Local 10's Jenise Fernandez recounts Abaco Islands devastation after Hurricane Dorian

'Things are dire,' Local 10 News reporter says of Bahamas

By Jenise Fernandez - Reporter, Michelle F. Solomon - Podcast Producer/Reporter

NASSAU, Bahamas - Five days after arriving in Abaco Islands, Bahamas, to report on Hurricane Dorian, Local 10 News reporter Jenise Fernandez and Local 10 News photographer Brian Ely landed at Nassau International Airport after being extracted Tuesday by helicopter.

"We had to evacuate the island. Things are dire. There is already a humanitarian crisis going on," Fernandez said from a private room at the airport shortly after her arrival at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The duo landed in the Bahamas on Friday to cover the arrival of Hurricane Dorian at Marsh Harbour on Abaco Islands. It was two days before the fierce Category 5 hurricane ripped through the northernmost island in the Bahamas. The Abaco Islands are home to about 17,000 people.

Dorian came ashore on Elbow Cay of Abaco on Sunday, reaching the Bahamas and packing sustained winds of 185 mph with wind gusts over 220 mph. The eye of the storm made a second landfall at Marsh Harbour at 2 p.m. Sunday.

"We lost communication, and we couldn't go live on the air. The only way we could communicate with anyone back home was through a satellite phone," she said.

Her last live report was about 2 p.m. Sunday before the storm surge started coming through.

Video from the scene taken by Ely and described by Fernandez showed the absolute devastation Dorian left behind.

Fernandez walked through a condominium three days after the storm, wading through a few inches of water still on the floor. A floor to ceiling window nearby that had blown open left the condo's living room in shambles, tossing around tables, couches and chairs and leaving the interior destroyed.

"The wind picked up a railing on the balcony and it blew away," Fernandez reported.

She showed a second floor bedroom where rafters of the roof were exposed after pieces of the ceiling were blown down, and where the winds were so strong  that they "actually sucked an entire window out," she said. 

The vantage point from the second-floor window of the condo showed palm trees reduced to sticks without leaves, buildings flattened and yachts docked in a nearby marina were now sitting in the middle of a roadway.

"We're not quite done with day three," Fernandez said while giving a tour of the devastation on video, "and there are still windy conditions. We have moments of heavy and intense rain."

The resort where the Local 10 News reporter and photographer checked in just days before was "now unrecognizable." She showed a bar at the resort where, only a few days ago, people sat and enjoyed drinks, but it had collapsed during the storm.

Standing on a square spot that appeared to be flooring and surrounded by destruction, she said: "This is exactly where we sat the evening before and had dinner." There were no walls or a ceiling left.

Pieces of wood piled from a nearby pier had nails sticking out of them. Debris floated in the resort's pool.

Just outside the hotel sat the rental car in which the pair arrived. Now, the windshield was smashed out by a piece of plywood that went through the car -- the spiked piece inside of the car frighteningly too close to the passenger's headrest and seat. A large boat sat just in front of the resort, its bow just inches away from crashing into the building.

Fernandez recalled watching a roof fly off of a house during the storm "like a piece of paper," then land a few feet away almost still completely intact.

Fernandez interviewed a woman staying at the resort, her foot with a bandaged wrapped around it.

"I wasn't paying attention and I walked across a nail. But I am in far better shape than most," Sandra Hoden said. 

From the helicopter leaving Marsh Harbour, Fernandez looked below. She reported after landing what she could see from her bird's eye view.

"Whole communities that now cease to exist," she said. "The supermarket that I reported on a few days ago, Maxwell's, that was fully stocked and ready to provide food to those in need, the roof was completely gone."

Fernandez reported that the U.S. Coast Guard had arrived on Abaco Islands, which are to the east of Grand Bahama, and that she saw more on the way after she and Ely landed in Nassau.

"We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of northern Bahamas," Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at a news conference Monday. "Our mission and focus now is search, rescue and recovery."

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