EducationLifestyles

Mr. Hurricane strikes again

Wayne Neely’s 15th book, “Hurricane Dorian – The Story of the Greatest and Deadliest Hurricane to Impact The Bahamas in the Modern Era”, tells the heartbreaking tale for The Bahamas – particularly the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco – islands that were devasted by the September 2019 storm that caused approximately $3.4 billion in damages to the economy and in which 74 people are recorded as having died.

“Hurricane Dorian: The Story of the Greatest and Deadliest Hurricane to Impact The Bahamas in the Modern Era” tells the story of one of the strongest North Atlantic hurricanes and the strongest Bahamian hurricane with wind speeds of 185 miles per hour – the highest wind speeds for a North Atlantic landfalling hurricane.

In addition, more than 75 percent of all homes on Abaco were either damaged or destroyed.

In East End, Grand Bahama, satellite data suggested that 76 to 100 percent of the buildings were destroyed.

Neely’s newest book includes the meteorological history, records broken, compelling personal recollections, its impact on each island affected, a chapter on climate change and its effects on hurricanes, and the benefits of hurricanes and why we need them.

“Hurricane Dorian: The Story of the Greatest and Deadliest Hurricane to Impact The Bahamas in the Modern Era” was released on Friday, November 25, three years after the devastating monster storm.

“There are a lot of stories that are surprising with this book. I tried to get what was not in the media – a lot of recollections that you never heard before,” said Neely.

“I flew to Grand Bahama and Abaco eight times each to interview people. I got unique perspectives that were not fully documented. It gives a perspective of the impact that it had on each of those societies and islands in a significant way.”

The author and meteorologist/forecaster, who calls Hurricane Dorian the “template storm”, said it will be the one that all future storms in The Bahamas and the North Atlantic region will be judged by.

“Dorian was such a unique and compelling storm. It bought into the forefront the topic of climate change and I go into detail on the impact of climate change and if it played a role on Dorian.”

Readers he said will get to see what top scientists and experts worldwide had to say on the storm.

“There were compelling arguments on both sides. I allow the reader to choose the side they are on,” said Neely.

The meteorologist/forecaster said, in his opinion, that one thing Hurricane Dorian showed was that Bahamians in general do not prepare for hurricanes.

“They don’t take hurricanes seriously and we saw a death toll we hadn’t seen since the 1920s.”

Neely described releasing the book as a “relief”.

“The book was written a long time ago – but right after Dorian, COVID came along, and that actually shut the world down which meant all of the bookstores … commercial centers shut down, so I could not release. Then, I had to give time for the economy to catch itself.”

Neely said having to wait allowed him to “do justice” to the Dorian story which he said continued to unfold in the months following the storm. He said the book faced “a lot of head wind”.

“I wanted to do this book justice. With Dorian, there were so many variables and stories regarding Dorian and today still seeing the outplay, I wanted to incorporate all the stories as possible to give a thorough read of Dorian. It would not have been justice to not include all of those parts. The longer it took, the more I was able to incorporate the various moving parts of Dorian.”

Max Mayfield, former United States National Hurricane Center Director (2000 to 2007) and hurricane specialist, who wrote the foreword in Neely’s book, wrote, “Do you want to know what it is like to go through a Category 5 hurricane? If so, I strongly suggest you read Wayne Neely’s book ‘Hurricane Dorian – The Story of the Greatest and Deadliest Hurricane to Impact The Bahamas in the Modern Era’. Not many people have experienced a Category 5 like Dorian. If you live in a hurricane-vulnerable location, I hope you can substitute a little education in place of such an experience. I can assure you that learning about a Category 5 in this book is far better than personally experiencing such a tempest.”

Before Hurricane Dorian, Neely had almost finished two books – one on the 1933 hurricane season during which there were four named hurricanes that devasted Eleuthera; and another on the greatest and deadliest storms in the United States. He put both books aside to focus his attention on Dorian.

“I needed to put my full commitment and focus on writing Dorian,” he said.

Fifteen books in, Neely said he can’t believe he has penned multiple books.

“When I wrote my first one [book], I didn’t think I would write 15 books.”

He said the trick to it was taking the first step and writing the first one. After that, he said everything fell into place.

“Hurricane Dorian: The Story of the Greatest and Deadliest Hurricane to Impact The Bahamas in the Modern Era” he said should be in all schools and libraries. Further, he said it is a book every Bahamian should have in their collection.

The book is available at Logos Bookstore, Chapter One, all major online bookstores, or from Neely personally.

As devastating as a hurricane can be, Neely’s fascination with the storm system has spawned multiple books on the topic.

“I just love hurricanes because they’re mysterious; and with hurricanes, you’re always left guessing about them. There’s always a surprise with hurricanes,” said the meteorologist and author.

“With hurricanes, there’s always something – it’s like a magician … you never know what’s going to be pulled out of the hat when it comes to hurricanes. There’s always going to be some record that’s broken, some amazing aspect of a hurricane that will always surprise you, so my work is never done.”

