By Harry Sutton ’20
While the American media and federal government were busy pulling the straight-forward science of meteorology into a political debate, a monumentally terrorizing hurricane caused mass devastation in the tropical nation of the Bahamas.
On August 24, 2019 a tropical wave formed in the Central Atlantic and eventually grew into a Category 5 hurricane that caused evacuative chaos in Florida and left multiple highly populated islands of the Bahamas in tatters. Gunnery student, Sasha Valdez ‘22 said that when her family first heard that the storm was coming, they simply shrugged it off. The Caribbean nation endures multiple hurricanes every year, so the news of another hurricane did not phase most citizens. However, the demolition caused by the storm left everyone in awe. On September 2, 2019 Dorian was left to stall over Grand Bahama for nearly a day due to a ride of high pressure that previously had been steering the storm westward. The hurricane’s stalling over the water led it to gain power and last longer when it hit land. Dorian has been deemed the most impactful tropical storm that has ever hit the Bahamas.
Five US states went into a state of emergency due to the storm, with mass evacuations going on. The most ravaging damage was faced in the Bahamian islands of Grand Bahamas and the Abacos, while Southeastern United States and a small portion of Canada were affected as well.
While the damage is catastrophic across multiple substantial islands, one of the most surprising aspects of the storm’s effect in the Bahamas is that the government is depending on people still visiting the islands on vacation. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation “urges travelers to keep and pursue their vacations to the islands that were not affected and remain open.” The polarization of the damage in the Bahamas is almost unbelievable. While devastating damage has hit on the islands that are The Abacos and Grand Bahama Island, some islands, including Paradise Island where the capital Nassau is located, were impacted with only heavy rain and damaging winds, similar to the damage on the Southeast coast of the United States. While the damage is so brutal in specific areas of the nation, the collateral damage has swept across the country. With thousands and thousands of misplaced families on the two heavily impacted islands, most islands are filling up with people seeking refuge from the damage. As a sunny, beautiful, beach-filled island nation, one of the biggest economies in the Bahamas is its tourism. The amount of people visiting on vacation has plummeted as people are not informed about the vast difference in the effects of the storm.
With thousands of buildings, cars, signs and trees left in the streets, the affected islands have been left distraught. Their houses are scattered partially in the streets and in pieces in the ocean, with the afflicted citizens’ morale entirely deflated. Most of the buildings were left flattened thanks to the hurricane, causing at least 70,000 people to be temporarily homeless. With winds over 185 mph, Dorian caused at least 50 deaths in the Bahamas and is one of the most severe Atlantic storms ever.
While panic and evacuation ensued in America after reports of the storm’s path, the storm also made an impact on American politics for a few days. A political clash erupted when President Donald Trump created an announcement to raise awareness for the potential severity of the storm in the US. Trump incorrectly stated that Dorian was on a straight course for the state of Alabama. While it seems like a simple mistake, the controversy became deeper when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that Trump’s forecast was indeed incorrect. They promptly corrected Trump’s statements on Twitter, but the president responded ordering the NOAA to support his previous claims. Although the science of meteorology is quite objective and factual, this divide between the NOAA and the president led to some unexpected uproar. The cause of Trump’s incorrect reporting is still unknown, but the NOAA is still investigating the dispute, whether Trump made a personal error while analyzing the graphic or if it was a faulty report given to him.
Despite the horrible hardships and crushing damage that the Bahamas has faced, hundreds of thousands of Bahamians have already pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and many people from all around the world have started looking toward the future and the process of rebuilding the ravaged nation. With dozens of thousands of citizens evacuating to the other islands of the nation, the government and many organizations from across the world have come to the aid of the country. Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said “now is the time to come together for our brothers and sisters in need, and help our country get back on its feet.” From the Red Cross to Global Giving to the Salvation Army to countless other organizations, people from all across the world, including at The Gunnery, have a chance to contribute to the country’s rebuild. While the main purpose of this article is to raise awareness and report on the storm, I will conclude by imploring you to help make a difference and aid the thousands of people left homeless and distraught.