On Sept. 1, 2019, Hurricane Dorian hit Abaco as a Cat 5 hurricane with 185 mph winds (a recorded gust of 202 mph), up to 40″ of rain & a 20′ storm surge. While a similarly sized hurricane reportedly hit in 1935, the islands are much more built up & this storm literally stopped overhead for hours, crawling away at a snails pace, multiplying the damage. A few tornados are also believed to have spun up, due to some localized areas completely leveled.
Within hours, the U.S. Coast Guard began rescue helicopter flights. Within days, private boats & yachts loaded up with donated relief supplies, making runs back & forth from Florida. Within weeks, a dozen international aid groups swarmed in with food, medical equipment, cooking equipment, tents, tarps, water purifiers, portable generators – you name it – it remarkably appeared. The seas between Abaco & Florida became a 4-lane highway of boats, yachts, ships & barges. It would be over a month before the nearby Marsh Harbour Airport could be repaired sufficiently to allow planes to land.
The tasks were nearly insurmountable, but progress was being made steadily … until COVID hit. Within a week, international aid groups were rushed back home. Locals, now mostly on their own, had no choice but to persevere & just keep plugging away.
The completely brand-new, beautiful Hope Town School
Now, 2 1/4 years later, remarkable progress has been made, especially on many of the smaller islands, including Guana Cay, Man-O-War Cay & Elbow Cay (Hope Town). A majority of the houses (particularly rental villas & 2nd homes) have been completely repaired, re-built or replaced. Meanwhile the “mainland” of Marsh Harbour remains a much different story. The scope of re-building & replacing thousands of homes & buildings is overwhelming, especially financially. Over 90% of their economy is sourced from tourism, boaters & 2nd home owners – it is unknown whether all of Marsh Harbour & areas further out will ever fully recover, especially as many residents had to evacuate to Nassau (New Providence) after the hurricane – will they be able to return?
It is great being back in Hope Town. While not too busy here yet, there are 2 other PDQ powercats here – old friends on Adventure & new friends on Jabulani. We may remain here thru Christmas – it depends as always on the weather. Eventually we will begin heading south to Spanish Wells, then the Exumas.