Grand Bahama forests unrecognizable after Hurricane Dorian

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Hurricane Dorian’s devastating impacts on Grand Bahama

Before Hurricane Dorian, Grand Bahama was a vibrant tropical island filled with life, but in the week since the devastating storm, the island no longer resembles its lush former self.

“From a few hundred feet above, the tropical paradise of Grand Bahama Island looks more like the Desert Southwest,” AccuWeather national reporter Jonathan Petramala said.

Closer to the surface, people can see why the island looks so different from above.

“The trees tell the story of just how violent this storm was,” Petramala said. “This kind of damage you’d expect to see in a powerful tornado, but this was a major hurricane that basically sat in one place for nearly 48 hours.”

damaged trees hurricane dorian
This close-up look shows just how devastating Hurricane Dorian was to the trees across Grand Bahama. Photo by Jonathan Petramala/AccuWeather

Not only have the trees been completely stripped of their foliage, but they all seem to have a strange but uniform marking about 20 feet above the ground.

“As far as the eye can see, the forest is debarked at the same level where the wind and the rain scoured it away,” Petramala said.

These markings were not caused by the wind, but the powerful waves crashing at the height of the storm surge that flooded the forest.

The island appears different all the way from space as before and after satellite imagery recently released by NASA shows.

grand bahama july vs september
Grand Bahama as seen from space. The top image was taken on July 14, while the bottom image was taken on Sept. 9. The difference in the island’s color is due to the lack of vegetation after intense winds from Hurricane Dorian ripped all of the foliage off of vegetation across the island. Images courtesy of NASA Worldview

Standing in the eerie, barren forest is a thing out of nightmares, but looking down at the ground reveals a sight even more bazaar than the stripped trees.

“I’ve never seen this,” Petramala said. “A fish just sitting right out here in the forest.

“They obviously came in with the surge. But unfortunately, they couldn’t make it back out. However, it shows just how much water and wind came through here.”

This dramatic change in the scenery is astonishing, but it’s a second thought for those in communities across the island still reeling from Dorian’s catastrophic damage.

Sustained winds over 185 mph and wind gusts over 220 mph flatted reinforced, well-built concrete buildings across the island, including the jail, to Petramala said.

“I never thought it was going to end,” Chairman of High Rock Township Eric Beilloue told AccuWeather. “I thought that I heard the front side of [Dorian] was the worst, but the back side was more severe.”

High Rock Township, east of Freeport, Grand Bahama, is home to a small community comprised of just a few hundred residents.

“While the damage was catastrophic, miraculously, most of the small community of 200 survived, but officials still don’t know the final toll.” Petramala said.

At least 50 deaths have been reported in the Bahamas, but that number is expected to rise.

The debris strewn everywhere is making it difficult to search for those that are still missing. This is the case not only in High Rock Township, but all across the island and the neighboring Abaco Islands, which also took the full brunt of the historic hurricane.

Reporting by Jonathan Petramala from the Bahamas.

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