Advancing Women in Transportation

WTS-Atlanta Collects Donation for Hurricane Dorian Relief: Leanna Pierre Provides an Infrastructure Update

September 24, 2019 11:00 AM
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Leanna Jordan Pierre, Secretary of WTS-Atlanta, shares how her chapter got involved in Hurricane Dorian relief effort, the reality of the infrastructure challenges, and how the storm has affected the people in her life. Pierre is a Procurement Manager and Legal Associate at the State Road & Tollway Authority.

 

Getting Started 

 

During our September Board Meeting, we were finalizing the details of our upcoming community service project with the Atlanta Community Food Bank. As we reviewed the event logistics and talked about our past experiences stocking food at the food bank, the conversation shifted towards the various organizations in metro-Atlanta collecting canned food and other essential items for the Hurricane Dorian relief effort in The Bahamas; we agreed that we wanted WTS Atlanta to be a part of this effort. After reaching out to the Bahamas Consulate of Atlanta, we decided to incorporate a donation drive into our upcoming Portraits, Pints and Pours event. We included a link to the list of most urgently needed items published by the Bahamas Consulate of Atlanta on the event invitation and will be delivering all items collected to one of the local drop-off locations designated by the Consulate’s office.  

 

 

Understanding the Damage  

 

The situation in Abaco and Grand Bahama has been described as “apocalyptic.” The aerial footage shows entire communities that have been reduced to piles of rubble. The Bahamas Power and Light Company has reported that there are stretches as long as 16-miles in Abaco without a single light pole. Communication grids have been wiped out. Hospitals and medical offices have been destroyed. Some roads are still flooded, making it difficult to assess the true scope of the damage. There is no electricity. There is no water service. All of these things combined, have created a logistical nightmare for emergency responders and aid workers trying to make sure that people get the basic supplies and care that they need. Sure, you can use generators to help power temporary facilities, but those require fuel, which is in short supply. There are certain medications, like insulin, that require refrigeration.  

 

When we talk about infrastructure, it is easy to immediately go to roads, bridges, and fiber optic networks, but The Bahamas is dealing with infrastructure challenges that are even more basic than that. Just think about how the supplies have to get there. It is not like in the United States where things can be driven in from a neighboring state. These items have to come in by boat or by plane and with damaged airports, air traffic control towers, lack of airfield lighting and security cameras, keeping up with the flights bringing in critical supplies is challenging, to say the least. There is also the added complexity of coordinating relief assistance and school enrollment across other islands in The Bahamas and states in the U.S. where families fleeing the damage left by Hurricane Dorian have gone to stay with relatives, friends or in temporary shelters. It is estimated that this hurricane caused over $7 billion in property damage to The Bahamas. And so, then you start to think about how all of the needed infrastructure projects will be funded, how the international community will assist, and what the financing structure will look like as The Bahamas begins to rebuild.   

 

Hitting Home  

 

My connection to The Bahamas is very personal. My husband is Bahamian. We met in Nassau, Bahamas. Most of his family still lives in The Bahamas. It was nerve-wracking watching the storm stall over Abaco and Grand Bahamas as we anxiously waited to hear from family and friends. Thankfully, all of our family members are okay. We have some cousins who have lost everything, but they are alive, and for that we are truly grateful.  

 

There are so many people who have lost loved ones and have family members and friends who are still unaccounted for. The official death toll is currently at 52, but expected to rise. Well over 1,000 people are still unaccounted for. The effect of this hurricane goes far beyond the physical damage to the island or loss of material items; the emotional trauma is just as, if not more, significant. People are grieving. They have suffered tremendously. But they are also resilient and trying their best to return to some sense of normalcy.  

 

 

 

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