Dorian Survival Story
Brad Gunn, Hope Town:
This is a running commentary that I started the day after the eye came ashore and we had all found some safety away from where we were in the eye:
I walked up to Mike Jones’ house at about 5:30 AM (from Sea Ridge) - for company and for internet. At that time the storm was about 55 miles East of us, and conditions weren’t yet particularly bad yet - wind only about 25 and gusty. Already present were Justin Russel, Donnie Maura, and Mike Jones, and we settled in. The wind didn’t really start to get big until about 9:30 when it was probably 60 sustained with occasional gusts up to 100, but the sea state was building.
Mike’s house was built in 1960, and had weathered every storm since including Floyd, which is now the former-gold-standard for worst hurricane here. Dorian currently holds that distinction. Anyway Mike’s house is poured concrete and block, and though it’s only about 9-10 feet above sea level, we felt confident that it would remain standing.
By 10:30 I was in the strongest wind I’d ever experienced - a high cat 3 or maybe cat-4, and it wasn’t letting up. High tide came at 10:22, but when it turned it had no effect on the water level which kept rising. By 11:00 AM three of us were holding the western wall of the house to keep it from imploding (it was pulsing, and the water was just up to the bottom of the three windows we were holding), but at 11:15 the roof of Daisy’s Place (one of Mike’s windward cottages) blew off and smashed into the wall we were restraining - it was only then that we knew we had to get out.
So we quickly retreated to the back bedroom and managed to temporarily close the door (against the rising water and the wind), but when the bedroom door failed a few minutes later, I used a hammer to break out a window to equalize the pressure, and Mike broke out the bathroom window so we could escape. In the end we had to break out a window in the bedroom and one in the bathroom, but there was no where to go. The street outside was completely filled with the remnants of the house that was formerly on Eagle Rock, plus parts of all the other houses on that waterfront.
When the eye finally arrived I snagged a kayak that floated up to us, (we were chest deep in water by then, and that was about when my iPhone drowned). Mike loaded Donnie into the kayak and eventually led him through the debris field to Audrey’s house, where Donnie climbed through one of her windows and through her house to the road. Justin and I managed to crab-walk out over the debris in the road and up to Aeolian. From there I made it to the lower dock road where I could see my old place, WHICH WAS STILL STANDING FINE. A few missing shutters, and a couple of broken windows from debris, but structurally fine. Good builder apparently.
By the time the eye passed, Justin, Donnie and I had found refuge in Todd’s high-dollar house, along with Roy, Katie, Max, Robbie and Apollo the baby. Todd’s Tower up to that point had suffered virtually no damage. But with the wind shift, the Brazilian House on the corner (Sundancer) came completely apart puncturing a bunch of holes in Todd’s roof, windows and walls, so we all retreated to a bedroom on the lowest level. The Brazilian house also took out the French doors to my old place, which now has realized a lot of water damage, no doubt.
This is the next day, and it’s still not done yet, with winds in the 50s and gusting 70 maybe. And every now and then we’re getting a white out squall blowing up to hurricane force The word is that Dorian is stalled over Grand Bahama, probably 70-75 miles west of us, which explains why we’re still having a hurricane. I haven’t been able to get to Sea Ridge, but Yvence walked the north end and said that Sea Ridge still had her roof and looked ok. Breezy is gone, and Shapiros had damage.
Storm still honking, apparently still stalled. But the winds seem to be lower. At 10 AM I ventured out (at lower tide) and walked the beach over to Breezy and took stock. Every place from Vernon’s (house) to Lavender Cottage is gone - that’s 11 places if I count correctly. John Doyle’s is completely missing - only a few 8 x 8 posts still standing, otherwise nothing there. Water tanks gone, whaler gone, simply nothing left. Shangri-la is damaged but probably salvageable, assuming it didn’t get flooded, which it might have. Breezy is completely gone, and mostly on top of Shapiro’s. But Sea Ridge is completely intact! Even the plywood replacement for the screen door was in place. No windows broke through, all the shingles are gone, but there was very little water inside. So Sea Ridge survived better than most of the houses in the settlement. So I will move over to Sea Ridge from tonight. Oh, the golf cart is in the bay and there is no sign of the shed. Completely gone. Too bad about the new batteries. And rumor has it that my work shop at Chris and Jill’s is still standing, but their house is gone. I haven’t gotten that far north yet. Maybe tomorrow.
