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Dorian’s blow to the Bahamas reverberates in the lives of three Mass. residents

Susan Cove, who visits her family in the Bahamas twice a year, said she’s heartbroken by the devastating effect Dorian has had on the islands.Susan Cove

As Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas over the weekend, then froze in place while it continued punishing the islands, Massachusetts residents over 1,000 miles away held their breath and watched in horror.

From his home in Mashpee, real estate developer David Southworth waited anxiously as the storm crept toward his residential community in the Abaco Islands and the homes of most of his 200 employees in the coastal town of Marsh Harbour. By Tuesday night, he had accounted for about two-thirds of them.

In Dover, Bahamas native Susan Cove spoke to her family on the sparsely populated Abaco island Man-O-War Cay, famous for its wooden shipbuilding. For two days, Cove wondered whether her two brothers, sister, aunts, uncles, and 88-year-old father had survived, while images of Dorian’s extensive damage trickled out.

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The sprawling Cove family has roots in Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas.Susan Cove

And in Hyde Park, an Abaconian named Dana hunkered down with her cousins and imagined her parents and five siblings riding out the storm from their home in Marsh Harbour. Dana, who declined to give her last name, moved from the coastal town when she was 15 and recalled a childhood spent fishing and diving off docks.

The trio, strangers to one another, are inextricably linked by their common concern over the monster storm — the most powerful ever to hit the Bahamas. They have tracked weather radar in anguish as the hurricane stalled over the islands and unleashed a fury of torrential rain, life-threatening surge, and swirling 150-mile-per-hour winds. Seven deaths have been reported so far.

Dorian is expected to diminish as it crawls northward and threatens the Southeastern United States. Forecasters predict it could weaken to a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 85 miles per hour as it sweeps through the ocean off New England later this week.

Dana, who starts at Bunker Hill Community College next semester, spoke briefly Monday night with her 21-year-old brother, who confirmed he had survived along with her parents and 7-year-old sister. But her three sisters and their children remained missing and her family’s house is destroyed.

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“My brother said there was nothing left of it,” she said Tuesday. “Everything is in ruins. The whole settlement has been completely demolished.”

Cove spent much of the holiday weekend glued to social media, pleading for information about her family on forums flooded with similar calls for help. Finally, an obscure satellite number flashed across her phone Tuesday afternoon bringing her brother’s muffled voice on the other line.

He relayed in a minute-long message that her whole family was alive, but everything on Man-O-War Cay was destroyed and her stepmother was being evacuated by a medical helicopter. Her brother did not have time to explain their stepmother’s ailment.

For Southworth, owner of the Abaco Club, the losses were potentially greater.

The club was evacuated before Dorian made landfall and was spared the brunt of the storm. But most club employees live in the devastated Marsh Harbour, 20 miles north of the club.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Southworth and his colleagues had been able to reach only two-thirds of the club’s 200-person crew, many of whom reported losing their homes.

Marsh Harbour lies in the middle of the thin 776-square-mile main island of Grand Abaco. The town, home to about 6,200 people, boasts the hallmark turquoise waters and white sand beaches typical of any Bahamas postcard.

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“It’s so beautiful you have to pinch yourself when you’re there,” Southworth said.

But the people of Abaco rival the beauty of its landscape. Dana calls the entire town “a big extended family where everyone is your aunt and your auntie.”

Southworth, who flees to his resort each winter, dubbed the Abaconians a “special, genuine, and loving people,” who are the prime example of “how to live together.”

Cove visits her family in the Bahamas twice a year. The people of Marsh Harbour and Man-O-War Cay always know when she’s arriving and give her a proper welcome.

“I go into the store and I may not recognize someone and they’ll be like, ‘Hey Susan! Welcome back!’ ” Cove said.

With a hurricane warning still in effect and Dorian crawling at a glacial pace of 2 miles per hour, the Bahamas remained under severe threat Tuesday afternoon. Authorities warned of even more casualties but were prevented from reaching much of the islands amid conditions too dangerous even for rescue workers.

Cove wonders what, if anything, will be left behind.

“It’s my home. And I’m heartbroken. Heartbroken,” she repeated. “Even with the relief of knowing everyone is safe, my God, what does everyone have now? Nothing.

“I don’t even know how they’re going to begin to rebuild,” she added. “It’s like a bomb went off.”


Hanna Krueger can be reached at hannakrueger@globe.com and followed on Twitter at @hannaskrueger.