In case you missed it – and you most certainly did – the ‘storm in a teacup’ over which some Barbadians moaned and grumbled for having prepared against too little wind and rain has gone on to kill five people in the northern Bahamas.
Islands that lie mere metres above sea level have been inundated by storm surges, and parts of a nation ranked four places above our own in the quality of life – known as the Human Development Index – have been knocked back into a previous if so far indeterminate era.
This is Dorian. Apparently out of some sick and cynical motive, some people here seem disappointed to have prepared for something that killed no one and destroyed nothing.
That was then; this is now. The whole point of preparedness is to prevent a hazard from becoming a disaster. A hurricane is not a disaster; it’s the impact on human beings who get in the way of nature’s destructive force that defines a natural disaster.
Such has been the bitter lesson of The Bahamas, learned no less than thrice in as many years.
The last 24 hours have been a grim vigil on the decimation of the Abaco islands, a handful of cays among the 30 inhabited islands of the 700-island archipelago that make up the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Horrendous scenes are sure to follow when the light of day again falls on the northernmost CARICOM nation after being visited by one of the strongest hurricanes on record, which is still slamming straight into the second largest city of Freeport on Grand Bahama Island.
And it is sitting there.
As this editorial is being composed, meteorologists have indicated that Hurricane Dorian Is absolutely stationary, unleashing the full fury of 200-plus mile-per-hour winds on the inhabitants of Grand Bahama.
May God save their souls.
Meanwhile, the Florida panhandle, home to unofficial offshore parishes and annexes of the Caribbean, and the southern state of North Carolina remain on tenterhooks, powerless to choose where on the American eastern seaboard Dorian will come a-calling.
It is a fool’s errand, to be sure, to assume that Barbados will forever be immune to such destructive hurricanes.
There is no modern construction, no technological or economic advancement in this country that could withstand anything like the Great Hurricane of 1780, whose storm surges were said to have encroached as far as 200 yards past our shores with winds stripping the bark off trees. The hurricane, the deadliest on record in the Atlantic, killed 4,500 Barbadians.
Had Dorian, then a storm, taken a slightly more southern tack, would it have ripped off more roofs? Had it been even slightly stronger would we still quibble about shutdown procedures and all-clear announcements?
This nation professes Christian roots. Should it not be joining the other religions on this fair land to offer humble prayers to the Almighty for those tens of thousands of Bahamians who could not escape peril?
More than thoughts and prayers will be required in the days and weeks and months ahead.
The Bahamas, though a remote member of the CARICOM family by virtue not only of its geographical orientation but the political stance of its leaders over many years, is now in need of no lesser concern, care and love then if it were neighbouring Dominica in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
We should stand ready to offer whatever assistance we can give towards averting the humanitarian crisis that must surely loom on the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama.
Already Dominica, stricken as it has been by Hurricane Maria’s destructive force in 2017, has pledged $200,000 towards the Dorian relief effort.
A prompt and generous contribution by our government to the emergency response in the Bahamas will be welcomed and warmly supported by this newspaper and doubtless its readers.
Need we remind that this hurricane season was predicted to be slightly above normal?
Need we remind that it takes only one cyclone to endanger, snuff out and disfigure human lives and alter the course of human history on our tiny island nations?
Let us then rush to the aid of our stricken fellow CARICOM brothers and sisters with true charity, not pity.
But let us soberly, sombrely, maturely and sensibly keep vigil over eastern skies, on guard against raging waters, surging surfs and howling winds.
May God save us all.