Freeport, Bahamas – Total devastation does not begin to describe the scenes and stories of survival coming out of the Bahamas after Category 5 Hurricane Dorian lashed the islands with winds of 185 mph and storm surge of over 15 feet.
As Hurricane Dorian spent hours over the northern Bahamas as a Category 5 storm fisherman Howard Armstrong had to watch helplessly as his wife died in the rising flood that claimed their home.
The water rose quickly, he told CNN, and soon it was up to their necks.
“We were doing all right until the water kept coming up, and all the appliances were going around the house, like the washer machine,” said Armstrong, who is a crab fisherman.
Lynn, his wife, was standing on the kitchen cabinets, the only place where “your head would touch the roof,” he said. Only their heads were above the water.
After hours of waiting in the flooded house for rescue and battling the neverending strength of the Category 5 hurricane, Armstrong’s wife succumbed to hypothermia and slipped under the water.
“And then I kept with her, and she just drowned on me,” Armstrong said, breaking down.
When the storm finally pushed northward away from the Bahamas on Tuesday, seven people were known to have died — all on the Abaco islands, east of Grand Bahama — and officials fear the death toll will rise sharply as more accounts like Armstrong’s come to light.
“She was gone so quickly,” Armstrong said as he waited for the body of his wife to be recovered.
Armstrong said he then “took a chance” and swam outside the house to his boat, which was moored nearby.
“I saw my boat was still there, and I swam,” he said.
Armstrong said he had lived in Freeport for 58 years and had “battled many a hurricane,” but had never seen flooding like this.
“Everything I own is gone,” Armstrong said. “Every single thing.”