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Risk rooted in colonial era weighs on Bahamas’ efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Dorian

Published in The Conversation (Dec 9, 2019) by

Jason von Meding

Associate Professor, Florida Institute for Built Environment Resilience, University of Florida

David O. Prevatt

Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, University of Florida

Ksenia Chmutina

Senior Lecturer in Sustainable and Resilient Urbanism, Loughborough University


When Hurricane Dorian made landfall on Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas on Sept. 1, 2019, it packed winds of up to 185 miles per hour and a 20-foot storm surge. A day later, it ravaged Grand Bahama for 24 hours.

Across both islands, the storm brought “generational devastation.” Thousands of houses were leveled, telecommunications towers were torn down, and roads and wells were badly damaged. The cost to the Bahamas has been estimated to be up to US$7 billion – more than half of the country’s annual economic output.


But not all structures and communities in Dorian’s path were equally affected. The Structural Extreme Events Reconnaissance Network, or StEER – a research group we participate in – found that while structural failure was widespread, houses intentionally built to resist high wind and storm surge fared much better.


The problem is that not everyone has access to a house that can weather a storm like Dorian. The different ways in which Abaco and Grand Bahama – and their residents – were affected by the same event is yet another example of how disaster impacts are rooted in the historical development of society.


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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CMMI 1841667. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of StEER and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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