NASSAU, Bahamas – One year ago Tuesday, Bahamians watched nervously as Hurricane Dorian inched closer to the northwestern Bahamas.
The monster Category 5 hurricane packing tropical storm force winds 140 miles outward from the 17-mile wide eye. The horrifying satellite imagery showed the approaching hurricane had a well-defined eye, resembling that of a stadium.
Dorian made landfall at Elbow Cay on Great Abaco Island as the most powerful tropical cyclone to ever hit the Bahamas on record.
At 12:40 p.m., sustained winds of 185 mph and winds gusting over 200 mph battered the island for what would seem like an eternity. The slow-moving hurricane crawled over the Bahamas, pounding Abaco and Grand Bahama Island with tropical storm force winds for three days.
Eyewitness accounts to the National Hurricane Center indicated at least 20-foot storm surge in addition to more than 20 inches of rainfall recorded at Hope Town.
Jamal Gray, a college friend of News 6 meteorologist Samara Cokinos and pilot in Nassau, recalled flying over Marsh Harbour and Freeport a few days prior to Dorian. Flying by a week later Gray said was surreal.
“Seeing the damage gave me goose bumps. I could not imagine going through that storm,” he said, comparing the damage to “something out of a war movie”.
Pictures and videos flooded news outlets. Where there was once land was now water. More pictures can be seen here.
The Health Minister of the Bahamas had reported more than 200 lives lost in Dorian. An estimated $3.4 billion in catastrophic damage was reported mainly in Abaco as well as the eastern portion of Grand Bahama Island. There are still people missing today.
Gray said he was lucky. His home damage free, but that wasn’t the case for his cousin. Her home was completely demolished. Only the foundation marked the area where her home once stood in Freeport.
NOAA reports show over 29,000 people were left homeless and/or jobless. Three quarters of the homes in Dorian’s path were damaged or swept away.
A year later, slow progress is being made.
“There’s still a lot of work needed. It’s going to be years before it gets back to where it was before the storm,” Gray said.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis addressed Bahamians earlier Tuesday on Facebook live saying, “It will take time to recover on many levels. Bahamians and residents suffered life-changing injuries and mental trauma from what they endured.”
Minnis called Sept. 1 a day of remembrance for those who lost their lives in Hurricane Dorian. You can watch the entire address here.
Post Dorian, the Disaster Reconstruction Authority was established under the Disaster Reconstruction Act 2019. This act designated The Small Home Repair Program to facilitate reconstruction and restoration of areas impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
According to the Government of the Bahamas website, a budget of $6.4 million was allocated to housing domes. The domes are meant to be a temporary solution until a more permanent solution can be established.
The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t made it easy. During lockdown, Gray said the construction, deemed essential, kept going.
Gray remains hopeful, saying even knowing it will never look the same again, “there’s a lot of construction going on though.”
Minnis left words of encouragement: “Each one of our brothers and sisters that died was a special person in their families and communities. I ask all Bahamians to keep praying for their families. That God’s mercy will comfort them in time.”