Audrey Tynes, 42, still finds it difficult to sleep.
Horrific flashbacks take her back to nine months ago when Hurricane Dorian tore through Murphy Town, Abaco, where she lived at the time.
She is still haunted by the deafening howl of Dorian’s ferocious winds slamming debris onto her windows and roof, the chill of the seawater slyly creeping into her house and the stomach-churning smell of her neighbor’s body decaying mere feet from her house.
“I have really bad anxiety,” Tynes, who now lives on New Providence, told The Nassau Guardian.
“I rollover. I touch the floor to make sure the floor is dry, to make sure if that happens again, the water is not going to sneak up on us and catch us off guard again and flood the house or whatever. Speaking with my psychologist, it was getting better but they’re coming back again.
“It was so bad that any little sound I heard would startle me. I would jump and pitch in my house. As simple as the fridge clicking in and out, it was like playing with my mind.
“It was like hearing the debris hitting the roof and hitting the windows and everything outside again. If the air condition would click in or out, it was like the wind was howling. I’m having really bad anxiety attacks and flashbacks still.”
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season started yesterday and forecasters predicted an “above normal season”.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting “a likely range of 13 to 19 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which six to 10 could become hurricanes, including three to six major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher)”.
Dorian, a deadly Category 5 storm — the strongest on record to hit The Bahamas — was an “extremely traumatic” experience for many Bahamians and residents on Abaco and Grand Bahama. The storm’s ferocious winds and deadly surges ripped apart homes and families.
“That was worse than any I’ve ever been through,” she said.
“After the hurricane, my daughter and I were trapped. We couldn’t get out of our yard. We couldn’t get out of our house until Friday morning. My neighbor’s body stayed there until Thursday night.
“We had to be near all that rotting and decaying. We could see it and we could smell it. That totally messed us up.”
Dorian tormented Abaco and Grand Bahama for more than three days in early September. It sat on the latter for roughly 24 hours.
It caused $3.5 billion in damage and losses, impacted nearly 30,000 people and killed at least 76 individuals — 55 of whom are still unidentified.
Chunks of north and central Abaco were flattened by the storm.
On September 14, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “horrified” by what he saw on the island during a visit the week after the storm.
“I’ve never seen such a level of systematic devastation,” Guterres said.
“The hurricane, Dorian, has been classified as a Category 5. I think it’s a category hell but [it] was not powered by [the] devil.”
Tynes said not much has changed on the island since mid-September.
“My last trip [to Abaco] was in March,” she said.
“It looks like the hurricane hit maybe a day before.”
She said the island is “definitely not ready” for hurricane season.
“All of the places that were designated shelters for so many years, they are no more,” Tynes said.
“The buildings that are still standing have been condemned and I’m just praying that nothing happens.”
She said she is “scared” for Grand Bahama and Abaco.
Lashan McIntosh, 32, a resident of Murphy Town, is terrified for this year’s hurricane season.
“It’s scary because I’m thinking about last year September and how Dorian carried on,” she said.
“I don’t know what to expect.”
Her eight-year-old son, Lachino McIntosh, was one of the first reported casualties of the storm.
“It’s still really hard,” McIntosh said of her son’s death.
“It feels like it just happened yesterday. Words can’t explain it.”
McIntosh said she is worried about the hurricane season.
“The house that we’re in, it can’t do another hurricane,” she said.
“It barely caught itself. It still looks like Dorian just hit it or whatever. I can’t stay here for another hurricane.
“Then, we have no shelters, so, I’ll probably have to get out of here (Abaco) if we have another hurricane. If a hurricane goes to Nassau, I don’t know where I’d go. Right now, I’m in a state of confusion.”
A recently released International Organization for Migration (IOM) report noted that some of the official shelters in The Bahamas are too small, lack generators and emergency freshwater, adequate sewage treatment facilities, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, flashlights, and sleeping equipment, and are therefore not recommended for long-term use.
It also raised concern over the lack of an official shelter in Marsh Harbour, Abaco.
On Sunday, National Emergency Management Agency Director Captain Stephen Russell said that NEMA has seen the report and that the Disaster Reconstruction Authority will engage contractors to “rectify those deficiencies as were outlined in the IOM report”.
However, Gavin Knowles, 30, a resident of Marsh Harbour, Abaco, who moved to New Providence after the storm, is still concerned about Abaco’s readiness for another hurricane.
“They’re trying to say shelters are ready and activated up and down Abaco but the only physical shelter I’ve seen is one building in South Abaco that can maybe hold 50 people comfortable, not even including anybody’s pets or anything,” Knowles said.
“There is no readiness. Very few people are ready for that again, very few. I’m worried about people who don’t have the means to prepare themselves.”
On Sunday, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis said the government is seeking to engage 16 contractors this week to ensure that the schools in Grand Bahama are also ready to act as hurricane shelters.
He said there are four churches in Abaco that have offered their facilities to act as shelters.
Knowles shot this down.
“What provisions are readily available for said shelters?” he asked.
“Medical, food rations, blankets, cots? Having four churches isn’t nearly enough. One church collapsed and killed people. What measures are [they] taking to reinforce said churches? We need separate reinforced and secured and provisioned shelter.”
Hurricane season ends on November 30.