The slow moving Hurricane Dorian was in the Bahamas for over 24 hours. While much of the island chain was outside of its path, two areas were hit extremely hard: the Grand Bahama Island and Abacos. Dorian had downgraded to a category 3 hurricane by the time it approached the United States, but it spent much of its time as a devastating category 5. In the Bahamas, it produced winds well over 100 MPH, and caused widespread flooding and destruction.
Now that the hurricane has passed, a population of 70,000 has been displaced — and the tourist industry is likely to experience irreparable harm. Here is what happened to the island chain:
The Grand Bahama Airport Under 5 Feet of Water
News reports from the Bahamas show that nearly half of Grand Bahama Island is under deep, standing water, with only the roofs of houses being visible in some areas. In some areas, the water is two stories higher than normal, leaving entire buildings submerged. The structural damage is severe, with some buildings having been completely destroyed, and other structures slowly degrading underneath the standing water.
The Red Cross and the United Nations have been working in the Bahamas to help mitigate some damage. Volunteers have been collecting and housing animals, including the strays that lived on the island. But the slow-moving storm was situated over the small island chain for a day and a half, and many people are still missing or displaced. People are still trapped inside of flooded homes, or trying to find their family members. About 60,000 of the people in the islands need food and water.
Death Toll at 5, But Could Still Increase
The confirmed death tool of Hurricane Dorian is at five, but officials believe that this number could climb. Presently, people are missing, and have not yet been confirmed to have passed. Most of the confirmed deaths were witnessed by others. The rubble and debris on the ground makes it difficult to confirm who may have been injured or killed, and the recovery efforts are still ongoing.
Due to the flooding that still persists, rescue efforts are challenging. Roads are either blocked by flooded vehicles or submerged themselves. As the waters begin to subside, relief efforts will persist, and will hopefully become more effective. Water damage, not wind damage, is the primary concern. The wind has subsided, but the water damage persists.
After a flood, flood waters become a hazard. Not only do they tend to be filled with harmful bacteria, which can cause illness or even death, but they also cause significant structural damage. Areas will break down, mold, and mildew, and many structures will likely need to be knocked down even if they’re still standing. The water makes it dangerous for rescuers to go into existing structures, as the structures could collapse at any time.
Tourism May Never Be the Same
With the impact of Dorian being so incredibly devastating, it’s easy to conclude that tourism is going to be impacted for a long time to come. The Bahamas has a primarily tourist-based economy, which means it may struggle to get itself back on economically firm footing after this disaster has passed. Relief organizations have advised donors that the best time to give money to the relief efforts isn’t now, but rather later, when the country is struggling to correct itself economically.
Tourism accounts for 60% of the economy of the Bahamas, but luckily only about 15% of the country’s hotels were impacted. Still, it’s believed that the impact of Hurricane Dorian is likely to persist for at least a few seasons, especially with the airport being one of the major areas that suffered from impact. While the majority of the islands in the Bahamas fared much better, much of Grand Bahama Island is still under water.
Hurricane Dorian was one of the most severe storms in recent memory, not only because of its high winds, but also because it was so slow moving. As a slow moving storm, it was able to contribute to widespread devastation and flooding. It may take years for the Grand Bahama Island and Abacos to recover, during which time the tourist industry throughout the area is likely to experience a downturn.