By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
GRAND Bahama resident Peter Roberts said it sounded like a “freight train” ran through his home on Sunday when a tornado passed through, the force of the twister so strong the wind picked him up and threw him to the ground as he and his wife tried to get to safety.
Mr Roberts and his wife received minor injuries from the tornado.
They are two of several residents of Grand Bahama who have been left traumatised after tornados ripped roofs off homes and structures in Freeport on Sunday as Hurricane Irma churned by, heading towards Florida.
When The Tribune visited their area this week, Mr Roberts and his wife were removing furniture and other personal possessions from their house which had extensive roof damage.
Despite this, the two are just grateful to be alive.
After being treated and discharged from the hospital after the tornado hit their home, the Roberts returned to clean up and save whatever they could.
“We did not know what to do,” Mr Roberts said. “It hit us, and in seconds the roof was gone. It sounded like a freight train.
“My stepson saw it (coming), and we try to go to the bathroom. But by the time we get halfway there, it hit and knock us on the ground, and my wife hurt her leg. It happened so fast.”
Holding a crystal framed wedding photo, his wife told The Tribune: “I lived here 14 years, and I am grateful to Jehovah because material things you could always get back, but I am grateful to be still alive and family still here with me.
“You could get the house back; I cannot get my son and husband back – once you die, you’re gone.”
Mrs Roberts hurt her leg and was struck in her head and back with debris when the tornado threw them to the ground.
“When my son told us the tornado was coming we tried to get in the bathroom, but the wind sucked the door, and when we reach in the bedroom the wind picked us up and threw us back into the bathroom,” she recalled.
Mrs Roberts said that she tried to stand up but couldn’t because her leg was so painful.
She said they went outside and saw the extent of the damage.
“We noticed the roof was severely damaged and the tornado was still in the backyard. We were going to go over to the neighbours, and we saw her house was damaged too. A lot of people was in the road screaming and hollering. I looked around and said, ‘thank God for life.’”
The couple is staying with a friend post-Irma. They said officials from the Department of Social Services stopped by and offered some help.
On a nearby street in the Imperial Park area, Tanya Ferguson, who is four months pregnant, said it was the second time her house has been hit by a tornado within a year.
“It was an absolutely horrible experience,” she said. “This is the second tornado that hit my house – a tornado hit us during Hurricane Matthew (in October 2016) and now again.”
Ms Ferguson was lying on her bed when her nephew came running inside after seeing a tornado coming toward their house.
“My mother said the front door is blowing in, and she and my nephew were standing at the door trying to stench it close.
“It sounded like a big truck was driving by, and the house started to shake,” recalled Ms Ferguson. The house just shook; the whole experience was like two seconds.”
Ms Ferguson looked up and realised that her roof was gone.
“I could see the sunlight coming in the house, and I said, ‘we lose our roof,’ and a panic came over me and I started crying,” she said.
When Ms Ferguson went outside to assess her home further, she realised that another house behind hers had also been destroyed.
When Irma struck, she was in the process of completing roof repairs from Hurricane Matthew.
“It rained (on Monday) and what was not destroyed in the tornado is now destroyed because of the rain – the two bedrooms and living are destroyed,” she said.
In addition to being traumatised, those affected are also having to deal with the prying stares of curious passersby.
Ms Ferguson said that it is very uncomfortable having to deal with persons driving by all day staring and taking photographs of their damage and posting them on social media.
She said that when her friend was taking her to the hospital to be checked, another woman blocked the road and would not let them pass just to take a photograph.
“People are so just uncaring,” she said. “(Sunday) was horrible, but (Monday) was worse because we were catching water in here and people just driving past taking pictures and pictures.
“Hurricane after the hurricane, I refuse to go riding around looking at people’s damage. It is heartbreaking. Out of all of this, what hurts the most is the stares of people riding by and looking,” Ms Ferguson said.
However, she was very grateful to those who are lending them a hand with repairs and the kindness of a complete stranger who brought them some tarp to protect the house from the rain.
She said that a family friend brought some plywood for the home’s roof.
“I am also thankful to the gentleman that drove past, I have no idea what he looks like, but it was raining, and he gave us a couple of tarps; out of the many cars that drove through, he was the only person that helped,” said Ms Ferguson who became very emotional.
Ms Ferguson said that representatives from National Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Social Services, and Iram Lewis, the MP for Central Grand Bahama, also stopped by and promised some assistance.
The island experienced tornadic activity associated with Hurricane Irma on Sunday which caused extensive damage to some buildings and property.
Five residences in the Imperial Park Subdivision and the Masonic Lodge on East Sunrise Highway have been classified as unsafe due to significant damage. The Imperial Gardens Apartment Building, and ten businesses, which also sustained damage in the Freeport area, were classified as having “restrictive use.”
About 28 persons have been displaced as a result of the tornado, according to officials at the Department of Social Services.
Meanwhile, as work crews continue to restore electricity, power officials are reporting that the system “held up pretty well.”
Grand Bahama International Airport opened for business on Tuesday morning following the restoration of power to 70 per cent of the island.
Power crews expect to have 80 per cent to 90 per cent of customers back online, including the major industrial companies in the Freeport Industrial Park, and the Eight Mile Rock and West End communities.