By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
HURRICANE Joaquin forced some residents in Long Island to evacuate their homes and seek refuge in storm shelters yesterday, while residents of Exuma said the slow moving storm left some roads impassable due to heavy flooding.
Last night, Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner said she was worried about her constituents after reports that the category four hurricane had brought “extreme flooding” and coastal erosion due to sea surges.
She said Long Island had been “ravaged” by the storm for the past 24 hours.
“Some residents have been evacuated to designated hurricane shelters and are safe,” Mrs Butler-Turner said in a statement. “No reported loss of life. Electricity is out over most of the island. There are reports of extensive roof damage and leaks along with flying debris. Some areas have three to four (feet of) flooding.
“Predictions are that this will be a long night. Winds are gusting up to 130mph.”
She credited the Long Island Disaster Preparedness Committee who she said organised “an excellent communication network” throughout the island.
Residents in Exuma told The Tribune that sea levels had already started to rise as of noon yesterday, rendering some roadways impassable, and leaving some areas flooded. There were also some reports of beach erosion on the western side of George Town.
In Cat Island, residents reported strong and steady wind gusts near the southeastern end of the island. Locals there told The Tribune that they never expected the storm to develop as fast as it did, but said the slow movement of Hurricane Joaquin had given them some chance to properly prepare for its approach.
The storm battered the central and southern Bahamas yesterday.
Up to press time, forecasters projected that the southern islands – Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, and Long Cay - would experience hurricane conditions throughout Thursday night into Friday afternoon.
Chief Meteorologist Trevor Basden indicated that those islands could experience hurricane force winds between 71mph and 115mph, wind force he indicated would make Hurricane Joaquin a very dangerous storm.
Mr Basden likened the projected wind gust to sharp, strong swings with a hammer – indicating the potential for major damage.
Residents in Acklins and Inagua have already reported severe flooding and damage to homes.
Meanwhile, officials have projected that islands in the central region of the Bahamas will endure severe rainfall, strong winds and in some areas, dangerous flooding as the storm churns through the country.
People on Eleuthera are braced for the approaching storm, hauling sandbags and boarding up businesses.
“It’s going to be a scary storm,” said 42-year-old construction worker Jason Petty as he pointed at towering clouds gathering in the distance as the sun went down. “It looks nice now, but later on it’s going to be terrible, just terrible.”
Mr Petty was helping his friend, Demetrius Johnson, owner of Majestic 9 barber shop, prepare for the storm. Johnson had been sharing pictures of the damage in Acklins and other islands through Whatsapp as he waited for the storm.
“People weren’t taking this storm seriously until 48 hours ago,” he said. “But now it’s a Category 4, and we know it’s serious.”
Hurricane Joaquin is moving west south-west through the Bahamas around 5mph. On its forecast track, the core of strongest winds of Joaquin was expected to move near or over portions of the central Bahamas last night and pass near or over portions of the northwestern Bahamas on Friday, the US National Hurricane Centre said.
Joaquin had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph and hurricane strength winds extending 50 miles from the eye, the National Hurricane Centre said. As of 8pm, the storm was located about 25 miles east-southeast of Long Island after passing over Samana Cays.
A turn toward the north is expected on Friday, and a faster motion toward the north is expected Friday night and Saturday, the centre said.
Last night, a hurricane warning was in effect for Abaco, Berry Islands, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama, New Providence, Acklins, Crooked Island and Mayaguana.
A hurricane watch was in effect for Bimini and Andros.