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Grand Bahama faces ‘life-changing’ storm

As the eye of Hurricane Dorian made its slow and destructive crawl across Abaco yesterday, Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson said Grand Bahamians were braced for what is projected to be a “life-changing” storm for many residents on the island.

He called on Bahamians far and wide to pray for them, as conditions on the island began to deteriorate around 5 p.m. Hurricane Dorian pounded Great Abaco for most of yesterday, laying waste to multiple homes and structures and was expected to unleash its fury on Grand Bahama overnight and into today.

Thompson, who had taken refuge in one of the shelters on the island, said the reports of destruction that came out of Abaco were “sobering” for many Grand Bahamians.

“We are bracing for what will be a devastating Category 5 hurricane in Grand Bahama,” he told The Nassau Guardian hours before the storm was projected to make landfall.

“This is a historic storm, one that we have never experienced before.

“We have taken precautions as best as we can. We have given out all of the evacuation orders. Administrators and police went door to door throughout entire communities from East End to West End and provided bus transportation for those who needed to evacuate.

“A number of persons have taken advantage and we have about 400 plus persons at the moment in the shelters,” he continued.

“We expect that number to increase.”

At 3 p.m. yesterday, authorities closed the Fishing Hole Road, which connects the western part of the island to the eastern end. Large boulders were placed across the roadway.

“The police made that decision along with NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency) for the safety of the citizens,” Thompson explained.

“So those persons who are on the western side, they will have to ride out the storm on that side, and those people in Freeport, will have to ride the storm on that side.”

Packing winds up to 185 mph yesterday, Dorian is the strongest storm ever to hit the northwestern Bahamas. Winds have since decreased to 165 mph, but Dorian remains a dangerous category five storm. In its 8 a.m. advisory today, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the core of extremely dangerous Hurricane Dorian will continue to pound Grand Bahama Island through much of today and tonight.  The hurricane will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast tonight through Wednesday evening.

The NHC projected that a life-threatening storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 18 to 23 feet above normal tide levels.

“Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves,” NHC warned.

“The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.”

Despite the ferocity of the storm, some people in low-lying areas refused to evacuate yesterday, Thompson said.

“A firm, strong plea has been made to them,” he said.

“In the height of the storm, the emergency personnel will not put their lives at risk in order to come out to attempt to save them.

“So, we have given the final plea, the final warning, provided free transportation in order to evacuate those who chose to evacuate.”

Homes and businesses across the island were boarded up by early yesterday afternoon, as residents waited for the catastrophic storm to make landfall. The streets were a virtual ghost town by 3 p.m.

However, a few businesses remained open late into the evening.

“This is going to be a life-changing storm for many Grand Bahamians,” Thompson said.

“So, we are asking the country to pray for us. We remain prepared, but also prayerful.”

Dorian comes nearly three years after Hurricane Matthew in 2016 wreaked havoc across Grand Bahama. That storm resulted in the closure of the Grand Lucayan resort.

The island never quite recovered since the back-to-back storms of 2004. Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne left a trail of destruction, resulting in the closure of the Royal Oasis resort in Freeport.

In 2005, Grand Bahama was battered by Wilma.

Many residents feared another significant episode as a result of Dorian.

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Krystel Brown

Krystel covers breaking news for The Nassau Guardian. Krystel also manages The Guardian’s social media pages. She joined The Nassau Guardian in 2007 as a staff reporter, covering national news. She was promoted to online editor in May 2017. Education: Benedict College, BA in Mass Communications

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