Referencing 1988’s Category 5 Hurricane Gilbert that devastated Jamaica as an example, Neely said at the time, it was the most intense hurricane on record with pressure of 888 millibars (atmospheric pressure).

“I remember at the time, the experts saying we would never ever see a storm stronger than Gilbert. And then, in 2005, Wilma came along – Wilma went to a pressure of 882 millibars, with sustained wind speeds of 160-plus, and they said you would never want to see winds stronger than that … and then Dorian comes along with 185-miles-per-hour winds with gusts of 220 miles per hour and 910 millibars,” he said. “Chances are in about 10 to 15 years, we’re going to see another storm that eclipses the record set by Dorian – that’s what’s amazing about it – there’s always something unique … always something to learn about hurricanes.”

Neely has referred to Hurricane Dorian as the storm that wouldn’t give up.

“All the models initially had it forecasted to go over the mountains of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. Dorian had a mind of its own and went further east than all the models predicted; all the experts predicted it would go over the mountains and it would ‘raggy’ the storm, which meant we would only get a tropical storm force or Category 1 intensity storm, at most, not knowing that Dorian had other plans. Dorian moved further east than normal. It didn’t impact Puerto Rico; it impacted more of St. Croix and the U.S. Virgin Islands and they didn’t plan for a major hurricane, and they got the brunt of the storm rather than Puerto Rico and that allowed it to strengthen significantly. And you had two factors – warm sea surface temperatures – which was two degrees above normal – and you also had light winds in the upper atmosphere – which provided growth for the storm. There was little or no wind shear tearing the system apart. So, it allowed Dorian to grow in perfect conditions. It was a perfect environment for a hurricane to form and thrive. There was nothing to stop Dorian.”

Neely’s fascination with hurricanes was piqued during his youthful days growing up in South Andros where he would hear storm stories told by his dad, Lofton Neely, and his grandparents, Benjamin Neely and Jerry Gibson, as well as other older persons in the community. One of the storms they always referenced, he said, was the 1929 hurricane and how impactful it was.

Those stories and encouragement from the late Dr. Myles Munroe motivated him to pen his first book, “The Great Bahamas Hurricane of 1929”.

“It was something I was familiar with,” said Neely. “And I remember them talking about the 1929 hurricane, so I went to my grandfather and told him I’m thinking about writing a book on the 1929 hurricane and he said that was an excellent idea because it was the deadliest hurricane to have impacted The Bahamas, and so I got his recollection. At the time, I was working at meteorology and I went to South Andros to interview persons about it. Many of them I interviewed, a lot of them cried telling me the story. That was many years later and many of them were still feeling the impact of that storm.”

He said 147 people passed away in the devastating 1929 storm.

Neely, who is also an international speaker, hurricane lecturer and educator, has garnered the reputation of being somewhat of a rockstar of hurricanes among the weather set because of his love of weather and weather systems. People in the weather community call him “Mr. Hurricane”.

His earliest memory of living through a hurricane as a youth growing up in South Andros was the Category 1 storm David in 1979, which he said was ferocious and devastating at the time.

“I remember all the winds and rain beating down on my grandmother’s house. And so, after the hurricane, me and my brothers went out in the settlement and saw all these trees blown down, which for us was exciting. We didn’t realize that people’s homes were being destroyed in the meantime in other places. All we knew was that we had gotten a day off from school and we were happy because we didn’t have to go to school.”

Other storms the meteorologist has lived through include Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which hit while he was employed at the Department of Meteorology.

“I was working with Basil Dean, the forecaster at the time, and Andrew started off just like Dorian – a little storm that nobody expected anything out of. And in fact, most of the experts had given it up and said it would dissipate. It was near Hispaniola as well and I remember we were working the night shift. And at the time, we had printers and they kept beating out stories saying Andrew had strengthened and was becoming a major storm. I said boy, this is going to be really rough; this is going to be a bad one.” At the time Andrew hit, it was categorized as a four, but upgraded 10 years later to a Category 5.

He recalled riding out Category 4 Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and Category 1 Hurricane Michelle in 2001.

His fascination with storm systems means he’s able to spout interesting tidbits of information like the fact that New Providence is rarely impacted by a storm due to its geographical location; and that Grand Bahama is the island in The Bahamas most impacted and is at number three on the list of countries and islands in the Caribbean and North Atlantic most impacted. Abaco is listed at number six; and Andros at number eight because of their positioning.

“All the islands are situated north to south. Grand Bahama is situated west to east. It’s like a bigger land space and easier to get hit when you’re from west to east rather than north to south,” said Neely.

He said the listings change from year to year, but currently, Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and Morehead City, North Carolina, in the United States are numbers one and two, respectively.

New Providence is currently at number 57 on the list. Prior to Michelle in 2001 and Matthew in 2016, the last major hurricanes to score direct hits on New Providence were in 1933 and 1929.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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