‘It was hell.’ Granbury woman describes fight for survival in Bahamas

Video shows Dorian damage in the Bahamas

Video shows strong winds and storm weather in the Bahamas during Hurricane Dorian. Vickie Neubert and her boyfriend found themselves fighting for their lives when Hurricane Dorian stalled over the Bahamas
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Video shows strong winds and storm weather in the Bahamas during Hurricane Dorian. Vickie Neubert and her boyfriend found themselves fighting for their lives when Hurricane Dorian stalled over the Bahamas

Vickie Neubert was so happy to head to Bahamas in late August, ready at last for a relaxing vacation with her boyfriend, Ken Kratch.

But just a little over a week later, the Granbury couple found themselves fighting for their lives when Category 5 Hurricane Dorian stalled over the Abaco Islands on Sept. 1.

“We were hoping and praying it would end,” Neubert said. “And I hoped to God that we could get home.”

Before the storm approached, the two left the condo where they were staying to head to Kratch’s brother’s vacation house, just steps from the beach in Treasure Cay.

They felt it was the safest place, because the home withstood a Category 2 hurricane in the past.

But as the wind howled and rain pelted the house — rattling doors and windows and ripping tiles off the roof — they realized they weren’t as safe as they hoped they were.

They went to the main entry way of the home, where sturdy wooden doors greeted visitors.

When the hefty doors started shaking, the two leaned and pushed against them, hoping could keep the storm from blowing into the house.

“The noise was astronomical,” Neubert said. “We were holding on to the double doors with all our might.”

When the transom window above the door shook and shattered, and the door began shaking even more, they realized they weren’t going to be able to hold them.

“The winds were getting so fierce,” she said. “Things throughout the house were flying and falling. ... Wind and rain was rushing in through broken windows around the house.”

The two retreated to the nearby master bedroom and did the same there, pushing against the doors to keep them closed.

When the front doors blew open, and water began cascading under the doors, Neubert and Kratch found themselves in the middle of the strongest hurricane to hit the Bahamas as winds of 185 mph and storm surges over 20 feet battered the islands.

“We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history,” Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said during a news conference after the hurricane hit the islands.

The eye of the storm

Neubert, 66, and Kratch, 69, didn’t know how bad the storm was as they talked about what they needed to do next.

“I don’t know how long we were holding on to the doors,” she said. “But finally we were feeling like we were going to be OK.”

Then it got very quiet.

The sky outside became bright and the winds calmed.

“We were in the eye of the storm,” Neubert said. “We opened the doors to see what we could see.”

Windows were shattered, furniture was blown around.

When they looked outside the front doors, they saw the Jacuzzi float by.

“It was unreal,” Neubert said. “We wondered how long we had been holding the doors.”

They knew they didn’t have much time to look around, because often the end of the storm can be as fierce as the beginning.

They went back into the bedroom and closed the doors, waiting for the eye to cross.

The Jacuzzi they saw outside began pounding against the bedroom window as the storm gained strength. It wouldn’t be long before the window shattered.

So Neubert and Kratch headed to the master bathroom, the last place they felt they had a chance of being safe in the house.

They held those doors closed, bracing against them, as they had with the front doors and the bedroom doors.

Then they took two heavy wooden stools and braced them against the doors as water rushed into the room.

They had piled comforters, pillows and food in the bathtub, which is where they sat, listening to the clunking of furniture being tossed around and the shattering of more windows.

“We had no other place to go,” Neubert said.

‘It was hell’

As the storm brought wave after wave of rain and heavy winds, the two dozed off for a few minutes at a time over the course of hours before they woke to loud noises.

They made it through the night and, by morning, it was quiet.

Neubert and Kratch made their way through the house, finding shattered glass, Sheetrock stripped from the walls, debris and furniture everywhere.

“We had no idea what was going on,” Neubert said. “We had no idea if the storm was still moving.”

But they moved enough debris to have a pathway and walked out to the beach.

The sun was just starting to rise.

“It was a beautiful day in paradise,” Neubert said softly. “Except it wasn’t paradise. It was hell.”

Debris from was scattered across the beach. Holes were left behind where large coconut trees once stood.

And people were walking around, trying to see how much was damaged by the powerful storm.

Neubert and Kratch packed up the few belongings they could find and began walking.

Other survivors told them to head to the evacuation center near the police station.

As they walked around, everything they saw had been destroyed.

“The whole town was devastated,” Neubert said. “Everything was gone. There was nothing left.”

“What are they going to do? Where are they going to go?”

The death toll reached 50 as of Tuesday afternoon.

Coming home

Once they reached the evacuation center, the two put their names on a list of U.S. citizens who would be evacuated as soon as possible.

They spent one last night on the island, in the evacuation center, sleeping upright as they sat in chairs.

The next day, they were flown into Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

They took their first showers in days and were able to have dependable phone service to call family. But they couldn’t catch a flight out until the next day.

Neubert said she was relieved when she and Kratch finally made it home to Granbury, about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

“I’m just glad to be home,” she said. “Glad to be home.”

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.