Views of the Bahamas from a Coast Guard aircraft after Hurricane Dorian, Sept. 3, 2019. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Stanton)

Overview

This profile is intended to assist philanthropic and individual funders with decisions about needs and impacts in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. The storm became a tropical depression on August 24 and was named Tropical Storm Dorian later that day. It grew to a hurricane on August 28 and remained one through Saturday, Sept. 7. Hurricane Dorian is tied with the 1935 Labor Day storm as the strongest storm to make landfall in the Atlantic and the strongest hurricane to hit the Bahamas.

The storm made a total of five landfalls – three in the Bahamas, a U.S. landfall in North Carolina and a final one in Canada. Dorian’s first and second landfalls were in Great Abaco on Sunday, Sept. 1, at Elbow Cay (around 12:45 p.m. ET) and at Marsh Harbour at 2 p.m. ET. Winds were at 185 mph with higher gusts at both landfalls. The storm moved very slowly toward Grand Bahama Island, making landfall there at 11 p.m. ET on Sunday night with slightly decreased winds. Dorian made landfall on Friday, Sept. 6 as a Category 1 hurricane at 8:35 a.m. at Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Finally, Dorian made landfall, as a post-tropical system but with winds at a Category 2 level, near Sambro Creek, 15 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, at 7:15pm AST on Saturday, Sept. 7.

There are 50 hurricane deaths in the impacted areas of the Bahamas and sources on the ground suggest that the number will be significantly higher. The Bahamian government has indicated that at least 1,300 people are still missing. There have been five storm-related deaths in the U.S. as well.

It is important to emphasize the scale of the disaster and related needs. The country of the Bahamas is not very large in terms of population. Overall, the population is 389,482, while on the Abaco Islands the population is 17,224 and on Grand Bahama Island the population is close to 60,000 people. UN OCHA has reported there is also a significant – about 8,000 people – undocumented Haitian population. While there is significant damage and a great deal of high need, the focus should be on long-term recovery. There are a number of fundraisers and donations right now focused on immediate relief, however the real costs will come in the recovery stage, which will be long and arduous.

Particularly in the Bahamas, everything that is brought onto the islands will either need to be removed or will become part of what is already anticipated to be a huge debris and waste management problem. Extraneous and unneeded goods will add to this problem. Rather than shipping water for example, the focus should be on water treatment and purification. The Bahamas government has created a list of items which it needs. Used clothing and mattresses are expressly prohibited.

Another vital piece to recovery is tourism. There are several hundred islands in the Bahamas that were not damaged. It is absolutely necessary for tourism to continue in these islands to help provide support for recovery efforts across the nation.

In the United States, the scope and scale of damage is being assessed. There were over 20 tornadoes in advance of the hurricane and damage from those should be included in the assessments. There are significant power outages in the Carolinas and telecommunication systems on the Outer Banks of North Carolina have been severely damaged. The area most impacted is Ocracoke Island in Hyde County where there was seven feet of water from storm surge. The North Carolina Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NCVOAD) estimates there are nearly 300 houses so badly damaged that the electric meters have been pulled.  In Dare County, the damage has been assessed at $15 million. This includes $6.8 million in residential damage, $5.4 million in damage to public structures and $2.6 million for commercial structures. A total of 1,226 structures were damaged by the storm – the majority residential, but only two homes have been classified as destroyed. Of the remainder, 1,015 were affected, 57 received minor damage and 36 received major damage.

In Canada, damage is being assessed as well. As of Friday, Sept. 13, about 10,000 were without power. Most of the damage in Canada was caused by falling trees. While a number of homes were impacted, it is expected that the majority will have insurance. The government has issued emergency financial food assistance for those people who were currently receiving benefits.

Critical Needs

While the full extent of damage has yet to be determined, it is significant, especially in the Bahamas. We do know that some of the areas impacted by Dorian were affected by hurricanes in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and are not fully recovered.

In the Bahamas there have been catastrophic impacts due to the wind and storm surge. It is likely there will be lengthy power outages and infrastructure damage. While preliminary reports estimated that 13,000 homes (about half the total number of homes on the two islands) were damaged or destroyed, the latest updates indicate the damage is even more severe. On Grand Bahama Island, the government is reporting that three out of four homes have been damaged or destroyed. On the Abaco Islands, there is very little left. The UN has indicated that 70,000 people have been left homeless.

While CDP focuses on the recovery stage of a disaster, there are a number of critical relief needs including shelter, food and water purification. Other immediate emergency relief needs include medical support, search and rescue operations, livestock relocation and power/communications restoration. These are primarily the responsibility of local and state government entities and existing partners within the state.

Homes that are destroyed or suffer major damage will require mucking, gutting and rebuilding. Even structures that only have minor flooding will require significant work – according to FEMA, one inch of water in a home equals $25,000 of damage. There will also be a need fordebris removal. Replacement of belongings including furniture and clothing, appliances and vehicles will be needed as well.

But the short-term needs are only part of the story. Previous experience has shown us that most people, corporations and foundations, make donations in the first few days after a hurricane makes landfall. Yet the needs continue for years to come. This long-term recovery will need significant investment.

Long-term recovery will include restoration of property, livelihood recovery and environmental cleanup. There is significant infrastructure damage to ports, roadways, airports, etc. Telecommunications and power infrastructure are also significantly disrupted.

CDP recommends donations of cash rather than product – with the exception of corporate in-kind donations that have been vetted by local officials. Donations of used items such as clothing, toys or individual cases of water are often termed the “second disaster” by disaster recovery experts. Learn more about the challenges of product donations here.

CDP continues to monitor the impact of Dorian and the needs that may arise.

Resources

The CDP 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season Recovery Fund allows donors to give now to support recovery needs that will continue to surface long after our attention has turned away from these major metrological events. Through CDP’s unparalleled expertise in disaster management and grantmaking, we will invest in projects and initiatives that:

  • Support vulnerable populations whose lives and livelihoods have been devastated.
  • Emphasize funding that is medium- and long-term in nature, based upon prevailing needs that emerge in the weeks and months after the disaster.
  • Fill in gaps where public resources are unavailable or scarce.
  • Foster collaborative relationships among grantees and other organizations.

Donations to the recovery effort can be made here.

CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations and individual donors to consider related to disaster giving. These include:

  • Take the long view: Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that it will take some time for the full range of needs to emerge. Be patient in planning for disaster funding. Recovery will take a long time and funding will be needed throughout.
  • Recognize there are places private philanthropy can help that government agencies might not: Private funders have opportunities to develop innovative solutions to help prevent or mitigate future disasters that the government cannot execute.
  • All funders are disaster philanthropists: Even if your organization does not work in a particular geographic area or fund immediate relief efforts, you can look for ways to tie disaster funding into your existing mission. If you focus on education, health, children or vulnerable populations, disasters present prime opportunities.
  • Ask the experts: If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy maintains a list of vetted organizations and funds responding to a particular disaster that it shares with its clients and partners. National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters and InterAction have lists of organizations working in affected communities. What’s more, local community foundations have insights into nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are best suited to respond in a particular community. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also shared some recommendation of donations.

Candid. is tracking private institutional response to Hurricane Dorian. The total as of Wednesday (Sept. 11) morning is $23.7 million.

Contact

If you are a responding NGO or a donor, please send updates on how you are working in this crisis to tanya.gulliver-garcia@disasterphilanthropy.org.

If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to help in this crisis, please email regine.webster@disasterphilanthropy.org.

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