Steve Harrigan reports from Abaco Island in the Bahamas as search and rescue efforts continue. The scale of the devastation is incredible; everything is gone, and worse yet the topography has changed removing the ability of deep water ports to be used in/around most of the northern Bahama islands. The anticipated death toll is expected to be dramatic. [Disturbing Content]
The duration of Hurricane Dorian has changed the underwater topography making access to the Island communities even more difficult, if not impossible. The Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency and the Royal Bahamian Defense Force have warned all ocean vessels to stay clear of the Northern Bahama islands.
The equipment needed, and the fuel to make the equipment operational, is not able to reach the Islands because the underwater topography has changed. Deep water channels and port routes need to be remapped. Most previous ports in/around the Northern Bahamas are no longer feasible for use. What used to be deep water is now shallow water.
Air crews from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Military are working under the authority granted by the Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency and the Royal Bahamian Defense Force to reach as many island residents as possible. However, the mass delivery of tonnage is severely limited by the inability to open the airports and use fixed wing carriers.
Large ships cannot port, and hovercrafts are needed to avoid the issues with topography changes. All coastal maps are essentially useless around Abacos and Grand Bahama Island. Near shore navigation is currently impossible for large vessels.
This recovery effort is going to be complex and long duration.
As of Friday at 9 a.m.:
Coast Guard crews have rescued 205 people in the Bahamas since Hurricane Dorian began.
The Coast Guard is conducting air operations based out of Andros Island, Bahamas. Seven MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters and five MH-65 Dolphin helicopters are conducting search and rescue missions, area assessments and providing logistical support.
Port Condition Zulu is in effect for the Port of Savannah and Brunswick, Georgia.
Port Condition Zulu is in effect for the Port of Charleston, South Carolina.
Eight Coast Guard cutters are staged near the Bahamas ready to engage in Hurricane Dorian response efforts.
For their safety, the Coast Guard advises mariners to not attempt voyages into the Northern Bahamas until further notice due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Dorian.
The Government of the Bahamas is currently assessing its northern ports and harbors to determine if they are safe to enter. There is a high risk of debris in the water, sunken vessels, and destroyed or missing aids to navigation and pier facilities. There is also a risk of chemical spills and changes to the topography/hydrology in ports and marinas from the prolonged winds and storm surge of the Category 5 hurricane.
The Coast Guard is supporting the Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency and the Royal Bahamian Defense Force, who are leading search and rescue efforts in the Bahamas.
If you are in a life-threatening situation and need assistance, call 911 or 919 in the Bahamas, or call the Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency at 242-325-9983 or the Bahamian Emergency Operations Center at 242-362-3895 or 242-362-3896.
During Port Condition Zulu, no vessels may enter or transit within ports without permission of the COTP. All vessel movements are prohibited, and all ship-to-shore operations must cease. (link)