Analysis of damage to electricity infrastructure over Grand Bahama Island using the Black Marble suite of satellite products derived from the Suomi-NPP satellite. (NASA imagery adapted by Universities Space Research Association Earth from Space Institute)

It’s been more than a week since Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas, razing large portions of the islands. For the first time, we’re getting satellite imagery that shows just how much of Grand Bahama island is in the dark.

The before-and-after photos depict a stark contrast between Aug. 27 and Sept. 6. Four days before Dorian’s assault on Freeport, a city of roughly 27,000, large splotches of orange and pink appear splayed across the landscape — indicative of nighttime electricity use. Fast forward 10 days, and the colors had all but disappeared, save for two small patches.

The dense patch of light on the left is the Buckeye Bahama Hub, the “largest petroleum products terminal in the Western Hemisphere.” It can store 26 million barrels of oil and was badly damaged by the storm. On the right, an upscale neighborhood stretching from the Ocean Reef Yacht Club and Resort to Lacuya and Taino Beaches, home to several high-end all-inclusive resorts, appears illuminated. This is especially true within the immediate vicinity of Bell Channel Bay, along the periphery of which the majority of the luxury hotels are clustered.

However, calls to the hotels did not go through, and at least one of the hotels wrote an online statement advertising “absolutely no electricity at the resort.” The specific nature of the illumination originating from their location cannot necessarily be deduced by satellite imagery alone.

Dorian didn’t just wipe out electricity on Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands. The storm scoured the vegetation, eroding the formerly lush verdure into a virtual field of toothpicks. Satellite images show the once tropical paradise reduced to jumbled entanglement of debarked limbs, the leafy green hues replaced by brown.

Even once rebuilding brings the infrastructure back, it could takes years, or even a generation, for the landscape to return to “normal.” It’s the same dilemma that many tornado survivors encounter: You can rebuild, but the surroundings may never look or feel the same.

Arial photography also shows how Dorian altered the topography of coastal areas, chipping away at the coastline, overwashing barrier islands and even creating new inlets and islands. This was also true in the Carolinas.


Barrier beaches scoured and new inlets created on barrier island just south of Ocracoke, N.C. (Google Earth, NOAA)

Look at the toll taken on North Carolina barrier beaches due to Dorian’s pounding waves and storm surge that was powerful enough to jostle seismometers. The most heavily impacted beaches straddled Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean south of Hatteras and Ocracoke.

In some cases, the water created new inlets, severing sections of the barrier island from one another.


Barrier beaches scoured and a new inlet created on a barrier island just south of Ocracoke, N.C. (Google Earth, NOAA)

“There are approximately 54 new inlets cutting through from the Atlantic Ocean to the Core Sound at various points of North Core Banks,” the National Park Service reported.