Awoke to acute hernia pain and simply could not walk to the North End as I had hoped. And thinking that if I could get out on Wednesday I might still make my surgery date (Friday), I headed to the command center. Dorian had clearly started his turn to the North, but it was still pretty windy and unsettled, though at least it was no longer raining. At the center they determined that I ought to get off the island, and at about 4:30, several helicopters from Med-Corps, a volunteer organization that does 1st response disaster relief landed in the ball field and loaded up about 7 of us and flew us to MHH for evac to Nassau on a Mitsubishi MU-2 corporate turbo-prop. After waiting on the tarmac for about 2 hours, we boarded and landed in Nassau in the dark. The next morning (Thursday) I booked commercial on Jet Blue to FL and that’s how I got to the US. But when we took off from HT, I asked the pilot to fly down the creek, to look for Mothra and for Fiji … Mothra was upside down in the water at the edge of the shoreline on the Eastern side of Back Creek. Clearly to me what happened is my fault. With best intentions I had attached 6 morning pendants to the screw mooring I was using (but not made them quite long enough to accommodate a 15’ surge), and in addition I had dropped my incredible Bulwagga anchor under the bow, and then paid out 150 feet of chain in a pile apart from the anchor. My idea was that if Mothra came off the mooring, the anchor might catch her, and this is exactly what happened. When the mooring pendants let go, Mothra headed for the far shore at probably 15-20 miles an hour, so when the chain tightened and the Bulwagga dug in, Mothra pitch-poled (flipped head over heels) when her bow fetched up. The anchor did exactly what I had intended, but I didn’t expect the boat to be fully headed down wind when that occurred. Had she been beam-to the wind, she might have survived the turn, but not dead down wind. And if I’d not dropped the anchor, she’d have been high and dry in the middle of the peninsula. So it was proper planning that killed Mothra. Fiji was no where to be seen, but she wasn’t sunk in the creek, so she might still be ok.
And that’s the mini-drama of Dorian as it hit HT. Probably 10-15% of the houses in the settlement are ok or with minor damage. 30-35% might be repairable, but at least 50% (probably more) are completely gone, or else totaled. Cap’n Jacks is done, the Harbour’s Edge is done, SipSip survived, the liquor store is gone, Harbour View Grocery is ok, the lodge lost it’s roof and pool bar, and the South End is mostly destroyed. The new marina is mostly ok, Sea Spray is gone, FireFly lost three cottages and the bar, but the kitchen works and is feeding the remaining down South, the Abaco Inn lost a lot of their cottages, but the main building still stands, and most of the houses in Dorros Cove are down. That’s what I heard, but I never got that far, though Robbie did and this is what he said. And that’s the news of Dorian in HT.
Marty Cash, Lucayos, Elbow Cay (From WECT News 6 article, Wilmington, NC)
“This storm was like your worst tornado. The whole storm. I heard it coming. I leave my satellite dish up because I brag to everybody I watch TV during hurricanes. I got a generator, and air conditioning, we play games. The TV reception went quick, everything went dark, and I heard the train coming, it sounded like, the roaring. And that was unusual,” he said.
Before he knew it, he was under the house, laying in the dirt with his motorbike on his head, praying he would make it through to return home to his family.
Most of Cash’s house blew away and caught on fire from the generator.
“I stayed down there in the dirt for I can’t tell you how long because time didn’t ... it seemed like an eternity, you know. And all I could think about was where the storm was going because they kept saying it was going to turn, but go up the Carolina coast up here where all my family was,” Cash said.
Once the eye passed through, he said he grabbed his backpack, kept his helmet on, and started running to search for others.
“First of all you’re wondering who’s left, where is everybody. You didn’t know where you were, everything was changed. I had never seen so much destruction. After Floyd, we were directly responsible for building the island back again and this, I was like ‘oh my God, we’re not going to make it through this,’” he said.
Once the storm passed, the reality of the damage set in. Cash said at least 75 percent of the Island was destroyed with the rest being severely damaged.
Cash and others quickly regrouped and got to work, using heavy machinery to clear the streets, working for food, and staying in shelters set up by the Hope Town Volunteer Fire Department.
Cash stayed in the Bahamas for about a week after Dorian hit, until all of his equipment died. He was then able to get on a rescue flight to Fort Lauderdale, and is currently in Wilmington recuperating. He plans on heading back next week.
Bill Albury “Little Bill" from Snappas, Marsh Harbour (NPR article):
Samantha Regan from the south end of Elbow Cay:
Founders of Abaco Neem, Marsh Harbour (Eye Witness News article)