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Breaking News:

Residents feared for lives in tornado

  • Prince Charles Mackey points out the damage to his home on Bimini after a tornado ripped through the Alice Town community on Sunday. PHOTOS: AHVIA J. CAMPBELL

  • Freeport, Grand Bahama resident Alfred Rolle stands inside his debris-filled bedroom yesterday after a tornado completely tore the roof off his home on Sunday. PHOTOS: Ahvia J. Campbell

  • Freeport, Grand Bahama resident Constance Petty explains how her roof was nearly ripped off after a tornado tore through her Imperial Park community on Sunday.

  • Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis (right) views the damage to a home in Freeport, Grand Bahama after a tornado tore through the Imperial Park community on Sunday. 

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: Sep 15, 2017

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Violet Roberts was cooking Sunday dinner at her Imperial Park home in Freeport, Grand Bahama, on Sunday afternoon when a tornado formed nearby and ripped through at least a dozen residences, displacing residents and injuring others.

“I was in the kitchen, cooking, preparing dinner for somebody and my son came and told me that there was a tornado coming,” she told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.

“I didn’t believe him. So he grabbed me by the hand and started to run. I dropped the knife I had in my hand and everything and I started to run with him in the corridor. Then my son went to open the bathroom door, but the wind sucked the door close.

“So we went to the bedroom. I held onto the closet door to open it and go in, and as I opened the door the [wind from the] tornado took the door that I was holding onto, lifted us up (her son and husband) and threw us back into the other bathroom.

“I tried to get up but I couldn’t stand up. So my son and my husband helped me up and I came outside and I saw people screaming and running around in the road.

“It just happened so quickly.

“As I looked back at the house I started crying because we could have been dead in there.”

Roberts injured her right foot in the ordeal. Her family is staying at a hotel, thanks to the Department of Social Services, but she visits her home daily.

Part of her roof is missing with only the beams intact.

Her furniture is heaped up in a pile on her front lawn and back lawn. Roberts said she lost most of her possessions.

“It’s heart wrenching,” she said.

“It’s only a material thing. You can always rebuild a house or clothing or furniture.

“As long as there is life there is hope.”

As she recounted the terror of her roof being ripped off and being flung around, tears began to well up in Roberts’ eyes.

She looked at Our News Reporter Jasmin Brown in silence for a few moments, fighting off the tears.

Roberts admitted that it’s difficult to talk about the tornado.

Her son declined to speak about the ordeal. He said that he had talked about it too much.

“He’s fed up with it,” she said.

“When you talk about it, it’s like reliving it all over again.”

The tornado touched down in the Imperial Park community in Freeport on Sunday, damaging homes as well as Colina Insurance, Star General, Imperial Garden Complex and a lodge hall.

The tornado formed in the outer bands of Hurricane Irma, which was making its exit from The Bahamas.

Alfred Rolle, another resident of Imperial Park, lost his entire roof.

“I [heard] like a 747 jumbo jet coming over to crash land,” he said.

“It was dark and gloomy. And that’s the first time I opened [the door] and I looked around and I didn’t see anything.

“But it sounded like it was still coming towards me, right here in my home.

“When I cracked the door it [hit] my back. Boom. I fell back. I tried to get up and something hit me right here,” he said pointing at his temple.

“I blacked out. If I had stood up, it probably would have severed me or cut my head off.”

Rolle said when he woke up, all he saw were the clouds. His roof was gone.

Dust has settled inside Rolle’s home.

Two trophies sit on a shelf covered in dirt. His living room furniture is covered in blue canvas.

Pictures, glass, bottles, cups, and other items are strewn across his floor. Everything is eerily in place, except his roof.

Rolle is also staying at a hotel, thanks to the Department of Social Services.

Across the street, Constance Petty said she was talking to her son and grandson when she heard a loud bang.

“I ran to the front door and my son ran to the back door,” she said.

“When I opened the front door Alf’s roof was at my door. My grandson’s basketball stand was at my front door as well and I couldn’t get out.

“I called my son and I said, ‘Alf’s roof is gone.’”

“He came running out and we were in shock. We didn’t know what to do next.”

Petty said she couldn’t sleep that night because of the fear of another tornado touching down on her street.

“I was afraid,” she said.

“I was more afraid after because I did not know what to expect after this.

“Was there going to be another tornado? It is going to be more of this? The winds were still howling so I was really frightened.”



Over on Bimini, Prince Mackey said he knew something was wrong that fateful Sunday.

That island was also hit by a hurricane.

“I laid down on my back on the bed,” he said.

“One mind told me to get out of there because things didn’t look good.

“I was a fool to stay there, laying down eating. Then I heard something over my roof.

“One mind said get up and run. I was so stupid. I was still laying down there.

“Then this thing came and carried my [neighbor’s] roof and then lifted my roof off and lifted me up from the bed and threw me straight outside and into a boat in a yard.

“I said it took me and the roof at the same time.”

Mackey said when he realized what happened, it felt as though his right hand was missing.

He said he started “searching for it” before realizing that it was numb.

Jason Williams said he was inside his home when the tornado moved through Bimini.

“I was peeping through my window and it got still all of a sudden,” he said.

“Then this black ball of smoke came out of nowhere with a lot of breeze with it. It just started tearing things down, throwing things all about.

“I ran away from my window but I watched it go over a roof, carry that and then it just went up the street.

“I thought the world was coming to an end. It sounded like a train.”

Williams said he felt lucky that the tornado did not hit his home.

“I thank the Lord,” he said

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and officials of the National Emergency Management Agency visited both Bimini and Grand Bahama yesterday, speaking with residents impacted by the tornado.

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