Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday issued an emergency evacuation of the Abaco cays and portions of Grand Bahama, warning residents not to “be foolish and brave” amidst the “potentially life-threatening” Hurricane Dorian.
Minnis said emergency evacuations for up to 3,000 residents on the Abaco cays have already begun.
Hurricane Dorian was upgraded to a category four storm shortly after 8:30 p.m.
National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Director Captain Stephen Russell said yesterday that Dorian would pack winds of over 140 miles per hour by the time it makes landfall on Abaco on Sunday morning.
It is projected to then continue west towards, and possibly over, Grand Bahama.
“After consultation with my Cabinet colleagues and with NEMA and the meteorology department, the government has decided to institute an emergency evacuation of residents from the northern cays of Abaco to mainland Abaco,” Minnis said during a press conference at police headquarters.
“We are also urging residents from West End, East End, Sweeting’s Cay and Waters Cay to move to the interior of Grand Bahama.
“For those residents of Grand Bahama and Abaco who wish to leave those islands, flights are being increased.”
He added, “Let me be extremely clear: those who refuse to evacuate, place themselves in great danger from this very powerful and potentially life-threatening hurricane, which will bring dangerously strong and high storm surges, which is one of the greatest threats from a hurricane.
“Emergency personnel and assistance will be unavailable during the immediate impact of the hurricane for those in the projected path who do not evacuate.”
Minnis added, “Do not put your life and those of your loved ones at unnecessary risk. Do not be foolish and try to brave out this hurricane.
“The price you may pay for not evacuating is your life or serious physical harm.”
Russell said that there could be a storm surge of over 15 feet in Abaco and Grand Bahama, which he noted could be exacerbated by a spring tide. Though flights will be available for people wishing to evacuate the islands most at risk, those flights will not be free, Russell said yesterday.
He said that the government is ready for the aftermath of the storm, and noted that the government’s $100 million credit line will be used if necessary.
“This hurricane will produce catastrophic results,” Russell said.
“Therefore, we are urging all residents in the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama to rush the completion of their hurricane preparedness plans, which aim to save lives, minimize injuries, protect livelihoods and minimize the losses and damages to properties and other assets.
“As a result of the possible impact of the hurricane, plans are in motion to evacuate persons from the various vulnerable areas, such as the cays in North Abaco, and the areas of West and East End, Grand Bahama, which are at risk for storm surge and severe flooding. This hurricane is anticipated to produce storm surges in excess of 15 feet.”
He added, “We are urging all residents in islands mentioned to take this hurricane very seriously and cooperate and support your local disaster managers on your respective islands and their teams, and help your neighbors as necessary.”
“The government’s disaster mechanism is on standby, waiting to respond. We tested our response capabilities in the past few months, and we are standing by to respond, and our regional partners are on standby as well as our international partners are on standby to assist us upon request.”
A hurricane warning was in place for the entire northern Bahamas, which includes Abaco, Andros, Berry Islands, Bimini, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera and New Providence.
Minnis warned yesterday that although New Providence seems less likely to bear the brunt of the storm, residents on the island should be sure to make sufficient preparations, as hurricanes can be unpredictable.
“Let me again emphasize that because of the wind speed, rain and expected storm surge, mixed with the spring tide, this is a very powerful and extremely dangerous hurricane,” he said.
“A storm surge of 12 to 15 feet is expected and may be exacerbated by the current spring tide. Flooding poses a great risk to people, property and animals.”
He added, “Let me emphasize to the residents of New Providence that they should begin hurricane preparations because the island is under a hurricane watch and because hurricanes are unpredictable and can shift.”