Monday, August 24, 2020

A year ago, the Category 5 storm ripped the Dam family's home apart in the Bahamas as they sheltered in a truck. They started a new life in Lakeland.

This home in the Bahamas was destroyed by Hurricane Dorian on Labor Day weekend in 2019, transplanting the Dam family to Lakeland. The storm claimed 74 lives in the Bahamas. PROVIDED PHOTO/KELLY DAM

Bill Kemp, The Ledger

LAKELAND — While most Polk County residents are yearning for a return to normalcy after a spring and summer plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dam family has dealt with much more.

A year ago, Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm with 185 mph sustained winds, began to form on Aug. 24 as a tropical wave. Eight days later it devastated the northern Bahamas — the worst storm to hit the Caribbean country in recorded history.

Dorian claimed 84 lives — 74 in the Bahamas and six in Florida — while 245 people were missing in the Bahamas following the storm. The storm caused $4.68 billion in damage — $3.4 billion of it in the Bahamas on Sept. 1.

As residents in Polk County made preparations for the storm on that 2019 Labor Day weekend, Dorian weakened and turned north skirting the East Coast of Florida before eventually striking the barrier islands of North Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane on Sept. 6. Polk residents experienced a scare but no damage.

The Dam family wasn't so lucky.

Now living in Lakeland, their lives were uprooted when the storm destroyed their home in the Bahamas — ripping the roof from their two-story house and ravaging their personal belongings.

“This was like nothing you have ever seen before,” said Kelly Dam, originally from Norway. “It was pretty much a tornado with a bunch of little tornadoes with a tidal wave, is pretty much the only way to explain it. The whole thing was just a giant tornado."  Read more >>