The Current

'Incredibly frightening': What one woman faced when she decided to stay in the Bahamas during Dorian

A Bahamian and U.S. resident explains why she chose to stay in Freeport through Hurricane Dorian and why, despite the risk of future hurricanes, her family is staying put.

Crystal deGregory also explains why she stayed during the hurricane

Volunteers rescue several families from the rising waters of Hurricane Dorian, near the Causarina bridge in Freeport in Grand Bahama, the Bahamas, on Tuesday. (Ramon Espinosa/The Associated Press)
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Crystal deGregory didn't have to stay in the Bahamas for Hurricane Dorian. She lives in the United States, and was back in Freeport visiting family when news of the impending storm hit. But she decided to stay put.

As the damage from the hurricane begins to be assessed, concerns are already growing about the impact similar storms could have on the Caribbean in years to come. And many experts worry that climate change will make it more and more difficult for people to continue living in these low-lying island nations.

That's not making everyone run though — from the storms, or the islands. 

DeGregory spoke to The Current's Laura Lynch about why she chose to remain in Freeport through the hurricane, and why her loved ones have no plans to leave the Bahamas. 

Can you give me some sense of the scene in and around Freeport? What does it look like?

It's pretty devastating. The toll on the island from the winds and the storm surge is really unprecedented. There are, quite frankly, some communities that were graciously spared, but far too many of them that were not. 

And so there are professional personnel, added to by kind of deputized citizens in boats, [and] on jet skis, who are venturing into residential communities that were vulnerable.

 
Crystal deGregory, left, with her mother Wendy Saunders. (Autumn Robertson/Autumn Chanel Photography )

Can you take us through the last 72 hours? What did you experience?

Yesterday, I asked several times what day [it was], because I just really didn't know, as the rest of the world now knows, how Dorian's just kind of walking, if you will, across the landmass.

Can you describe, for those of us who have never been through something like this, what you saw, what you heard, as [the storm], as you say, walked across the island?

If you've ever been on a big jet, essentially that is what it sounded like. So you have the combination of sound and the wind and the howling and the pressure that comes especially with enduring those qualities of Mother Nature at night, when you can't see.

Relief officials reported scenes of utter ruin in parts of the Bahamas and rushed to deal with an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful storm on record ever to hit the islands. 2:57

It must have been very terrifying.

Yeah, it is incredibly frightening. I mean even during the day it is. But during the night, so much more, because there's really nothing that anyone can do. So it's very frightening to know that if someone is in distress, it is likely that they will have to find the will and the way to hold out until daybreak.

And is there anyone you haven't been able to reach?

So many people. And in my instance I've had the good fortune of being able to reach [them] and then falling out of reach, and so I'm a little bit more fortunate. But there are tons of pages on Facebook. There are tons of tweets that refer to thousands and thousands of people who are looking for their loved ones and friends. 

You know, we're without power, we're without water, we've long been without those "essentials of life." And telephone service, of course, has been compromised. 

These people are strong. They are brave. They are resilient.- Crystal deGregory

And so it is our hope that there are people who are indeed well — we just haven't had an opportunity to connect the "lost" with those who are seeking to find them.

You could have left before Dorian hit, but yet you decided to stay. Why?

[Because of my] mother.

I understand. How old is your mom?

I don't know if she'll kill me for this. But 58.

Are you having any conversations with her about maybe just leaving for good?

No. When you ask people to leave a place that they've known and that they love and opt for some place else — when everywhere has its share of problems — that is a part of what is just so important about the conversation around natural disaster, whether or not climate change is contributory. 

And all of us are vulnerable to Mother Nature. And so these people are strong. They are brave. They are resilient. Today, yesterday and tomorrow, they will find cause to smile, and to laugh, and to go on.


Written by Allie Jaynes. Produced by Danielle Carr, Ashley Mak and Julie Crysler.

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