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When terror looms

  • Wayne Neely.

  • Hurricane Joaquin left extensive damage to homes and businesses, as well as widespread power outages, throughout Crooked Island in 2015.

  • Shown is damage from Hurricane Joaquin on Cabbage Hill, Crooked Island, in 2015. The Category 4 hurricane left extensive damage to homes and businesses, as well as widespread power outages.

  • A downed power line on East Street South from Hurricane Matthew.

Managing Editor

Published: Sep 06, 2017

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If Irma hits The Bahamas with a wind speed of 185 miles per hour, it would be one for the record books, according to hurricane expert Wayne Neely.

It would be a catastrophic event, Neely warned.

The storm would be more powerful than Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which led to four deaths.

Three people drowned when the storm surge came up to the roof; another had a heart attack.

Andrew hit The Bahamas with winds of 155 miles per hour.

At 185 miles per hour, Irma would be more ferocious than The Great Nassau Hurricane of 1926, which had a wind speed of 140 miles per hour and killed 268 people.

“A Category 5 hurricane would bring catastrophic damage to whichever island it hits, so the potential for devastation is going to be significantly greater than a Category 4 or Category 3 storm. That’s not good,” said Neely yesterday while tracking Irma.

He said the best bet for residents in the southeastern Bahamas is to evacuate.

Government officials were busy for most of the day crafting a plan to get residents out of those islands.

Evacuation flights are set to begin this morning.

This could be the last opportunity for residents in the southeast Bahamas to save their lives.

If they need rescuing when the storm comes tomorrow, there will probably be no one coming to their rescue.

The decision they make on whether to leave could be a life or death decision.

These are indeed serious and sobering times.

Now is the time for them to take heed.

It is good that many people in New Providence with relatives in the far-flung islands are urging them to leave.

When Joaquin hit in 2015 with 140 mile per hour winds, there fortunately was no loss of life. But residents of those islands told horror stories of riding out the hurricane in their attics — fearing they would be killed by the powerful surge that came in and the roaring winds.

Residents of Landrail Point, Crooked Island, scrambled to two boats, tying those boats to the front posts of a house, and spent 19 harrowing hours in them.

They miraculously survived.

Two sisters, their small children and other Crooked Island residents spent 19 hours huddled in a small bathroom of a restaurant and bar. In all, there were 21 people crammed in the bathroom.

We simply could not believe the tales of survival.

Unlike Joaquin, which came suddenly and with terrifying force, residents have had days to prepare for Hurricane Irma.

After Joaquin in 2015, those Crooked Island sisters, who were evacuated to Nassau with their children after the storm, told us that they did not know a hurricane was coming until their roof started to rattle and the house started to shake.

With Irma taking aim, there is cause for great worry.

“Every Bahamian should be concerned because everyone is in what we call the cone of uncertainty, and hurricanes sometimes tend to wobble to the left or the right, and one little wobble can make a big difference,” Neely warned yesterday.

“That’s why everyone in the cone should be watching.”

The government will evacuate residents from the southeastern islands to New Providence, where they are expected to be safer.

The trouble, as in all cases of voluntary evacuations, is that some people refuse to leave their homes, no matter how dire the warnings.

Officials were yesterday having difficulty convincing some people to leave those areas of The Bahamas which are directly in Irma’s path.

One Crooked Island man told us that he can survive any storm, having survived Joaquin, so he is staying put.

The U.S. government has agreed to help with the evacuations, which are expected to end around 6 pm. today.

It is not mandatory for anyone to leave those islands, as The Bahamas does not have any law that provides for mandatory evacuations.

Ahead of Hurricane Matthew last year, then Prime Minister Perry Christie urged residents who live in low-lying areas to evacuate.

Christie later suggested, as he had done in the past, that mandatory evacuations were needed.

Speaking to the issue, Dr. Hubert Minnis, who was opposition leader at the time, said a Free National Movement government would implement mandatory evacuations.

“The FNM is more concerned with safety and quality of life, and we would do whatever is necessary to ensure that the Bahamians are safe and lives are safe,” Minnis said.

While touring Grand Bahama after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Prime Minister Christie also said it was time to consider mandatory evacuations.

He noted at the time that the government’s hands were tied and it can do nothing when people refuse to leave after they have been advised to evacuate.

Even in the cases of mandatory evacuation orders issued by states and governments legally empowered to do so, some people refuse to leave.

It is difficult to enforce such orders, as the Minnis administration would no doubt find should it move on a plan to pass such a law.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 September 2017 15:30


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