On September 1st, 2019, Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Abacos with 185 mph winds, gusting to over 200 mph. The eye-wall made a direct hit on Elbow Cay and surrounding islands before heading to Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay on its northwestern course.
The Abacos were as prepared as they could be with boats hauled out, houses and businesses boarded up, and quite a few people evacuating. However, the islands were no match for Dorian’s wrath as the strongest storm to ever hit the Bahamas. The Weather Channel indicated that when the eye of Dorian came ashore, it was like a 20 mile wide tornado.
Despite those leaving the islands, there were still many people left to try and survive the storm and the destruction it was causing. There are many scary stories of roofs blowing off and walls caving in, plus horrific flooding. In Hope Town, the St. James Community Center was the hurricane shelter, and when the roof was compromised, the residents had to run to the Mission House next door. This happened to many others who had to find shelter elsewhere during the eye when their homes gave way.
Even after the storm moved on, the winds in Abaco were tropical storm to hurricane force as Category 5 Dorian stalled over Grand Bahama for 2 days. When the residents emerged, the devastation was catastrophic. They were so glad to have escaped with their lives. Many residents have lost everything...their homes, their boats, their businesses, their possessions. As reports started coming in, the description everywhere was apocalyptic damage, but it was amazing to hear that none of the out islands were reporting any fatalities.
Sadly, Marsh Harbour could not report the same as there have been many reports of deaths. The official total as of Sept. 12th was 50 (including Grand Bahama), but the number will probably rise with a reported 1300 persons still being missing. Most of Mash Harbour was demolished and the surge was like a raging river through the streets.
Communications were difficult following the hurricane, as the few people in Abaco that had satellite phones could not always use them due to the weather conditions. Luckily ALIV mobile phone service came back quickly and reports and photos started being sent once batteries were charged as generators were used. The media also flew in to do reports on the devastation and several private planes flew overhead to take photos and video.
The outpouring of people wanting to help following the storm has been enormous. Relief and medical supplies (& personnel) in the U.S., Canada, other Bahamian Islands, and other countries have been collected and shipped or flown over. This caused concern for aviation safety, as there have been so many planes in the vicinity. At first Marsh Harbour Airport was underwater and Treasure Cay had debris, but Sandy Point was cleared quickly for aircraft to come in. A few days later the other 2 airports opened for evacuation efforts also. Offers are coming in from other Bahamian islands and people in the US to house the evacuees, many of which have children that will need to go to school. Some are even offering jobs. There were also some groups going to the Abacos to evacuate pets and potcakes.
With damage of this magnitude, the highest priority was to get all non-essential people off the islands. The Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force, and Royal Bahamas Defense Force have been flying in with helicopters and planes to get residents evacuated. Bahamas Air and Delta have also been doing evacuation flights to Nassau and the Bahamas Fast Ferries have been taking people off island, and a cruise ship from Nassau to Florida. The Mud and Pigeon Peas have been leveled, some of which the survivors had taken up residence at the Government Center before being evacuated. There is a large military presence to keep evacuations running smoothly. Relief supplies continue to come in but they must have proper clearance, as do planes and boats.
In Hope Town, most of the structures on the island have sustained some kind of damage. Some places are completely gone. Boats that were in the harbor are strewn onshore. Capt’n Jack’s, The Coffee House, Abaco Inn, HT Harbour Lodge, and the Harbour’s Edge were heavily damaged. At the entrance to the harbor, with the NW and North wind, many of the houses were destroyed. The Cash house was moved off its foundation and across the road. The Doyle’s house and Lavender Cottage were nowhere to be seen. Roofs blew off and damaged other houses, and anything that those winds didn’t demolish, the south wind did after the eye went past. Several of the villas at HT Inn & Marina sustained heavy damage and there was flooding. Boats tied in the marina sustained damage, some sunk, and some broke loose. The Post Office second floor is gone and the library lost its roof exposing the inside to the elements.
Links to Photos & Videos:
At the following link, Scott Kieffer (Sea Breeze) posted drone videos/images of the LHM boat yard and downtown. If you know the approximate location of your boat, you can likely assess its condition.
Check out the Dorian link for NOAA Satellite Images. Zoom in and you can see all the tarping of buildings that has taken place:
Facebook link to Man-O-War Video:
Link to photos and video of Jim Moudy’s walk through Lighthouse Marina’s Boatyard:
Link to Little House by the Ferry’s Photos of damage in Hope Town:
Link to Tara Claridge's video of the aftermath in Marsh Harbour posted on Facebook:
Set of Videos from Hope Town posted to Facebook by Drew Ogden
Below is a link for hundreds of high resolution photos of Abaco. These make it easy to zoom in. Thank you to the pilot and photographer!
Below is a link to a YouTube aerial video of Elbow Cay & MOW. This video is licensed and not for use in any commercial way...
Here is a Facebook link to the complete photo album of the flight over Abaco.
Link to Facebook Video of WXChasing drone footage of Marsh Harbour:
This video is during the storm in Hope Town
Hope Town Settlement Photos, after the storm: