Hurricane Sandy, which visited the island on October 25, was a strange storm: it came sooner than expected, appeared to have left by midday Friday, but came back with a vengeance that same evening with the eye sitting for hours fifteen miles northeast of Marsh Harbour. Apart from severe flooding in some areas of Abaco, the damage did not seem too bad at first: a few fallen trees and broken branches, missing shingles on the roofs and a lot of debris. Many Abaconians rejoiced at first that there was no loss of lives and not excessive property damage
Two weeks later, the flood has receded but one could still observe the harm left by Sandy.
But for people making a living from farming, the damage was deeper than a mar to the landscape. In the farming district of South Abaco, fallen and burnt fruit trees at a time when the harvest was nearly ready to take place meant loss of revenue for the farmers who do not have government subsidies and most of them no insurance.
The open fields of Cherokee were an inviting battle ground for the storm which ran amok among banana trees, neem trees, avocado trees, papaya and citrus trees.
Mr. Mel Wells, owner of Pepper Pot Farm, recognized having lost 85% of his banana trees. Mr. Rowan Higgs complained that a lot of his bearing avocado trees were partially or completely uprooted. All the fruits fell. He picked up a couple of hundred of fruits from the ground that he is selling for $1.00 or giving away free at the Shell Gas Station on Don Mackay Boulevard.
At Big Bird Chicken farm, the birds made it through the storm, but there too, avocados and lime trees suffered a lot of damage.
At the Neem Farm located on Ernest Dean Highway just North of Casuarina Point, the damage reported by the owners was severe. Daphne De Gregory stated that several hundred neem trees, most of them laden with fruits, had fallen. The leaves which are used for many end- products were burnt and scatted around the farm, unusable. There was also considerable flooding in some areas of the property. Moreover other fruit tress such as papayas and lime had also been destroyed.
The report is the same from all the other farmers of South Abaco. Loss of fruit trees was the common complaint as well as the storm wiping out most of the vegetable crops: destroyed were tomatoes, onions, arrugola and herbs.
Michael Wallace of MWA Freeport, Grand Bahama, who holds a degree in agricultural studies and chemistry, produced a report following the hurricane. He warned that the effect of the storm also included dessication and salinization of land surfaces and aquifers. He advised Bahamians to be aware of the change of climate that is supposed to produce severe weather that could create socio-economic dislocation in the archipelago.
He urged Bahamians to seek ways to reduce their carbon foot print, to regulate forest removal and protect hills and coastal vegetation. Moreover he advocated focus on growing crops better adapted to the climate and the environment. He advised to plant root crops and legumes such as potatoes, eddoes, cassava, beans and berries.