NASSAU, Bahamas — Germaine Smith was one of thousands of residents trapped in Hurricane Dorian’s path in the northern Bahamas.
As it churned through the string of islands, the Category 5 monster storm left behind a trail of tragedy and disaster: a death toll on the rise, leveled neighborhoods and landscapes barely reminiscent of the buildings that once stood.
Smith, who’s lived almost all her life on Abaco Islands, had everything ready as the storm neared the island: “food prepared, water, everything.” But nothing could have prepared her for what came next. “I was siting down in my bedroom looking out the window, watching the breeze. My neighbor across the street has double doors and then … the breeze opened the doors, broke (them) off,” Smith said. “Next thing I know I see his roof just flying off and it came toward my room.”
She ducked. Moments later, a large tree smashed through the window she was sitting next to. Smith spent the next hours curled up in her bathtub, praying to stay alive.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it.”
Smith said she ran for the bathroom, a place she always hears being referred to as a “safe haven” during storms. “That’s what saved me,” she said.
She got inside the small room’s tub and stayed put for about 10 hours, listening to the wind pound and push against the walls. The island was rattled by hurricane-force winds for more than 48 hours as Dorian lingered over the islands, pounding the same battered places again and again. “I was just praying to God just to save my life cause I was scared,” Smith said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it.”
On Friday, the official death toll had risen to 43 and hundreds, possibly thousands were still missing, officials said. The number of deaths is expected to climb as authorities began sifting through shattered neighborhoods.
And then it happened again
For a moment, the winds stopped and residents could briefly spot sunlight, Smith said. That’s when everybody began venturing out to scope the damage. “It was really devastating,” Smith said. “I was at (a) loss for words.”
Every home in her neighborhood had been damaged, Smith said. There were bushes and boats in the roads, scattered poles, downed lines — and water everywhere. “You could just stand on your porch and just look and you could see … way beyond. Everything was just cleared,” she said.
Then, minutes later, the short pause in the storm gave way to violent winds. Smith took shelter in her bathtub again, this time staying in place for about eight hours. She’s still there today. “There’s no place else. All the shelters are full,” she said.
But she remains thankful her family is alive, despite the devastation they’ve endured. “We are alive, which is the most important.”