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Abaco Weather and Hurricanes
From Sandy Estabrook's Guide to the Abacos, Bahamas

Wondering about the Climate in the Abacos
In a sentence- The same as South Florida.

- C u r r e n t l y -


Tide Charts for the upcoming year - Complements of the Abaco Journal

The Bahamas are not in the Caribbean. They are in the Atlantic. And the Abacos are 150 miles east of, and roughly parallel to the area from Palm Beach to Miami. They are in the northernmost part of the Bahama chain which stretches 600 miles in a southeasterly direction almost to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. (See map below).

The weather in the Abacos with the exception of local patterns like the squall shown above, is pretty much the same as south Florida. The temperature is too. When it’s 50 in February in West Palm, it will be close to that in the Abacos. Hurricanes hit the Abacos as often as they hit Florida. And for the early part of the millennium, that's been all too frequently. Often it is not unlikely for the same storm to hit both the Abacos and Florida. (See below)

The same winter cold fronts or Canada Clippers that pass all the way down to south Florida also effect the Abacos although occasionally some stall before getting to the Northern Bahamas. They used to be pretty much over by April's end. Our favorite time of year was mid May, through mid July, October and November. The latter baring any hurricanes of course. The table below says it all. (Note: Spring 08 and 09 were saw those pesky fronts coming through through early June making from extend windy periods and rough seas with associated storms. Native folks are quoted in our updates as having never seen a spring like those. Understand, mid spring starts the rainy season in the form of local thunderstorms and squalls and usually after noon. They produce a lot of rain and some produce waterspouts so be on the lookout if you are on the water. Generally they are slow moving and can easily be out run in a small boat. It could be raining like hell in Marsh Harbour while you are experience a sunny day on Elbow Cay or at Nippers and vise versa.

Again like Florida if you go to the Abacos in the winter stay longer. Fronts come through pretty much every week dropping 80 degree by 65 degree days to 70 by 55. And that's the Air temp! As for Snorkeling, You'll need minimally a wet suit top. See chart.

I always tell folks who go that time of year; Even though you'll more than likely have sunny and bright days, you have a 50/50 chance for cool and windy. Stay long enough and you'll up your odds. But bring a sweater or sweatshirt for evenings. If this concerns you and you are willing to forgo meeting the nice folks of Abaco, then play it safe and head further south in the Bahamas to the Exumas or all the way to the bottom of the chain to Turks & Caicos or head to the Virgin Islands or the Caribbean.

The winter of 2009-2010 was one of the coldest on record with temperatures often ranging between coldest ever and average low (in above chart).

Weather Links

Abaco's Barometer Bob
Local Abaconian
Abacos in General
AccuWeather Radar

W e b c a m s
Often Intermittent & Sometimes Blurry

Hurricanes in the Abacos

The Tropical Outlook Now

You can see the high water mark left by the tidal surge of Hurricane Floyd at Miss Emily's Blue Bee Bar on Green Turtle Cay. It's still there in this 2009 photo.

Moving to Florida in 1990 afforded me the opportunity to cruise to the Abacos by boat. Those years saw little hurricane activity until 1999. That year the Abacos took a double hit, first with Dennis, a category 1 storm. It landed in late August. Then just two weeks later Floyd, a massive category 4 storm, clobbered the Abacos with a direct hit (above photo). The devastation was horrendous. It cut Elbow Cay in half.

Then all was relatively quiet until 2004, when the Abacos got another double whammy. In an eerie replay, in early September, first came Frances, a category 1 storm. Then three weeks later, Category 3 Jeanne came along to finish what Frances left undone with another direct hit on Marsh Harbour and the Abacos’ most populated Cays. Add to this an inordinate amount of rain accompanied the resultant flooding in around Marsh Harbour and again the bisection of Elbow Cay. And again just south of the Abaco Inn the Ocean opened up an inlet to White Sound.

The above is hurricane Floyd in ‘99, it could also be Jeanne in ‘04, which when everybody thought she passed the Bahamas in mid Atlantic, did a loop, came around and headed back into Marsh Harbour. She continued on to eventually pass through Florida exiting just north of Sarasota into the Gulf of Mexico and skirted up Florida's west coast. Her counterclockwise winds pummeled my area of Sarasota. Jeanne’s impact was our seasons worst (Sarasota) but no way near what she did in the Abacos nor what “Charlie” did to Southwest Florida a month earlier. Jeanne is the only storm that my west coast Florida hometown of Sarasota share in common with the Abacos. Despite the overwhelming destruction, messages started to trickle in by ham radio and posted on websites. Island folks were already clearing the debris and making life habitable to the best they could. It didn’t take long for supplies to start arriving and within months many commercial establishments were up and running. And by March ‘05 most of the resorts were open. Importantly, to a lot of folks, so was Nippers! As happened with Floyd, the tourist industry seemed headed back to normal when we arrived the following season. On my visit in May of 05, we saw little destruction with the exception of the marinas and restaurants on the south side or Marsh Harbour which were totally destroyed and had not yet reopened. Building was underway. The exception to this was the Conch Inn. It was completely rebuilt first in order to facilitate the dozens and dozens of bare boat charter boats they accommodate and the support services they require. The only other devastation we saw was up at Green Turtle Cay. The Bluff house docks were just about rebuilt after being totally wiped out. That despite being built of non floating hardwood used negate the effect of a tidal surge. The Green Turtle Club suffered little dock damage. But it goes without saying anybody anywhere in the Abacos close to the water received 2-3 feet of water in their home. Even the inland Marsh Harbour Airport sat under 1 to 2 feet of water till things dried out.

