BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) - A Bradenton couple was stuck in the Bahamas while Hurricane Dorian devastated the island nation and lived to tell about it.
The couple usually travels on their boat yearly to Marsh Harbour. They say what happened during this year’s vacation was devastating, tragic and heartbreaking.
Joe Chilberg, his partner Sandra Houghton and their dog Baci are finally back home after braving through one of the worse storms they say they’ve experienced as boaters. All three rescued by seaplane last week and arrived back to the Suncoast on Thursday.
Chilberg and Houghton have lived on their boat for six years. Little did they know they’d get caught in one of the strongest hurricanes in history to make landfall, Hurricane Dorian.
“I had been in nine other hurricane,s including Katrina in Mobile and Hugo on the east coast and Sandy and a bunch of others. We couldn’t run away by the time we knew it was coming so we tied it down as best as we could," says Chilberg.
After being out at sea until Saturday the couple and their dog left behind their beloved boat and went straight to the Abaco Resort to seek shelter in a safe room designed for up to 50 people.
That room quickly became full with close to 200 people.
“There’s 15 cots or 20 cots and everything is light and there is food and air conditioning and by the time we left it was pitch black and no air conditioning and water coming out of the ceiling like a waterfall, 6 inches of water on the ground, 150 people and people are using it as a bathroom because they can’t go anywhere. They couldn’t open the door because they thought it would blow out the windows from the pressure," says Houghton.
For safety reasons they realized they had to leave the room and move to another hotel room.
“There was only one small door to exit so what I told the crew was if these windows covered with corrugated metal shutters which had just blown off. If these windows are blown in there will be a stampede through that one door and it would be more dangerous in this room than it would be in our room so I went down to our room, I had to crawl on the ground because of the winds at this point was 168-180 mph and you couldn’t walk," says Chilberg.
After Dorian calmed down, Chilberg says the Coast Guard and U.S military managed to fly over the island. The couple were able to signal the crews.
“We just kept waving at them by the heliport and finally one of the military helicopters landed and it was Customs and Immigration that patrol our coast and they stopped us to tell us they were taking out the severely injured or dead. They gave us eight bottles of water and flew away in their helicopter," says Chilberg.
Finally the couple was able to make it out. A good Samaritan took them to the airport where they were able to catch a plane back to the Suncoast.
As for Chilberg’s boat, it was a total loss.