Hurricane Dorian smashed into Grand Bahama on September 1, 2019 with sustained winds of 185 mph, torrential rains and relentless flooding, causing 70 percent of the island to become submerged.
The horror hung over the island for a seemingly interminable 40 hours, the slowest moving hurricane ever. It swept away houses, killed an unknown number of people, devastated the landscape, spilled oil from storage tanks and knocked out all power and water supplies. Thousands were left homeless and most animals and much marine life died.
For the YMCA of Grand Bahama, the damage was very serious, but no staff or Board member was physically harmed. Up to 70 percent of the roof was destroyed, all the sheetrock walls were sodden, the gym floor was ruined, all five pool pumps were broken, four beyond repair and the treadmills and other electronically-controlled equipment in the Fitness Centre were rendered useless.
Downed power lines and debris littered the fields where the fences were ripped up and away, and dugouts were wrecked. Office furniture and computer accessories were waterlogged and baseboards, carpet tiles and ceiling tiles all had to be replaced. Mold irrigation was a priority and many doors had to be thrown out. Painting inside and outside the building was a major project in itself and there was no power or water, except from the pool.
Always resilient, the Bahamian people pulled together in a most admirable way. With the massive help of international organizations, the island gradually returned to some sense of normalcy. Life is unlikely ever to be the same. At the time of writing, in mid-February, almost all the island has only salty water for cooking and showering; this plays havoc with appliances like washing machines and water heaters. There is no postal service, landline phone service is unavailable and houses have yet to be rebuilt.
The Y community has done an extraordinary job, not just with repairs, but with getting almost all programmes back on track. But first, the gym was opened up for sheltering people whose houses were destroyed. Next, the Y’s small staff visited over 100 homes in the vicinity to check on people’s needs. Then the gym became a distribution center for large quantities of food and a huge bladder of drinking water, as well as construction equipment.
A K-9 technical academy that lost its building is being housed in classrooms erected in the auditorium. And a non-profit set up a Children’s Friendly Space for kids to come while their parents were cleaning up or clearing out. Now almost all programmes are up and running well, from archery to yoga, swimming to the Young Offenders’ programme, tennis to preschool offerings. New programmes are already being added, an exciting one being a pilot swim programme for 22 special needs children. Over 50 lessons they will each be regularly assessed for changes in their behavioral and social skills, as well as in their swimming progress. So, once again, post-hurricane, and this one the deadliest ever to hit the islands, the Y not only survives but thrives.