Memory of Hurricane Dorian’s devastating and deadly impact remains at the forefront in the minds of East Grand Bahama residents, even after almost two years ago when the historic storm made landfall back in September 2019.
Following Dorian’s rage, many residents have decided not to return to the eastern end of the island, and those who remained are still in the rebuilding stage.
Now, with the start of the 2021 Hurricane Season Tuesday, June 1, residents who have rebuilt and are in the process of rebuilding say, should a storm threaten the area this season, “staying put” is not an option.
Sweeting’s Cay resident, Wilbur Tate, told this daily that while he survived the deadly Hurricane Dorian, staying in his home, should a weather system threaten the area again he would not stay.
Asked how he feels about the new hurricane season, as he still continues to rebuild his home Tate responded as follows: “I think about it, but what can I do? We just all have to prepare. But I know one thing, the chances that I took last time, I am not going to do it again.
“I will explain why I say that. You stay home, to secure your house; and your house is still gone. You stay home to secure your boat; the boat is still broken up, still gone. What sense does it make staying? All of these things you can always get back, but once your life is gone that is it.”
Nearly two years later after surviving the ordeal, Tate, though recovering from a stroke, continues to rebuild his home, which is directly behind his mother Marlene Feaster’s residence.
With sheetrock laying against the wall in his bedroom Tate said there still is a lot of work to be done.
“It (the house) is not quite together yet, but I am getting there. I built this building by putting wood together and people helping me. That is how I built this. I decided to do this on my own. Now I am getting a little help; but the building is already up.”
Tate recalled his 2019 hurricane ordeal.
“Dorian hit us in 2019, on a Sunday evening around 7:30 p.m. I was right here at my mother’s house. Around 10:30 that night, I called my sister and told them that half of the roof was off and half of the walls of the house had already fallen in. My brother and I were there.
“We moved to another part of the house, and then that part of the roof collapsed and fell in. We were underneath the roof, holding on until the breeze slowed down. It was useless running outside, not seeing where we were going and then the water catching us above our waist or higher. When the breeze dropped a little, we came outside and walked out to the road,” Tate remembered.
“I met my boat floating in the yard. One mind said to jump in the boat and run around the road, but I decided to walk down the road instead. Remember, it was dark and so, I could not see. I had to use my imagination and remember the area, because I grew up here. The first person I met was Mr. Cooper, who was in the two-story building down the road.
“I asked him if he was okay, as the building was already filled with water and everything was floating around him. I continued walking further and went to the home of Mr. Barry Cooper and he took me and my brother in. For four days we rode the storm out with him until the hurricane moved away,” he said.
Despite having suffered the stroke as well, Tate’s resiliency and optimism for the future remains strong, as with many residents on the small Cay.
“Well, things are moving; things are happening, but it will take time. We are going to get it back together. We have to continue to be grateful and have patience that things are going to get back. We just have to keep pushing,” he said, sounding quite confident.
Tate’s mother (Marlene Feaster) was one of the nine recipients in the first phase of Rotary International and the TK Foundation’s Sweeting’s Cay Home Project, where newly constructed homes were handed over to residents of the Cay on May 21.
It is the intention of the non-governmental organization (NGO) to continue the work with an additional two phases for at least 18 other homeowners on the Cay.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) there is a likely range of 13 to 21 named storms for the 2021 season. Six to 10 of those named storms can become hurricanes; three to five of them with the potential of becoming major hurricanes, categories three, four or five, with winds of 111 miles per hour (MPH) or higher.