In the pictures Deb Butler has of her last family time in Abaco, Bahamas, the Bowling Green woman and her family are smiling in front of periwinkle blue water on pristine, white sandy beaches.
In the video after Hurricane Dorian pummelled the island for two days with torrential rain and 185 mph winds, a flyover shows horrendous wreckage and flooding. The muddy water rises up to some roofs, shipping containers and vehicles are tossed around like toys, and trees are sheared off at their tops.
As Butler waits to hear from her father and stepmother, Rudolph and Yvonne Key, and bunches of extended family in Abaco, she’s asking her community to be aware of the devastation and be poised to lend a hand.
“I know people like to help and they’re going to need so much help,” said Butler, who has dual citizenship. “I’m just looking to get the word out so we can get help there.”
As of late Wednesday morning, she had not heard from her dad or any of her aunts, uncles and cousins who live on Abaco, Marsh Harbor.
Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, which also took a huge hit, have a combined population of 70,000 and are known for their marinas, golf courses and all-inclusive resorts, according to an Associated Press story.The official death toll stood at seven but was certain to rise, according to the Associated Press story.
The AP is also reporting that a Red Cross spokesman said more than 13,000 houses, or about 45% of the homes on Grand Bahama and Abaco, were believed to be severely damaged or destroyed. U.N. and Red Cross officials said tens of thousands of people will need food and clean drinking water.
“It’s devastated, annihilated … just complete destruction … just mind-blowing devastation,” Butler said. “There’s nothing there. I don’t even know where people are sleeping.
“My family’s been there for generations, so they’re used to riding out hurricanes,” she added.
Dorian was different. The slow-moving storm parked itself over the Bahamas for over 36 hours.
“And it sat there. They have no power, no phones,” Butler said.
Dorian was headed toward Florida, then Georgia and the Carolinas.
Butler has been online, frantically searching for updates and culling bits and pieces of information from people with satellite phones.
“I heard last night that two of our cousins are all right, but no word from my father,” Butler said. “The air strip where my father’s business is, is still under water.”
Key owns Zig Zag Aviation in Marsh Harbor and his main business is fueling and tying down private planes and taking care of them.
“He’s a real survivor. I’m hoping they get some more satellite phones in there so people can make contact,” Butler said.
Butler and her family, which includes husband Tim and daughter Kala and her husband Adam, were last in Abaco for a visit about 18 months ago, she said. Butler, whose mother is an American, is director of Rehab and the Center for Child Development at Wood County Hospital.
“We spend a lot of time on the beach, my husband loves to scuba dive. We do a lot of relaxing on the water and beaches. The water so beautiful there,” she said.
“It’s just the most beautiful beach. National Geographic has ranked it in the top 10,” Butler said. “It’s not a tourist trap but it’s a place where people who want to, to go the beach, go diving, go fishing.
“There’s no casinos or night life. It’s a pretty peaceful, type of island.”
Butler and Kala were planning a trip there in October — her dad’s birthday is Oct. 7 — but that is on hold now.
“The places where houses are, are totally destroyed, there are places where they don’t even exist any more. The docks are all gone. The big containers on ships are washed all over the land,” she said. “Pretty much everything is just gone when you look at the pictures.”
The island’s isolation will be a detriment to cleanup and assistance, Butler said.
“You live on an island and you’re stuck. Here, you get in your car, drive 100 miles away and go to Kroger. You can’t do that there,” she said. “You can’t get off the island.”