Sabrina Arena Ferrisi has been working in the field of Catholic journalism for 17 years. Beginning in the year 2000, she worked as a journalist covering the Holy See in Rome for various American Catholic newspapers, including Our Sunday Visitor, the National Catholic Register and the Catholic World Report. She covered the last four years of Pope John Paul II’s papacy. Beginning in 2000, she also had her own radio show in Italian for Radio Maria commenting on Vatican news for three years. She was the senior staff writer for Legatus Magazine for 14 years and writes freelance for the National Catholic Register and Aleteia. She lives in New York with her husband and five children.
Frankie Williams has been through many hurricanes. When you grow up in Freeport, Grand Bahama with relatives spread throughout Nassau and Turks and Caicos, hurricanes are simply a part of life. Grand Bahama is the closest island to Florida, about 60 miles due east from Miami.
Despite his experience with hurricanes, Hurricane Irma is making Frankie feel nervous. This storm will reach Grand Bahama by Saturday morning, with a possibility of a storm surge of 5 to 10 feet and rainfall of 8 to 12 inches. Since the island is completely flat, this is a huge problem. Most people live in one-story houses. It takes only a couple of minutes to drive from one side of the island to the other. There is no higher ground to flee to.
“Honestly, this is the first time when I am genuinely scared,” said Williams.
It’s his mother that has him most concerned.
“My mom is alone in Tampa right now because she is getting treatment for breast cancer. She has never been alone during a hurricane, and there are no flights leaving Freeport now. The airport has closed,” he said. “I can survive anything, even if property gets destroyed, but I am really concerned for her.”
Frankie contacted a friend through Facebook whom he had not spoken to in about 12 years. That friend is now driving over to his mother’s apartment to give her some food, water and batteries. But his mother – for now – is going to be riding out the storm alone.
When Hurricane Matthew hit Freeport last October as a Category 4 storm, everyone on the island felt its negative effects.
“Matthew killed the island. We are still recovering from last year. My mom and I had a house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. We decided to ride out the storm in a new apartment we had just rented. When we came back to look at the house, after the storm, we discovered that it had become a one bedroom and one bathroom,” he said.
His family just finished rebuilding the house a few weeks ago.
“My sister lives in Nassau by the beach and they are already starting to get some winds and tidal surges. I have many relatives in Turks and Caicos – and we lost touch with them last night. My dad is still trying to get in touch with them,” he said.
Right now in Freeport, Frankie is seeing lots of folks in emergency preparation mode.
“Almost all the stores are closed. I can count on one hand the stores that are still open. The supermarket was cleared out two days ago. There is no more bread on the island to buy. I have a friend coming over right now, who is going to help me put some storm windows up. This is the day when people are going crazy and panicking.”
Frankie’s family is praying for the best and trying not to think of what the worst would be. Meanwhile, they continue to scour their contacts for some way to help his mom, Marianne, not have to sit out the storm alone.
If any readers have any suggestions for Marianne Williams in Tampa, please post in the comments below—and pray for everyone in Hurricane Irma’s path.