Mention the 2005 hurricane season and Katrina comes to mind. Yet that year saw some irony from the Abaconian perspective. Although devastating in Florida, several of the storms were born in the lower Bahamas (Katrina, Ophelia & Rita) then two headed west for Florida while growing in destructive power along the way. Their effects had little impact on the Abacos especially compared to the hurricane activity of 2004. Understand, the Bahamas are spread out over approximately 600 miles. Storms effecting one island group can have minimal impact on others. It’s the luck of the draw as to whether it be the Abacos or the Exumas who get hit. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew devastated North Eleuthera with winds of 150 MPH while Hope Town on Elbow Cay Abaco, 75 miles to the north had a minimum of ill effects. 2006, according to the experts was supposed to be another angry hurricane season but fortunately for the States and the Bahamas the experts were wrong having one of the quietest seasons in quite a while. 2007 was a repeat. Again the experts predicted a worse than usual season as a result of global warming. Again Florida and the Abacos were spared. Fact is there were so few storms this year the the powers that be were naming every tropical breeze just to keep the numbers close to their predictions. The point being. We can know where they are headed once they start, but to predict the number of storms 8 months in advance, it still seems like guess work to me and surely no better than 50 years ago.

Hurricane Jeanne the aftermath - some pictures
(Hurricane Floyd predated digital cameras so photos are scarce and mostly scanned.)

- Click to Enlarge all Pictures -
I took, these pictures the following May: 1 & 2, Marsh Harbour Docks, Picture 3, remains of Church in New Plymouth.

The pictures of Guana Cay and Marsh Harbour were taken by PatW and Jeff Ward. (Jeff's *) The Green Turtle photos by Jim Naun.

*Famous CNN Shot of Marsh Harbour

Conch Inn Marsh Harbour

Mangos Docks Marsh Harbour

Conch Man’s stand next to Mangoes is gone

*After he dropped his chain saw in the water!

Marsh Harbour Scene

*Marsh Harbour Scene

Guana Welcome Dock

Guana Village Scene

Guana’s gathering spot
the fig tree - no Docks!

Nippers - not too much damage

Johnny Nipper repairing roof

Guana Cay Scene

Robert Bethel's House

Nippers Taxi Submerged

Hope Town Harbour survivors

*Hope Town Harbour Lodge pool area

Hope Town Harbour Lodge with it’s dock

*Lodge and Harbour

*HTHL Pool Area from third floor

Hope Town High Road Home

Near Abaco Inn

More Elbow Cay flooding

New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay

*Mike's Bar on the Bay

Green Tuttle Club Villas

Green Turtle CLub Office and Restaurant

What was the G.T.C. Patio Restaurant

Dock repairs underway

Roof Top repairs underway

Rodney & the Gang

The following summary says it all. It’s part of a story I wrote for a boatclub’s newsletter after returning to the states after Floyd in '99 As I found out in 2005 visit, the same rings true .

............We were looking for the telltale signs of Hurricane Floyd which we saw right away upon landing, Snapped pine trees lined the runway. Once in our taxi and underway to Marsh Harbour, we noticed the rebuilding everywhere. Surprisingly, just about all the commercial places, marinas, restaurants and resorts were repaired and many were substantially improved over last year, all be it that two of the major resort hotels on Elbow Cay changed hands.

This is not to say we didn't see a few docks up routed here and there and an occasional boat up on the rocks. But all in all we estimated an 75% recovery in just 7 months! Aid came in the form of insurance money and the suspension of the 25%- 50% duty for construction materials machinery and equipment (Abacos only). Also, the forgoing of work permits for the Americans that came over to help with the cleanup. The spot where Elbow Cay was cut into two was already filled in. Imagine that happening state side with all our environmental & bureaucratic red tape. But what impressed us the most was the energy and effort of the island folks in the repair of their Abaconian homeland.

Want to know more:
Check out our Book Page for what Andros born and raised meteorologist of 20 years, Wayne Neely has to say in his fascinating book: "The Major Hurricanes to Affect the Bahamas". Included are heart-rending personal recollections and experiences of island life and folks during some of the greatest storms to affect the Bahamas.

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