NASSAU –– Hurricane Joaquin continued to unleash its fury over the Southern and Central Bahamas late last night, creating widespread flooding, blowing off roofs and leaving many residents terrified.
Many of them said they were caught off guard by the storm, which intensified quickly on Wednesday and battered those islands throughout the day yesterday.
Late last night, Long Island, San Salvador, Samana Cay, Cat Island, Great Exuma and Rum Cay were experiencing the brunt of the Category 4 storm as people in the North-West Bahamas monitored a system which forecasters admitted was seriously unpredictable.
Forecaster Michael Stubbs said around 9:30 p.m. that New Providence, Andros, Grand Bahama, North Eleuthera, Bimini, the Berry Islands and Abaco were expected to be spared a direct hit.
Those islands were expected to experience increasingly windy conditions, rain and high surf throughout today.
However, Stubbs stressed that because the system was so unpredictable a hurricane warning remained in effect for the north-west, central and parts of the south-east Bahamas.
At 8 p.m., the “extremely dangerous” hurricane was moving generally west-south-west at five miles per hour with maximum sustained winds near 130 miles per hour with higher gusts.
Additional strengthening was forecast today with some fluctuations in intensity possible.
Asked last night about the storm’s development, Stubbs said: “This is one of the fastest developing cyclones I have ever seen in my career.”
Earlier in the day, residents of some of the affected islands expressed outrage that they were not warned sooner.
In some cases, shelters were not open before Joaquin unleashed its fury.
Anita Pratt, of Lovely Bay, Acklins, said shelters on the island remained closed after 7 a.m. yesterday.
She said at that time, the roads were clear, but within hours the roads were flooded.
Pratt said her home was also flooded. She claimed she waited for several hours after requesting evacuation assistance.
“It rapidly came in; a sea straight across the road, in my yard and in my house,” she said.
“It is like no one in Acklins cares about you. No one cares about anything in Acklins.
“Actually, we did not have a hurricane meeting. There are no shelters open. This is downright slackness and a disgrace.”
Acklins administrator Harvey Roberts admitted that the shelters were not open.
He said officials were monitoring the storm closely, but did not anticipate such intense conditions.
“I did not open the shelters, not here in the central area where I am,” Roberts said.
“It just came unexpected. We did not think it would get like this. The winds are really, really heavy and high. We are just weathering the storm at this stage.”
When contacted, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) director Captain Stephen Russell said authorities were being directed to Pratt.
Long Island administrator Terrence Bootle-Bethel also reported severe flooding and coastal surges on parts of the island.
As of 2 p.m., power was off on that island.
Bootle-Bethel indicated that 12 people were evacuated in north Long Island.
Another nine people in Clarence Town were holding up in a shelter.
A resident in Landrail Point, Crooked Island, reported that his roof flew off. Another resident on that island said he was trapped in his car because of severe flooding.
Dozens of images sent to The Nassau Guardian from Acklins, Crooked Island and Inagua showed large sea swells and severely flooded roads.