By Dominic-Madori Davis, Special to the NNPA

As Bahamians weathered 150 mile-per-hour winds, withering rainfall and 12-foot storm surges from Hurricane Dorian Monday, residents across eastern Florida braced for a now Category 4 storm that could devastate communities still recovering from hurricanes just a few years ago.

Weather officials are still unsure of Dorian’s path. Consequently, Floridians, as well as residents of South Carolina and Georgia are preparing for what could be the most catastrophic storm to hit their states in years.

Here in Flagler County, which is predicted to at least get hit by hurricane force winds if not worse, officials have converted public schools into hurricane shelters and ordered residents to leave trailer parks along low lying barrier islands. 

Floridians are bracing for the landfall of Hurricane Dorian, which is now a Category 4 storm, after its great devastation to Freeport on Grand Bahama, Bahamas in the past week. (Top left) Volunteers rescue a family from the rising waters of Hurricane Dorian, near the Causarina bridge in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Sept. 3. (Top right) Anastacia Makey, 43, far right, looks at her phone as she and her family sits on cots with other residents inside a church that was opened up as a shelter as they wait out the storm Sept. 1. (Bottom left) Yolande Rolle puts sandbags at her shop’s doorstep in he preparation for the arrival of Dorian ‘s Sept.1 arrival. (Bottom right) This aerial view photo shows the destruction brought by Hurricane Dorian on Man-o-War cay, Bahamas, Sept.3 as opened up as a shelter as they wait out the storm Sept. 1. (Bottom left) Yolande Rolle puts sandbags at her shop’s doorstep in he preparation for the arrival of Dorian ‘s Sept.1 arrival. (Bottom right) This aerial view photo shows the destruction brought by Hurricane Dorian on Man-o-War cay, Bahamas, Sept.3, Relief o”cials reported scenes of utter ruin in parts of the Bahamas and rushed to deal with an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful storm on record ever to hit the islands. (Medic Corps via AP).

Meanwhile some grocery stores’ shelves have been stripped bare as residents stock up on food, water and other essentials in preparation for the storm. Many residents have also stocked up on fuel in preparation for an urgent evacuation if needed.

The impending danger is on everybody’s mind, including Black residents, who make up nearly 11 percent of the community. It dominated the sermon Sunday at God’s Family Bible Church in the small neighboring city of Bunnell.

Marie Jeannot, 55, who lives in Palm Coast, sat in the pews with dozens of other worshipers as the pastor talked about the spiritual preparation needed to weather the storm.

“[He said] It’s good to prepare, but is also good to live by faith and trust God and use the power of the word of God to know that we can take authority over this storm,” Jeannot said.

Black residents here have endured their share of hurricanes. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew ripped through the coastline.  Homes were flooded and salt from seawater killed the trees which once bordered the shores. Animals lay dead in the streets.  

Power lines were ripped apart and dangerous sewage-filled flood waters kept Federal Emergency Management Agency workers at bay.  Consequently, some residents did not receive power or clean water until a month after the storm. 

Even now, County construction workers are still piecing back together a main road that Matthew destroyed.  Previous storms have factored into residents’ decisions of how to respond to the current threat. 

Marya Bosley, 51, a loan officer who lives in Palm Coast, has decided to ride out the storm after evacuating before the previous hurricane. Bosley stayed during Matthew because her then 9-year-old daughter was sick with the flu, and she did not want to move her. 

But after her home suffered from high water damage, and a tree fell on a friend’s home, Bosley left for New Jersey when Hurricane Irma came around a year later. 

“We actually left the day before it actually hit,” she said.  “So, we got out just in time.” 

This time, Bosley, a 20-year County resident, has decided to stay–at least for now. She has her generator ready, she said, and is waiting on more clarity regarding the storm’s path before deciding whether to leave. 

Gary McDaniel, the basketball coach at Flagler Palm Coast High School, has already made his decision. He left the state Friday with his family to stay with relatives in his former hometown of Cleveland.

