By Timothy Roberts
While according to official statistics Floyd was never a Category Five Hurricane in its life cycle, it still was a powerful storm when it was at its peak moving through The Bahamas. Sustained winds were as high as 155 mph, and its minimum central pressure was 921 mb.
To put that into perspective, Hurricane Andrew, which was upgraded to a Category Five Hurricane in August of 2002, had a minimum central pressure of 922 mb when it made landfall in Homestead, and the South Florida area in August of 1992. Recently, devastating Hurricane Matthew (2016), recorded barometric pressure as low as 934 mb.
Since the year 2000, Floyd fell from the third costliest hurricane on record to about the 22 on the list ($6.5 Billion), while Hurricane Andrew of 1999 remains in the top five. Several intense hurricanes in the two decades since Floyd have racked up larger bills for estimated damage caused.
Despite the strength and severity of Hurricane Floyd as it made landfall in Abaco and left destruction in its wake, no lives were lost, though one man perished in Grand Bahama as the lone death caused by the storm in The Bahamas; 61 deaths were recorded in the USA.
While many Abaconians dispute the official recorded windspeed from the National Hurricane Centre winds at landfall were estimated to be between 135 to 140 mph, and gusts ranging as high as 190 mph, making Floyd officially a Category Four Hurricane as it passed over Abaco on September 14, 1999.
What is unmistakable is the destruction Floyd left in its wake, with communities such as Crossing Rocks in the south and Coopers Town in the north seeing staggering loss of roofs and homes, while Hope Town was split in half, feeling the brunt of the surge directly from the Atlantic Ocean.
There was both a feeling of trauma and of resilience around Abaco as while so many faced loss and significant damages to their homes, properties and livelihoods, many busied themselves with cleaning up, securing their properties and helping their neighbors recover right away.
With the significant flooding the coastal communities experienced, including Marsh Harbour – flood waters were seen inland as far as the Abaco Market building on the corner of S.C. Bootle Highway and Don MacKay Boulevard – affecting many business and homes in the main township of the island.
Also affected was the very low-lying area of the Mudd and neighboring Pigeon Peas as homes in the shanty towns were submerged in flood waters forcing persons in the community to seek shelter at nearby churches until they could recover. Many of the homes lost were due to poor construction.
Coming ashore with the surge and flooding were many boats that were pushed around by the violent waters and winds settling on streets and shorelines across Abaco, including some large fishing vessels and tugs.
The former Prime Minister, Hubert Ingraham, visited Abaco in the aftermath promising customs and duties exemptions on building materials and household furnishings for sixty days – this would later be expanded to two years after thorough assessment of the damages.
Shipping locally and internationally returned to Abaco in just over a week after passage of the storm and within a day of Floyd’s departure the airport was cleared and ready to accept flights with aid for Abaco residents.
Despite widespread damages, within two weeks of the storm only three communities remained without power as workers from Bahamas Electricity Corporation worked feverishly to restore power across the island.
Many lessons were learned in the wake of Floyd in the way we build, and the need for the enforcement of building codes to better preparedness before the storm arrives, especially in areas of communication – today each islands administrators and police have satellite phones to maintain communication when infrastructure is affected.
Despite the destruction of that which was left behind, and some of the subsequent issues in the aftermath of Floyd, one thing bore true of the most battle-hardened people (when it comes to hurricanes) in The Bahamas; Abaconians are independently resilient and one could say, they bounce back stronger after every storm.