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After Dorian: Making the Bahamas great once again

Written By | Sep 7, 2019
Bahamas great again, Dorian, Hurricane

BAHAMAS: Dorian is now heading to sea. However, he leaves behind a ravaged Bahamas Islands. The stories of survival and loss are emerging. All heartbreaking. Following Hurricane Dorian, Bahamians will need to mourn their dead. The final numbers of lives lost is liable to be staggering. The damage to the Bahamas’ unique environment is staggering.

They’ll need to recover and rebuild. Which will be difficult.  For one, the debris has to be moved off the islands and just dumping it into the ocean is not an option. We hope.

Escaping crude oil destroying the land and sea environment

Another environmental issue is that crude oil is seeping into the ground on the island of Grand Bahama.  The storm blew the tops off five crude-storage tanks on the island.

“According to the information we have right now, the roofs of five tanks are gone,” Norway’s Equinor ASA, which owns the storage facilities, said in a statement. “We do not know if they are been carried away by the winds or fallen into the tanks.”

Equinor says a flyover shows oil had seeped into the ground but not the sea. The tanks can hold 6.75 million barrels — almost 1 million tons. And it is in the water where it will destroy the fragile coral reefs and marine life.

The Bahama Islands are located just over 300 miles from central Florida.

They are our neighbors. The islands are one of America’s favorite playgrounds. And there are many reasons we should all stop, open our hearts and wallets and help.

Dorian’s devastation

The International Red Cross anticipates that 45% of homes, 13,000 properties, on Grand Bahama and the Abacos island were literally destroyed.  Parts of the Bahamas received up to 35in (89cm) of rain, leaving vast areas of it flooded. Some of the islands were under approximately three feet or more over water.

Parts of the Bahamas received up to 35in (89cm) of rain, leaving vast areas of it flooded.

Others were severely damaged or destroyed by winds and hurricane winds.

This U.S. Coast Guard video shows the land, destruction of homes and forests:

Parts of the Bahamas received up to 35in (89cm) of rain, leaving vast areas of it flooded.

The Island of Great Abaco is virtually uninhabitable, with bodies piled up, no water, power or food, and militias formed to prevent looting, local media report.

Nearly one hundred different species of coral decorate the Bahamian ocean floor

From the sea to interior forests, the islands are ecological wonderlands. The Bahamas are surrounded by beautiful coral reefs, vast colonies built by billions of tiny animals called polyps. Some are microscopic, but they all secrete a limey skeleton that is the basic structure of the reef.

Better in the Bahamas: Making landfall in Freeport before Dorian

Coral, hidden beneath the water’s surface, is one of the most beautiful life forms on earth. Corals form spires and pinnacles, giant waving sea fans, “trees” and “shrubs” and stone-hard elkhorns,  giant brains, and the delicate flower-like figures of lettuce and leaf corals. As a living organism, the coral is constantly growing, but at a very slow rate. A new colony can take fifty years to grow to the size of a playground ball.

Sandy and rocky seashores protect the island land

A sandy seashore is where we head when we want to frolic in the surf, sunbathe or watch the sunset over the Western horizon. But not all sandy seashores are the same – you have the Intertidal, Pioneer, Fixed Dune and Scrub Woodland zone.

Read more from the Ecosystems of the Bahamas:

1. Intertidal Zone lies between the low tide and the high tide mark. A note of interest is that “beach ownership” ends at the point of the high tide mark.
2. Pioneer Zone: So named because it is where the first plants to try to grow over-sand. Some plants found in the pioneer zone are Purple seaside bean (Canavalia obtusifolia), Saltwort (Batis maritima), Goat’s foot (Ipomea pes-Caprae), and Sea purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum).
3. Fixed Dune Zone: The next zone is the fixed dune, so named because as the. plants in the pioneer zone grip the sand around their roots and make the beach more stable. ,Plants in this area-must cope with dry infertile soil and sea spray. Some plants in this zone are Sea Oats grass (Uniola paniculta), Gale of Wind (Phyllanthus niruri), Spider Lily (Crinum zeylancium), and Bay Geranium (Ambrosia hispida).
4. Scrub Woodland Zone: This zone is high up the shore. The sand is stable and more varieties of plants are found, gradually taking on the appearance of a broad-leaved coppice. Some of the flora of this zone are Cocoplum (Chrysobalamus icaco), Buttonwood (Conocarpus erecta), Silver Top Palm (Cocothrinax argentata) and Seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera).
The Rocky Seashore Environment

Limestone rock collects along the shore. The constant waves, tides, and winds wearing the rocks away to form ridges and crevices. They form an ideal habitat for a variety of marine plants (algae) and creatures. The ridges and crevices provide protection from the waves and a safe haven for creatures to hide from predators.

Sea animals also adapt to the environment. Ecosystems of the Bahamas explains that some creatures have strong glue-like Barnacles that allow the animal to firmly suction down.

Others, like sea urchins (sea egg) and crabs, hide under rock ledges. Chitons, Limpets and Sea Anemones have a large fleshy foot which sucks onto the rock. Some of the mollusks stop themselves from drying out at low tide by drawing back into their thick shells and closing the lid.

