After Hurricane Dorian slowly tore its way through the Bahamas on Sept. 1 as a Category 5 hurricane, thousands of homes have been toppled on the Abaco Islands and more have been flooded on Grand Bahama, the New York Times reported.
The Wall Street Journal wrote, “1.5 billion pounds of debris is strewn across Marsh Harbour alone ... Total property losses have been estimated at $7 billion.”
According to the Washington Post, as of Oct. 2, 58 people are dead and hundreds are still missing.
Nathalie Trow-McDonald, a senior from Louisiana majoring in communications, said she lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands for 3 years while attending the University of the Virgin Islands. While there, she lived through Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma.
Hurricanes on a small island, she explained, are tragically different from hurricanes on the U.S. mainland. “There’s nowhere to go. In the states, there may be an evacuation notice beforehand ... You can’t leave the island. Even if you wanted to, airlines will raise their prices like crazy. The day before Irma, it was $2,000 to get off the island, one way to Florida. Nobody can afford that. You're trapped.”
While you should always be prepared, Trow-McDonald said many islanders don’t experience hurricanes often enough to worry about it. As you are trying to prepare, “The world is becoming chaos around you. You're trying to last-minute shop, but the wind is picking up, it’s getting dark, and the waves are getting scary. Last minute, people are freaking out, posting on social media, calling their families one last time, and things like that.
“As the hurricane hits, there is a combination of calm and terrorizing feelings, knowing you have done everything you can, and realizing how much damage is occurring all around you. In that moment, you're shocked at the capability of Mother Nature. You realize, ‘My house could be gone at any moment. My roof could be gone at any moment.’ There were several moments I was like, ‘This is it. Our door is probably about to go, or our window is about to go.’ If that happens, if we’re not fast enough, that’s the end of our life.”
Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in a press release, “Because of the massive devastation, The Bahamas could not, and cannot face this tragedy alone. We have mobilized the entire government to meet this challenge, in partnership with the international community.”
Trow-McDonald said coping with a hurricane is like coping with any other traumatic event. After residents get over the shock of what happened to them, they start to realize everything is gone, she said. “Everything in front of you doesn’t exist anymore. There is no more vegetation. I could see the docks were gone. Houses that I knew were there were not there anymore.
“Everything was literally gone, all our trees and everything. You have a moment of shock where you're like, ‘Wow.’ Something that drastic can happen to you and to the place you love, and then I realized everything that existed yesterday didn’t exist anymore.
Trow-McDonald continued by saying people in hurricanes don’t just lose physical things, they lose everything. She explained, “You think, ‘I used to be a student. I don’t even know if my university exists. I’m probably not really a student anymore. I had jobs. I can’t go to work. I don’t even know if those buildings exist anymore.’
“There are all these things and responsibilities that are normal to you that are just not there [anymore]. You'll never get that back. Your sense of normal will never come back.”
In an interview with CBS News, Deputy Director General of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation Ellison Thompson explained how the hurricane sat right on top of the Bahamas for about 50 hours, saying, “Our country has never had such a devastating hurricane.”
Trow-McDonald said, “It’s so easy to forget in our day and age. Social media things move so fast. Just because we’ve stopped talking about it after a couple of months doesn’t mean there aren’t people who for years are struggling. I lived through Katrina, which was almost 15 years ago, but there are parts of my state that have never been rebuilt. There are hundreds of people who have never been able to move home from that.”
The lessons learned from Hurricane Dorian can be applied across all islands and especially to BYU–Hawaii students, she said. “We’re all living on an island, or our family is living on some island, or we’re going to go home to an island after this.”
She said people should heed the Church’s counsel in getting emergency preparedness kits and making plans for natural disasters.