Hurricane Dorian made a dramatic and terrifying landfall in the Abacos early yesterday with devastating impacts, before taking aim at nearby Grand Bahama.
As the Category 5 storm — the strongest on record to hit the northern Bahamas — pummeled the mainland and surrounding cays, videos of the destruction quickly circulated, showing residents running for their lives and pleading for prayers.
Drone footage revealed a great portion of South and Central Abaco under water and wide-scale damage to structures.
As the storm rolled in, officials said a surge of up to 23 feet was expected. Dorian struck Abaco with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (mph) and gusts over 200 mph.
Some areas were left flattened, including docks, houses, resorts and other businesses.
“This is a deadly storm and a monster storm,” Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis observed.
Images depicted the flooded Mudd shantytown. Others showed residents moving hurriedly across an open lawn toward the government administration building in Marsh Harbour.
A Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) officer shouted at them to drop their belongings and run.
In one video, scores of residents were crammed into a home in Marsh Harbour as houses around them were flattened. The roof of the home they went to for shelter was compromised even before the back of the storm roared in.
“Marsh Harbour is finished; there is no more Marsh Harbour,” one resident declared.
Another resident claimed in a voice note circulated via social media, “My mother’s house is completely gone and my grandmother’s house. Marsh Harbour is gone, the Home Fabrics building has water up to the second story. There are countless homes destroyed, the whole town has been flattened. Green Turtle Cay has apparently been flattened, Man-O-War Cay has gotten it pretty rough but everybody seems to be accounted for. There is no such thing as the Mudd and Peas anymore, everything is gone.”
One woman, who had to be rescued with her four-month-old son, was among those who sought refuge there.
Earlier, she cried out for prayers as the water level rose and Dorian destroyed her home.
The slow-moving storm spent the entire day unleashing its fury over Abaco.
A Treasure Cay homeowner based in New Providence said without a doubt her family’s home was gone.
“We don’t care about the home,” she said. “We care about the lives of our people.”
Just after noon, Minnis, who cried after addressing the nation, said yesterday was the saddest and the worst day of his life and prayed it was not the last time that residents in the Abacos and Grand Bahama would be hearing from him.
Although Minnis had repeatedly appealed to residents of the Abaco cays to evacuate, many stayed.
In Guana Cay, only eight people boarded a free ferry that came to collect evacuees on Saturday morning, The Nassau Guardian understands.
One resident said many people did not evacuate because they had nowhere to go in Marsh Harbour. He said he was confident his “well-built home” would withstand the hurricane.
Residents who were transported from Grand Cay to Grand Bahama early yesterday said more than 100 opted to remain.
With the storm still pounding Abaco into the night, it was impossible to get a full assessment of its destruction, but in Nassau, Princess Margaret Hospital prepared to receive casualties. The hospital made an urgent appeal for blood of all types yesterday evening.
The Ministry of Health said there were no reports of deaths.
While some Abaco residents were able to capture and share videos of the nightmare unfolding around them, cellular service went down for many around midday.
Some people who were still able to, sent videos begging for help.
News teams that were stationed at the Abaco Beach Resort had to be evacuated in the middle of the storm.
A cameraman pleaded for help as their hotel room began to flood.
Vehicles flipped over in the strong winds, and others seemed to be on the verge of washing away in the storm surge.
When residents ventured out of their homes to assess damage in the calm of the eye of the storm, they found unbelievable ruin. Homes that had been standing and filled with life only the day before, were completely flattened.
One young woman who had earlier called for prayers, photographed the location where her home once stood. The structure was gone.
Entire roofs were blown away, leaving the most intimate spaces in people’s homes exposed to the harsh elements. Insulation hung from ceilings that were no longer intact. Debris was strewn throughout the buildings and on the outside.
The flooded areas of Marsh Harbour made it impossible to discern where the sea and land would usually meet. Rubbish from damaged buildings drifted through spaces usually reserved for vehicles and people.
On Elbow Cay, where Dorian first made landfall, residents reported that Abaco Inn lost several villas, Sea Spray Resort and Marina was “leveled” and Hope Town Harbour Lodge had collapsed.
As the rest of the country observed the events playing out in Abaco in stunned disbelief, Grand Bahamians, many of whom were already psychologically scarred from multiple hurricanes over the years, braced for Dorian.
“Now is the time to pray,” said Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson, predicting that Dorian will be a life-changing storm for residents.
“And if you don’t know how to pray, now is the time to learn.”