Where do we go from here?
As we went to press last evening, Hurricane Dorian had come to a standstill over Grand Bahama in the Bahamas, continuing its catastrophic onslaught on our Caribbean neighbour to the north west.
This Category 5 hurricane is no ordinary storm. It has been described as the strongest on modern record. For the 30 hours and counting before this editorial was written, some parts of the Bahamas had been enduring relentless punishing conditions, worse than anyone could have imagined.
From video clips of the storm’s destruction sent out by residents via mobile phones, people all over the world have been able to get almost a firsthand sense of the horror being experienced by residents of the Bahamas.
Flooding is widespread, with one official saying it was impossible to tell where the roads ended and the sea began. Tidal surges from the hurricane were projected to reach up to 23 feet above normal levels, covering large portions of the low-lying cays and islands.
Preliminary reports put the death toll at five, but because of the severity of the storm, many government agencies have not been able to respond, leaving desperate, stranded residents to fend for themselves. Some evacuation centres and health facilities have also reportedly been badly damaged, limiting what assistance they are able to offer to those who are able to make their way to them.
When hurricanes Irma and Maria wreaked havoc in the Caribbean in September 2017, causing upward of $65 billion in damage, we thought we had seen the worst. Many of the affected communities and individuals are still in recovery mode, trying to rebuild in a manner that they hope would be able to withstand the 150 mph winds that ripped their homes and public buildings apart and which we assumed / hoped would not be exceeded.
But with Dorian’s sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts of over 200 mph, what do we do? Where do we go from here? It is easy to say, well, we should upgrade our building codes and build structures to withstand winds of over 200 mph. The sad news is, such structures do not come cheaply and are outside the reach of the average Caribbean homeowner.
Plus, who is to say that there is not another monster storm around the corner with winds whose maximum speeds exceed those of Dorian? How does one prepare for the unknown?