A FORMER Hartlepool man battened down the hatches amid fears he would be caught in the middle of Hurricane Irene.
John Fleet, 52, left England for a job as managing editor of The Tribune newspaper in the Bahamas two years ago.
But the dream new lifestyle was dramatically hit by the 500-mile-wide Hurricane Irene, which was battering its way along North America with winds of up to 120mph.
First in its way, though, was the Bahamas, which meant John, who now lives at Saunders Beach, Nassau, New Providence, found himself in the firing line.
John, a former Hartlepool Mail chief sub-editor, said: “We watch quite regularly for tropical storm updates and we couldn’t believe it when Irene started to grow in force and size. When all the computer graphics predicted it would track over the Bahamas, I started to get a bit worried.”
“We have been here for two years and the Bahamas has managed to dodge a major weather system. The worst we have endured is the odd tropical rain shower.
“Not knowing how long we would be out of power or trapped indoors, we stocked up on the usual tinned food, fresh water, cigarettes and alcohol.
“Then we waited for it to hit.”
John, whose partner is Sandra Morgan, 51, added: “The weather started deteriorating at about 6pm on Wednesday with wind and rain. By that time we had secured the house and stored all garden furniture in the garage.
“We then just sat back and watched television for the weather reports as the situation outside gradually got worse.”
“At about 4am on Thursday I was woken by the wind and rain. The centre of the hurricane bypassed New Providence by about 50 miles but we were still getting battered by 100mph-plus winds.
“Our windows are hurricane-proof and it was fascinating to watch the storm unfold.
“The noise of the wind and rain was tremendous and it continued until about noon as the storm moved north west.
“Sandra and I were able to get out and survey any damage shortly after.
“Luckily, we only suffered a damaged fence in the back garden.
“We were without electricity for about 24 hours, which isn’t too bad. New Providence got off quite lightly, it appears.”
Further investigations by officials in the Bahamas, which is made up of more than 700 islands, showed many suffered major damage to property but there were no deaths or serious injuries.
John added: “When Irene passed by she had been designated as a Category Three hurricane.
The TV channels were using words like “catastrophic” and “devastating”.
“For me, personally, if all hurricanes are like Irene, then there’s nothing to worry about.”
Twenty people have died as a result of Irene and thousands of travellers have been left stranded after 6,000 flights to and from New York were cancelled.
Thousands of people fled coastal towns and New York officials ordered the first mandatory evacuation in the city’s history.
Despite extensive flooding, the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm after it failed to have the expected impact on US east coast areas including New York.• Have you or your relatives been affected by Hurricane Irene? If so, ring the Hartlepool Mail newsdesk on (01429) 239380 or email firstname.lastname@example.org