In late 2005 I was on New Providence Island, Bahamas, producing
a map to show which properties around the island were within the storm surge
flood zone. The northern islands of the Bahamas had been battered by 19 feet (six
meters) of storm surge in 1999 during Hurricane Floyd and flooded again in 2004
Hurricanes’ Frances and Jeanne.
While wandering around the poorer, south side of Nassau, I came across a single-story building, probably a community center or clinic, with barred windows, on which was written “Hurricane Shelter”. It was sufficiently surprising that I even took (and kept) a photo – see below, for the “Hurricane Shelter” was only two to three feet above sea level. If people gathered at this shelter as a strong hurricane approached, they would be placing themselves in mortal danger from an accompanying storm surge.
Initial reports from the Bahamas suggest that the islands of
Great Abaco and Grand Bahama have been left devastated from Major Hurricane
Dorian, evoking memories of the destruction on the eastern Caribbean island of Barbuda
in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma just two years ago.
A Record-Breaking Hurricane for the Bahamas and the Atlantic
Dorian underwent an unprecedented period of rapid intensification between August 31 and September 1, that took its maximum sustained wind speed from 150 miles per hour to 185 miles per hour. No other Atlantic hurricane on record has intensified as rapidly as this from such a high initial wind speed. Dorian joins an exclusive group of Atlantic hurricanes to attain wind speeds of 185 miles per hour or greater: Allen (1980), Wilma (2005), Gilbert (1988), and the Labor Day Hurricane (1935).
Dorian maintained this intensity on September 1, and then made a series of landfalls – first across Great Abaco island, and on September 2 across Grand Bahama. In doing so, Dorian became the strongest hurricane in modern records to strike the northwestern Bahamas. As the Category 5 hurricane traversed the islands, its forward speed slowed and it became near stationary over Grand Bahama for roughly 36 hours before gradually moving northwest. Dorian’s eyewall subjected some areas of these islands to destructive wind gusts of up to 220 miles per hour (354 kilometers per hour) and catastrophic storm surge in excess of 20 feet (6 meters).