Abaco residents “prepared for the worst”, now relieved

Abaco residents “prepared for the worst”, now relieved
The Abaco Islands post Hurricane Dorian. Photo Credit: Philipp Hübner

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Abaco residents are breathing a sigh of relief that the island has escaped Hurricane Isaias relatively unscathed as the devastation of Hurricane Dorian still haunts them nearly a year later.

The island experienced storm conditions on Saturday, with some heavy rain and winds up to 60 mph, according to reports.

Dorian decimated portions of Abaco and Grand Bahama between September 1-3, killed at least 63 people in Abaco and 13 people in Grand Bahama.

Many Abaco residents are still in the process of rebuilding and repairing their homes with some living in tents and mobile homes, and the island is still without electricity in some parts.

One resident, Cindy Pinder lamented the storm’s untimely passing during the start of the crawfish season.

 “It’s bad timing with this storm and opening day of the crawfish season,” Cindy Pinder said.

“Also, lots of people are living in tents and government employees in camper trailers right now waiting out the storm. Our biggest concern is flying debris doing further damage because there are so many destroyed buildings, rubble and Dorian storm debris everywhere. Heavy winds could be very dangerous with debris flying like shrapnel.”

Cindy added: “Lots of folks suffering PTSD are in a bad state just hearing the wind and rain which triggers dread and fear because Dorian was so scary and traumatic for them. So even though this is likely a tropical storm event for us on Abaco it is terrifying for many.”

Marsh Harbour resident Melinda Pinder has been volunteering with food distribution on the island since Dorian.

She said the island was “blessed” to not get much of the storm.

Recalling her horror with Dorian, she said the experience of another storm was “very scary”.

“We prepared for the worse because after going through Dorian, I think at any time now hen a system is traveling everyone is going to prepare for the worst,” Melissa Pinder said.

Lance Pinder, operations manager Abaco Big Bird, lost his home to Dorian.

He said while the island did not get much impact, the rain was stressful for the operations of the farm.

“It was stressful for us at the farm because the first batch of chickens are mature right now and any kind of stress can cause losses,” he said.

“They should have been prepared for market this weekend. So the weather has caused a delay and l tried to contact the minister regarding opening our processing plant as soon as the weather clears because of the lockdown but l have had no response.”

Mark Roberts, another Abaco resident, said while he beliefs they were lucky to be scared, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the concerns of residents.

He pointed to the ferries, where hundreds of people commute between the Abaco cays.

Roberts explained if one person on the boat is infected, it could possibly spread to everyone else.

However, Jeremy Sweeting, district council chief councilor for Hope Town, Guana Cay and Man-O-War Cay, stressed that the ferry transportations services have complied with local government in the past and have implemented safety protocols.

“If it got to that point, I think we would have a meeting with them, but we don’t feel like we are at that stage yet and we hope we don’t get to that stage,”  Sweeting said.

He noted that the only positive COVID-19 cases in his district of Great Guana Cay is at Baker’s Bay – which is being contained by the company.

“We do take it very seriously,” Sweeting said.

“We are concerned but I think all Abaconians are taking the proper precautions.

“…We are just hoping that at some point we will get back to some sort of normalcy with this pandemic.”

He said they are hopeful that once the pandemic is under control, they will be able to continue to get outside help from international NGOs.

He noted most people were able to stay in their homes or family homes during the storm – however, the shelter on Great Guana Cay has yet to be repaired.