Some creatures use camouflage to prevent predators from eating them. Others, like a sea anemone, have stinging cells for defense.

Blackland Coppice and Whiteland Coppice forests
The Whiteland Coppice Forest Environment

There are more than 100 species of trees for every square mile of the Bahamas dry forests. The Whiteland Coppice trees are extremely rugged and durable. Some species of forest trees and shrubs are:

  • Brasiletto grows here as do several species of Acasia, which are shrubs and small trees with large bipinnate leaves.
  • Haulback, a shrub armed with sharp spines curved like a cats claw, trail through this forest.
  • Mahogany sea grape, manchineel, Balsam and the Clusia or Autograph tree are some of the large shade trees that grow.

Cacti are the most enduring plant life of the Whiteland Coppice. The cacti are able to withstand the Bahama’s extreme rainfall, storm and roaming goats. The largest is the Dildo Cactus, which can grow to heights of 20 feet. A much shorter nonbranching column-like cactus is the Turks Cap. The cacti names is for the red inflorescence that crowns the column.

The Prickly Pear Cactus also grows wild in the Bahamas’ environment. The most spectacular Cacti is the Queen of the Night, which spends most of the and year as a scraggly vine that climbs over trees and walls.

With the arrival of the spring rains, the cactus develops massive swelling buds which open to reveal six-inch white flowers and fill the evening air with the faint scent of vanilla.

Bahamas great again, Dorian, Hurricane, Environment

Native to Cuba and the Bahamas, the Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) was a prized plant among colonial collectors. Photograph by Mick Fournier

Attracted by the aroma, the night pollinating Sphinx moths flicker from flower to flower like nocturnal hummingbirds.

The Blackland Coppice Environment

The Blackland Coppice is made of the same trees that greeted Columbus including mahogany, horseflesh, mastic, and cedar. The original forests with canopies of over 50, feet in height have long vanished and modern-day coppice is secondary, or even tertiary growth.

Only on Little Inagua might one still find ancient primeval trees.

Orchid lovers will want to hike the Blackland Coppice forest because this is where they grow.

Shade and humidity make this dark forest perfect for orchids and bromeliads, which cling to the bark of trees with tenacious roots. There are nine species of orchids with linear leaves and purple-yellow flowers on Inagua and Little Inagua. Three native species of vanilla are climbing orchids with fleshy leaves found in the northern and central Bahamas.

The bromeliads are represented by the pineapple and numerous species of Tillandsia, which include Spanish Moss and the wild pines. The wild pines are still common in most forest areas. Most of them resemble pineapples with a rosette of long, green leaves which send out an elaborate stalked inflorescence once a year.

(A special thank you to the Ministry of Finance, Government of the Bahamas for the above-adapted information.  Read the full text here.)

How to help the Bahamas:

The Red Cross is providing shelter, food, water, medicine, and communications are the most urgent needs, says  Stephen McAndrew, the deputy director for the Americas of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Global Giving has established the Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund to provide emergency supplies and long-term assistance to help in rebuilding.

World Central Kitchen, set up by the chef José Andrés, provides food to people after natural disasters. Mr. Andrés and a relief team have arrived in Nassau, the capital, and have begun to identify places where they can set up kitchens on the affected islands.

HeadKnowles is a Bahamian organization that formed following Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Joaquin in 2015. They have set up a site through Go Fund Me.

Reporting from hurricane ground zero: Waiting for Dorian

Yacht Aid Global has set up “Operation Topaz” to bring emergency supplies like food, tarps, hygiene kits and medicine to Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands. The organization works with yachts in the region to coordinate support.

Team Rubicon, an organization of military veterans that provides disaster relief, is in the Bahamas.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis says people wishing to help should donate to the Salvation Army, which works closely with the government’s National Emergency Management Agency.

Waterkeeper Alliance, a charity that works with local partners to preserve water ecosystems and fight for clean water, is taking donations on behalf of its affiliate in Grand Bahama, Save the Bays. Type in “Bahamas” on its donation site.

The Grand Bahama Disaster Relief Foundation was set up by the Grand Bahama Port Authority. The site offers suggestions on how to help, including several addresses where donors can drop off supplies in the United States.

Charity Navigator offers this list of reputable charities that are working in the Bahamas.

Help the dogs stranded by Hurricane Dorian by visiting Lucky Dog Rescue. They have animals from the US and the Bahamas that need forever homes.  Rescuing these pups, proving medical care is expensive.  Please donate.

Other Organizations Responding to Hurricane Dorian

AirLink Flight

All Hands and Hearts

The Bahamas Red Cross

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

International Medical Corps

Mercy Corps

Pan American Health Organization


Jacquie Kubin

Jacquie Kubin is an award-winning writer and wanderer. She turns her thoughts to an eclectic mix of stories - from politics to sports. Restless by nature and anxious to experience new things, both in the real world and online, Jacquie mostly shares travel and culinary highlights, introduces readers to the chefs and creative people she meets and shares the tips, life and travel information people want to read.