Tag: Hurricane

Moving House on Green Turtle Cay

When we moved Fish Hooks cottage in 2014, it was kind of a big deal. We had to stop traffic on the one route out of town, and the local folks came by to watch. Our local newspaper, the Abaconian even covered the move.

Moving Day at Fish Hooks, January 2014

In past years, however, moving house was fairly common in the islands. Several older homes on Green Turtle Cay were moved short distances on rollers. A few, we’re told, were even floated to new destinations on the cay before being set in place.

But that’s nothing compared to the sorts of moves some former Green Turtle Cay residents made back in the mid-1800s.

September 5, 1932: Destruction and Devastation

This is the second post in a three-part series. Here’s part one: September 3, 1932: The Calm Before the Storm.

There had been talk on Green Turtle Cay about a hurricane, but the only forecasting tools at the time were barometers. And though they were falling, indicating the approach of inclement weather, there was no way to predict where or when the storm would hit, or how serious it might be.

Thick, black storm clouds gathered in the eastern sky on Sunday evening. On Monday, September 5, New Plymouth residents woke to pelting rain and howling winds that intensified throughout the morning.

1932 Bahamas Hurricane - Courtesy of Weather Underground

Image courtesy of Weather Underground

By afternoon, according to Bahamian meteorologist Wayne Neely in The Great Bahamian Hurricanes of 1899 and 1932, the first known and documented Category 5 hurricane ever to hit the Bahamas was battering Green Turtle Cay.

Sustained winds reached 160 mph, with gusts as high as 200 mph, and a storm surge of 20 feet.

For three days, the storm stalled over the cay, hurling boats and large chunks of debris around like toys. Houses flooded and were smashed. Some fell off their footings. Most collapsed all together.

Forced to abandon their disintegrating homes and peppered with sand, stones and stinging rain, families clung to each other to avoid blowing away as they crawled in search of shelter.

In the few structures that remained intact, the townspeople huddled together, singing hymns to comfort the children and to ward off panic as the settlement was demolished around them. There was no food, no light and but for the few who managed to reach the home of settlement doctor, Walter Kendrick, no aid for the wounded.

Below are two first-hand accounts of the ’32 hurricane – one from my grandmother, Lurey (Curry) Albury and the other from her first-cousin, John Lowe.

September 3, 1932: The Calm Before the Storm

It’s unclear whether New Plymouth’s Loyalist settlers had remarkable foresight or just good fortune. Either way, the tiny settlement was well-situated to capitalize on a series of economic opportunities and by the early 1900s, New Plymouth was a vibrant, prosperous town of 1,500 residents. On September 3, 1932, however, these residents had no inkling of the terror and misfortune lurking beyond the horizon.

Settlement Creek Waterfront Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas
Settlement Creek Waterfront, New Plymouth (Prior to 1932)
Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas

In the mid-1800s, Green Turtle Cay’s proximity to major shipping lanes east of the Abaco barrier reef made it the wrecking capital of Abaco. At one point, says Steve Dodge in Abaco: The History of an Out Island and its Cays, more than twenty wrecking schooners and forty fishing vessels were based in New Plymouth.

When the U.S. Civil War stifled the trade that necessitated shipping, locals turned to cultivating and exporting pineapples which, by the late 1800s, were the mainstay of New Plymouth’s economy.

Unfortunately, the cay’s soil was soon exhausted, fruit often spoiled due to weather-related shipping delays, and U.S. pineapple imports diminished with that country’s acquisition of Hawaii. But the economic gap created by Green Turtle Cay’s waning pineapple industry was soon filled.

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