really a place for kids because they can’t do the heavy labor and stuff like that,” Kenyon said.

“Also, they need to get rid of all the debris and everything before you can have kids running around and stuff like that.”

For this reason, Kenyon said, it is unlikely she will return to the island before summer 2020.

Last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis urged Bahamians who sought refuge in the U.S. following the storm to return to The Bahamas to help rebuild the impacted islands.

“I know that Bahamians were placed in shelters in the Florida area and I would’ve said repeatedly – maybe not with you but with international agencies – that those Bahamians must now return back because the U.S. would’ve given them a certain length of time,” Minnis said.

“…Many of them will be accommodated. If they’re from Abaco, they will be accommodated in the Family Relief Center that we’re constructing and similarly in Grand Bahama.”

Earlier this month, the prime minister said the temporary housing is expected to cost about $6.4 million.

He has said the domes will be in place for at least three years.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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