As recovery efforts spin up in the Bahamas, it should surprise no one that Florida residents are stepping up to help. There are ties that bind.
Gov. Ron DeSantis recently announced that Floridians have already donated more than $11 million to relief efforts in the Bahamas.
Florida Power & Light and the state government are also sending 19 truckloads of bottled water to the Bahamas.
The people of the Bahamas are living through the aftermath of a terribly destructive hurricane. The scope of destruction, especially on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, where Hurricane Dorian stalled for 40 hours, is immense. We have all seen the flatten homes.
Wind gusts up to 220 miles per hour collapsed homes and businesses, flinging debris. A storm surge of more than 20 feet inundated the islands and fouled the fresh water. Boats were swept inland and came to rest in the middle of streets. Some portions of the island have been completely obliterated. Portions of the Grand Bahama highway were destroyed.
“It literally looks like an atomic bomb went off,” said Errol Thurston, a Bahamas resident who fled to Florida before the storm hit. Full recovery seems impossible now.
Though the official death toll remains under 100, thousands are missing, more than 2,500. Thousands more have been evacuated from the worst-hit islands to the capital, straining Nassau’s resources.
Dorian was the most powerful Atlantic hurricane to make landfall since 1935.
“Just over a week ago, Hurricane Dorian barreled towards our coast and the state of Florida prepared for the worst,” DeSantis said on Tuesday. “Although Florida was lucky, we know that our neighbors in the Bahamas bore the brunt of this storm.”
It’s not just that Floridians are grateful to have been spared or more generous than most.
Many Florida residents know first-hand the awesome, terrible force of major hurricanes. Memories of the wide swath of destruction from 1992’s Hurricane Andrew remains vivid to those who lived through it. More recent hurricanes like Charley, Frances and Wilma also left their mark.
The people of Florida can offer the Bahamas more than money. We can offer hope that rebuilding after such a disaster — though a difficult, arduous process — is possible.
That hope, though, needs to be tempered with a dose of reality. As climate change causes temperatures to rise, more frequent and more powerful hurricanes will be an inevitable outcome.
The most vulnerable populations — and that definitely includes the residents of Florida and the Bahamas — need to understand the risk, as do those making budgetary decisions at the state and federal level.
Hurricane recovery is expensive. It’s an expense that coastal and island areas will face with greater frequency. DeSantis praised the responsiveness of Florida to Dorian, but is he preparing the state for a future with more and stronger hurricanes? We admit that is a difficult task.
As the people of the Bahamas rebuild, it would be wise for those assisting the poor nation to help fund hardened infrastructure and housing that can better withstand the onslaughts that will be coming in the future.
The people of Florida stand with the people of the Bahamas in this recovery — as we will stand with others who need it in the future, and as we will look to others to stand with us when it is, inevitably, our turn again.