By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
AS Hurricane Ian barrels its way to the Gulf Coast of Florida, Grand Bahama residents can expect to experience strong winds, heavy rain, and flooding in low-lying areas.
Although the island is not in any major threat, people are closely watching the forecast. Hardware stores are ready and stocked with hurricane supplies.
Grand Bahama, Bimini, Abaco, the Berry Islands and Andros should expect heavy rainfall, severe thunderstorms with dangerous lightning, gusty winds, and possible tornadic activity, according to the Bahamas Department of Meteorology.
Total rainfall of four to six inches, and possible isolated amounts of up to eight inches are expected through Friday. Severe localised flooding is possible in low-lying and flood prone areas.
Some residents on Grand Bahama are still repairing homes damaged during Hurricane Dorian three years ago.
Kwasi Thompson, MP for East Grand Bahama, expressed concerns, particularly for those residents whose homes are still in need of repairs.
“I am very concerned with the weather that we are expected to experience,” he said on Tuesday. “Thankfully, we will not have a direct hit, but we are expecting to have very bad weather and a lot of rain.
“We are extremely concerned with those residents throughout Grand Bahama, but particularly those in East Grand Bahama who have not yet received necessary assistance.
“It is unacceptable that we have persons waiting for more than a year since the government was elected and have not yet received the assistance they were approved for.”
Mr Thompson said he has been visiting the communities in the east.
“As I do my walkabouts and go through the communities that is still the number one concern. There are still too many residents whose houses remain open, vulnerable to the elements.
“And so, we are hopeful the government will see a sense of urgency in ensuring that they bring immediate relief for residents in East Grand Bahama and throughout GB,” he said.
He urged residents to be careful in their moving about. “We urge them to begin to prepare and complete preparations on an urgent basis as best as they can in low-lying areas to move to higher ground in case there is flooding.”
Mr Thompson stressed that it is important that residents pay attention to the local weather channel, and credible news outlets.
Cleopatra Russell, director of communications at Grand Bahama Power, said they are prepared and are closely monitoring Ian, which is expected to impact their sister company in Tampa.
“We are prepared; we have done necessary hurricane drills before the hurricane season came upon us and so we consider ourselves prepared.
“Our sister company in Tampa, TECO (Tampa Electric Company) who came to our aid will be impacted and our thoughts and prayers are with them as they brace for a direct hit,” she said.
“Our system will be fine throughout (the event). There might be some outages, but our crew is available to address them when it is safe to do so.”
The foodstores or hardware stores have not experienced any rush for essential hurricane supplies.
At Kelly’s Freeport Ltd there has been an increase in sales of basic hurricane supplies and building materials.
Lynne Fraino, Human Resources and Marketing Manager at Kelly’s, said storm preparation is an ongoing process and people need to be prepared.
“We want Grand Bahamians to be prepared for adverse weather conditions during hurricane season. Storm preparation is an on-going process and Kelly’s will continue to stock the items our customers need to stay safe through storms,” she said.
James Rolle, store manager at Dolly Madison, said they are stocked up with lots of supplies and are ready to accommodate customers.
“We were prepared since June, and ready for the rush of customers when there was some speculation that we could have been in the path of Hurricane Fiona, but she turned early,” he said.
Mr Rolle said in store are lanterns, tarps, generators, fuel for lamps and portable stoves, small gas tanks, First-aid kits, as well as after-storm items such as rakes and pickaxes.
“We want customers not to take any threat of bad weather lightly,” he said.
“We are projected to experience the outer fringes of tropical weather and we want people to be prepared in case there is an outage,” he said.
Maudrey, a resident of Grand Bahama, is trusting that God will spare the island. “I have purchased some supplies already,” she said. “God knows we cannot take another hurricane because look at what Dorian did.”
In Bimini, residents had been experiencing some rain and windy conditions since early in the week.
“We have been getting some gusts of wind and rain on and off on Monday and Tuesday,” said one resident who appeared to be concerned.
Desiree Ferguson, Bimini’s Island Administrator, could not be contacted as she was off the island.
Last night, the Ministry of Education announced that schools in Grand Bahama, Grand Cay and Bimini will be closed today out of an abundance of caution in preparation for Hurricane Ian. Those islands are expected to feel tropical storm conditions over the next few days as Ian heads towards Florida.