By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOR Abaco residents, nothing encourages storm preparation like memories of Hurricane Floyd, the storm that devastated the island twenty years ago.
Persons like Aneishia Dorsette, 35, inched her way through the intimidating lines and crowds at Maxwell’s Supermarket on Friday to make certain she had all the necessary items before the unwelcome arrival of Hurricane Dorian.
Floyd, which made landfall in Abaco on September 14, 1999, remains the worst thing she says she has ever experienced.
“Shingles dropping off the roof, the sheet rock dropping inside the house and the wood falling from off the window is what I remember,” she recalled. “We had to evacuate. We went out to the main road, but had to get into a boat to get to another home because of the floods. We really haven’t had a hurricane like that from then to now, so experiencing that I know what to expect.”
Like Floyd, Hurricane Dorian is a category four storm and is expected to remain strong by the time it makes landfall in Abaco on Sunday afternoon.
Mrs Dorsette lived in Cooper’s Town when Floyd thrashed her community, tearing off roofs, uprooting trees and dislocating lives. This time she will endure the storm from her present home, the “safer grounds in Marsh Harbour,” she said.
Others will not be so lucky.
Carolyn Victor, 55, is worried whether she will find a usable mattress, refrigerator and couch when she returns to her home after the hurricane.
Mrs Victor is one of about 1,500 people who live in The Mudd, the country’s largest shanty town.
Even in mild, rainy weather many parts of that community get flooded. For her and others, various schools and church shelters will be home in the coming days.
The floods of Floyd, she recalled, completely submerged the houses in The Mudd.
When she spoke to The Tribune, she said she was waiting for her husband to return home so they could wrap up their valuables in as many bags as possible and store them out of the reach of water.
Nearly 20 square feet from her house, a neighbour, Robert, contemplated what his next move would be. Hurricane Floyd destroyed a previous home of his in another Abaco shanty town in 1999. He expects to seek shelter from the coming storm at a nearby school.
In the meantime, he is concerned about the wellbeing of his pets: 50 or so chickens roaming the area.
“I just like them," he said, "they make more babies and I eat the eggs sometimes, but I like to see them around and about."
He said he would put the animals in a cage before heading to a shelter. When told this is against experts advice, he said he built an elevation within the cages and hopes it will be high enough to protect the chickens from potential flooding.
About five miles from The Mudd a group of tourists ate lunch at The Bae restaurant. They said they could find no flight off the island and now find themselves stuck in Abaco to face the storm.
Elouisa, the matriarch of the family, said they were aware of the hurricane when they booked their trip two days ago, but hoped that the island would avoid a direct hit.
Her son, Thomas, a native of South Florida, said he is accustomed to hurricanes. But his father, Peter, hails from Germany while Elouise is from Brazil. Thomas said this will be his parents’ first hurricane experience.
"It will be a special experience," Peter added. "I’m from Germany so I’ve never seen a hurricane in reality, only on TV.”
The family said they are staying in an apartment in Treasury Cay. “We don’t know yet when we leave,” Elouisa said. “We tried to change our flight for today or tomorrow to go back but there are no flights anymore. We’re stuck here now.”
Once the hurricane nears, the Marsh Harbour airport is not expected to reopen until Tuesday afternoon, officials have said.
Elouisa said she’s most concerned about what will happen if the island loses electricity.
“Will there be many days without power?” she wondered. Thomas: “And we're also concerned about the flooding.”
Nonetheless, many tourists have left the island ahead of the storm, according to Rick Lohr, General Manager of the Abaco Beach Resorts.
Despite this, his resort has seen an increase in reservations.
“There's an increase because there are news media and insurance people coming in,” he said. “The vacationers have all departed or will tomorrow because of the airport closing primarily, but people have been coming in for business purposes.”
If Dorian hits as a category three storm, the resort will invite guests and employees to a central location on the property to wait out the storm, though the gathering will not be mandatory.
Before checking in, guests of the resort are asked to sign waivers acknowledging the potentially dangerous environment in which they will stay and the fact that basic services like TV, telephone, internet and water may not be available.
Although many Abaco shops were battened down and closed by Friday evening, Maxwell Supermarket remained open and is expected to lengthen hours of operation to service residents of the island, according to Rochelle Lightbourn, general manager of the store.
She said people have been buying mostly "canned gas and goods, water, juices, snacks and batteries.”
“Our stock is getting a little low right now, but we’re keeping afloat,” she said.
Normally, the hours of operation for the store are from 8am to 7pm but that time has been extended past 9pm over the past two days because of the hurricane.
“Saturday we may close around 1pm because of what’s going on," she said. "A lot of our staff live out of town and because some of the areas where they live flood we have to let them go.”
Asked if residents are taking the storm seriously enough, she said: “Oh, yes, they are. Right now for a lot of people it’s panic mode because they didn’t expect for it to build as quickly as it has, so basically they got caught off guard.”