“I have a plan for when it gets above a category four and sometimes the category three,” McDaniel said. 

McDaniel, 52, moved to Flagler County nine years ago. Since then, he has evacuated for three major hurricanes – including Dorian.

He used to stay for hurricanes in the past, he said.  He remembers the hard rains, the widespread power outages, the stores and gas stations closing. After a while, it became too much, he said, and now he evacuates as soon as danger appears imminent to protect his family. 

“And particularly my 80-year-old mom doesn’t have to worry about me and her grandchildren,” he said.

Remaining residents are in limbo.

“The storm has slowed down,” said Jason Wheeler, County information specialist for Flagler Schools. “Every six hours there’s a new [model] from the National Hurricane Center. 

Officials have opened the hurricane shelters, one for special needs and one for the general population.  Schools are closed until Friday. Meanwhile, Flagler County announced that its bridges will remain open until local wind speeds reach 45 miles per hour

Wheeler said the County has learned a lot from previous hurricanes. One of the most important lessons, he said, was learning to respond to the concerns and fears of anxious residents.

“We’re dealing with people that, they’re evacuated, they don’t know what’s going on out there, especially when the storm is bearing down on you. And so they’re nervous,” he said.  “They’re worried, they’re scared.”

Like many area residents, Haitian immigrants Marie Jeannot and her husband, Gerald, 54, have decided to stay.  She, a nurse auditor for the emergency department at a local hospital, and he, a disabled U.S. Army veteran, live with six relatives who also immigrated from Haiti. Jeannot, an area resident 12 years, stayed with in-laws in Palm Coast for Hurricane Matthew and at a shelter for Irma. Their home, she said, suffered minor roof damage, but nothing too extreme. 

“We got water, we got food, you know, little bit of everything,” she said. “We were better prepared for the past two hurricanes. This time we’re just taking it easy.” 

Seven (cq) Hughes, 21, a server at Cracker Barrel and Hammock Beach Resort, said he also will ride out Hurricane Dorian.

 “For the last hurricane, [my mother and I] we made sandbags, bought a generator, boarded up windows the whole nine yards.” Hughes said. “As for this year, we aren’t doing any of those things. I’m not sure what we’ll do if it does end up worse than we expect,” 

“The storm has slowed down,” said Jason Wheeler, County information specialist for Flagler Schools. “Every six hours there’s a new [model] from the National Hurricane Center. 

Officials have opened the hurricane shelters, one for special needs and one for the general population.  Schools are closed until Friday. Meanwhile, Flagler County announced that its bridges will remain open until local wind speeds reach 45 miles per hour

Wheeler said the County has learned a lot from previous hurricanes. One of the most important lessons, he said, was learning to respond to the concerns and fears of anxious residents.

“We’re dealing with people that, they’re evacuated, they don’t know what’s going on out there, especially when the storm is bearing down on you. And so they’re nervous,” he said.  “They’re worried, they’re scared.”

Like many area residents, Haitian immigrants Marie Jeannot and her husband, Gerald, 54, have decided to stay.  She, a nurse auditor for the emergency department at a local hospital, and he, a disabled U.S. Army veteran, live with six relatives who also immigrated from Haiti. Jeannot, an area resident 12 years, stayed with in-laws in Palm Coast for Hurricane Matthew and at a shelter for Irma. Their home, she said, suffered minor roof damage, but nothing too extreme. 

“We got water, we got food, you know, little bit of everything,” she said. “We were better prepared for the past two hurricanes. This time we’re just taking it easy.” 

Seven (cq) Hughes, 21, a server at Cracker Barrel and Hammock Beach Resort, said he also will ride out Hurricane Dorian

 “For the last hurricane, [my mother and I] we made sandbags, bought a generator, boarded up windows the whole nine yards.” Hughes said. “As for this year, we aren’t doing any of those things. I’m not sure what we’ll do if it does end up worse than we expect.”