Four days ago, the eye of Hurricane Dorian made landfall on Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, lashing the island community with sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts of over 220 mph. Storm surges of 20-25 feet were reported on neighboring Grand Bahama.
As if the record-breaking power of the storm wasn't enough, after making landfall, Dorian essentially stalled—a typically rare phenomenon that scientists suggest is becoming increasingly common thanks to the impacts of human-induced climate change. Dorian first slowed to 5 mph and eventually to a crawl of just over 1 mph, battering Abaco and Grand Bahama with unrelenting abuse for almost two days.
The devastation on Abaco left in Dorian's wake has been called "catastrophic," "absolute" and "pure hell." Marsh Harbor airport, like much of Abaco, is under water. The island is facing a clean water crisis, a result of extensive flooding contaminating most of Abaco's wells. The majority of Abaco is without power. A preliminary estimate by the Red Cross suggests that over 13,000 homes may have been destroyed.
What remains—especially for those that have traveled to Abaco in the past, lured by an island paradise ringed by beautiful beaches, sand flats teeming with bonefish and so on—is unrecognizable and the inhabitants of Abaco and Grand Bahama now face the seemingly insurmountable task of recovering and rebuilding.
And, in the meantime, there's simply surviving. Dorian didn't just destroy a faraway paradise—a getaway—it destroyed the homes, community, and economy of an island of more than 17,000 people, many of which depend on Abaco's vibrant tourism industry for their livelihoods.
For anglers, Abaco is one of the most iconic bonefish destinations in the world—many of which flock to Abaco Lodge where they have spent countless hours poling Abaco's famed Marls and have built real and lasting friendships with the lodge's guides and staff.
Like most of the island, Abaco Lodge is catastrophically damaged. "It's just gone ..." said the lodge's owner, renowned angler Oliver White, who quickly turned attention away from himself and the lodge, noting that the lodge itself was insured and "will be fine" but that the same could not be said of the lodge's staff.
"Most of the staff is now accounted for, all but one. Most of them have lost everything, all have lost some," White told us.
Within hours of Dorian's landfall, White had launched a GoFundMe page to collect donations from those looking for a way to help. And the response from the angling community and others looking to help has been overwhelming, with over $180,000 in donations collected in just the course of a couple days.
But much more is needed. The lack of basic services and supplies is expected to persist on Abaco for an extended period of time. Even once the massive effort to rebuild Abaco begins, it will be a long time before Abaco's residents—like the dozens employed by Abaco Lodge—have jobs to return to and, in turn, a way of providing food, shelter and basic needs for themselves and their families.
Determinations are still being made about exactly how the donated funds will be put to use but, according to White, this much is known—every penny will go to Bahamians affected by the storm, whether Abaco Lodge's staff, the island's guiding community, or others impacted on the Abaco Islands.
To contribute to this incredibly important and ongoing fundraising effort, please head here.
This article was updated to more accurately reflect the damage to Abaco Lodge.