Imagine the terror in the Bahamas, then help

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On Thursday, with Hurricane Dorian taking dead aim at us, South Florida adopted the air of a community that knows the drill and began bracing for the strongest storm ever to threaten Florida’s east coast.

On Sunday, thankfully, Dorian’s cone of uncertainty took a turn. And Tuesday, finally, the plodding monster took that predicted turn, lashing us only with modest rain and wind gusts, hardly worse than a summer rainstorm.

The same cannot be said for our neighbors in the Bahamas, just a little over 100 miles away.

You only had to watch the radar — as everyone did once Dorian developed into a hurricane last Wednesday — to know it was going to be bad for our neighbors.

And it’s striking how confident we felt with a Category 5 hurricane just over the horizon, especially since just a few days earlier, Dorian had been a fastball aimed at us. While the National Hurricane Center’s forecasting has improved, it could stand to improve some more.

At first, it looked like Dorian would pummel Puerto Rico, just as Hurricane Maria did two years ago. But because of atmospheric steering currents, the still-struggling island territory escaped with a glancing blow.

The same cannot be said for the Bahamas, where the death toll is still being determined and the extent of the damage has yet to be quantified, though it’s clearly enormous.

It had to have been horrible to be there. You can only imagine the terror of enduring a Category 5 hurricane packing sustained winds of 180 mph — and gusts above 200 mph — for nearly two days.

Imagine the terror of having your roof blow off, of watching your apartment flood with storm surge, of wondering whether you and your family will make it out alive.

That is what our battered and bruised neighbors in the Bahamas emerged from Tuesday, as most of us were getting out of bed.

As the people of South Florida well know, in times of hurricanes, we put aside our differences and come together as a community. And you can’t live in diverse South Florida without grasping that our neighborhood includes the Caribbean, whose many cultures have so enriched our own.

So it is right for us — as individuals, as a community and as a nation — to lend a helping hand to our island neighbors, who face a years-long road to recovery.

Across the region, people are donating their hurricane supplies — water, canned foods, flashlights, batteries, clothes, bedding, towels and other essentials — to help our neighbors.

Financial donations help most of all. That way, people who know what’s needed can get the relief where it’s needed.

Federal assistance also will be needed to stabilize the island nation. Not only is federal aid the humane thing to do, it’s in our community’s self-interest. Florida saw a lot of in-migration after Hurricane Maria and the earthquake in Haiti, not because our island neighbors wanted to leave their homes, but because there was no way to live there and there was no hope for change.

There’s more to say about Dorian, including some close-to-home lessons about nursing homes, shelter staffing and gas supplies.

But for today, let us simply express gratitude that our community was spared. And encourage everyone’s support for a neighbor who wasn’t.

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