FREEPORT, BAHAMAS (AP) – Tropical Storm Humberto moved away from the Bahamas on Saturday (Sept 14) after dumping rain on parts of the archipelago’s northwest region that were already hammered by Hurricane Dorian two weeks ago.
Humberto dropped rain on the islands as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the Bahamas to support humanitarian efforts in the wake of Dorian, which hit as a Category 5 storm that left thousands in need of food, water and shelter. The list of missing stands at an alarming 1,300 people and the death toll at 50. But officials caution the list is preliminary and many people could just be unable to connect with loved ones.
The storm originally threatened to exacerbate the nation’s problems, but conditions appeared to normalise on Saturday afternoon.
At 11pm local time, the US National Hurricane Centre said Humberto was located about 85 miles (137km) north of Great Abaco Island and was moving 6mph (9kph) north-northwest with maximum sustained winds of 60mph. The Bahamian government discontinued a tropical storm warning earlier in the evening.
Weather forecasters say Humberto will likely become a hurricane on Sunday as it moves away from the Bahamas and the US coast, but would not threaten land by the time it intensifies to that strength. Its swells could still affect the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina in the coming days.
Under a bright sun in the Grand Bahama, 40-year-old maintenance man Dexter Wilson was helping a friend put a blue tarp on a damaged roof. He said he was worried about his brother in Abaco given the tropical storm. “He’s still there. I don’t know why,” he said.
The hurricane centre said most of Humberto’s heavy squalls were occurring north and east of the centre of the storm, which passed just east of Abaco. However, government officials in the Bahamas took no chances and urged people in damaged homes to seek shelter as they announced that aid efforts would be temporarily affected.
“The weather system will slow down logistics,” said Mr Carl Smith, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency.
The distribution of meals in Grand Bahama was reduced ahead of the storm, and a spokesman for the United Nations World Food Programme said all flights into its logistics hub in Marsh Harbour in Abaco were suspended.
Later Saturday, World Food Programme spokesman Herve Verhoosel said the agency had resumed activities in Marsh Harbour.
“Our team is back at work to support the population and relief organisations,” Mr Verhoosel said in a statement.
Mr Dave McGregor, president and COO of the Grand Bahama Power Company, said crews would resume restoring power as soon as possible.
“We are back in storm preparation mode again, unfortunately,” he said.
Mr Guterres, who was in Abaco on Saturday, said he was horrified by the level of “systematic devastation".
"Hurricane Dorian has been classified as Category 5. I think it’s Category Hell,” the UN secretary-general said after his visit.
He said storms powered by climate change had grown more intense, and he implored the international community to learn from the example of Abaco and Grand Bahama and provide support.
“We have always had many hurricanes, but now they are more intense, and they are more frequent,” he said.