Positive signs on Grand Bahama and Abacos

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The first destination wedding on Grand Bahama Island since Hurricane Dorian's visit in early September.
The first destination wedding on Grand Bahama Island since Hurricane Dorian's visit in early September.
Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

The 2019 six-month Atlantic hurricane season officially wrapped up on Nov. 30, but not before one last storm tried for headlines far out over the Atlantic.

Tropical Storm Sebastien struggled to attain hurricane strength (sustained winds over 74 mph) but fizzled to soggy remnants somewhere near the Azores on Nov. 25.

Here's a brief recap: the 2019 season produced 18 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, i.e. those with winds of more than 111 mph.

This wasn't too far off the mark from what forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had predicted in late May: 15 named storms, eight hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

However, as far as Atlantic hurricane seasons go, this one did pack a Category 5 doozy named Dorian, the beast which slowly inched its way westward across the Abacos and Grand Bahama Island over Labor Day weekend, pummeling, ravaging and destroying homes, businesses, beaches, boats and people's lives.

At its peak, sustained winds in Dorian's eyewall climbed to 185 mph, with some wind gusts over 200 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The response was immediate and heartwarming, as battalions of relief workers, first responders, medical teams, volunteers and public and private sector organizations and businesses jumped into action on rescue and recovery efforts.

Donations began to pour in. Cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, ferried supplies from Florida and Nassau, including thousands of box lunches and hot meals prepared by celebrity Chef Jose Andres and his team in the kitchens of the Atlantis Paradise Island resort in Nassau.

Three months later, tourism is resuming, and signs of progress on Grand Bahama and in the Abacos attest to that, from the new green fronds in the palm trees that had been scraped raw by Dorian's winds to the rebuilding and reopenings of attractions, resorts, inns, gas stations, grocery stores and homes; cruise ships returned to Freeport with paying passengers, not just relief supplies.

Our map of the status of hotels, airports and attractions on Grand Bahama Island and the Abacos Islands, which were heavily damaged by Hurricane Dorian in September.

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I checked in again with Tony Macaroni on Taino Beach in Freeport to see how he was doing. His famous, brightly painted landmark Conch Experience restaurant took a hit from Dorian, but he noted in a Facebook post three days after the storm that he was fine and wanted to reopen as soon as he could.

On Nov. 24, the Conch Experience fully reopened for business, and I'm pretty sure that the 80-seat back deck of his restaurant has been packed and pumpin' every day since.

Another sign of progress was Grand Bahama's first international destination wedding since Dorian, which took place in November.

A couple from England married in a ceremony at the Grand Lucayan Lighthouse Pointe Gazebo, followed by a reception in the Spanish Main mansion-heavy area of Freeport.

The wedding group included 28 friends and family who accompanied the couple from England.

The bride and groom were determined to be married on Grand Bahama island where the bride's father had been treated at the island's Immunology Center some years ago. When their flights to Grand Bahama were canceled because of the airport closure there, they opted to arrive on the Balearia Caribbean Cruise Line ferry.

The couple also started a hurricane fund for the island.

"We are thrilled that Fay and Tom chose to celebrate their vows here on Grand Bahama Island," said Ian Rolle, acting chairman of the tourist board's board of directors. "This is a wonderful vote of confidence in our island, and we are grateful for their support."

While it might take years to know the final damage across the Bahamas, early reports put the infrastructure damage figure at $2.5 billion. Losses of service and cleanup costs could bring the total to $3.4 billion, according to data from the InterAmerican Development Bank.

The death toll from Dorian stood at 67 and the number missing was estimated at 282 as of late October.

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