Right now Hurricane Dorian, now a tropical storm is winding its way slowly north just off the United States east coast—at press time it was just about to make landfall as a Category 1 storm on the North Carolina Outer Banks. The threat from Dorian now is with massive amounts of rain, storm surges and flooding.
Dorian, however, was a Category 5 storm, the most severe level, and did catastrophic damage in the Bahamas, including killing dozens of people, destroying an untold number of homes and business, and shutting down airports on several islands large and small.
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When it hit the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, Dorian was the one of the two most powerful Atlantic storms to make landfall since recordings were first taken. With sustained winds of 185 mph, it destroyed huge swaths of residential and commercial areas in Grand Bahama, including shutting down the airport. At least 30 people were killed on Grand Bahama Island alone, and officials warn that the death toll is sure to rise.
Marsh Harbour Airport was inundated and lay under water for days. Weather experts say that Dorian’s attack was three-pronged, with heavy rain when it stalled near Grand Bahama, record high winds and a storm surge that has been estimated at up to 20 feet. The highest point of land on Grand Bahama, for reference, is 35 feet.
As catastrophic as the damage to the Bahamas has been, the aftermath is shaping up to be equally devastating, as relief flights with supplies, medical personnel and emergency infrastructure teams have been slow to arrive. The storm also wiped out much of the islands’ ability to respond to the storm, with their infrastructure damaged or destroyed and personnel and their families out of their homes. Dorian destroyed an estimated 30,000 homes on Grand Bahama alone.
For pilots who want to help, the situation is complex. For many, the best way to help with your aircraft is to deliver much needed supplies to depot stations being set up in South and Central Florida. Groups organizing pilot volunteers are urging extreme caution, as the risks to pilots are great, as supply trips to the Bahamas involve long overwater legs, unknown fuel availability, planes with limited range and payload.
Once again, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is working to help disseminate information on how pilots can help, as well as aiding directly in the aid process by flying to the islands with needed supplies. This article on AOPA.org discusses the various ways pilots can help and how to get involved in the process.