Man rides out Hurricane Dorian with wife for hours in Bahamas attic

South Florida man who survived Hurricane Andrew describes devastation on islands

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A South Florida couple who braved Hurricane Dorian for hours in the attic of their Bahamas vacation home opened up to News4Jax reporter Brittany Muller about surviving the scary ordeal.

Paul Sullivan and his wife are neighbors of Muller's grandfather in Fort Lauderdale.

They have owned a home in Grand Bahama for 13 years and travel back and forth from Fort Lauderdale. 

Their area in the Bahamas suffered damage during Hurricane Matthew three years ago, and they braved Hurricane Andrew in South Florida in 1992, along with several other storms.

But Hurricane Dorian was a new experience for the Sullivans as the storm stalled out over their Grand Bahama home, dropping torrents of rain and whipping dangerous winds.

Their two-story home sits 20 feet above sea level, but a tree pierced the front doors during the height of the storm, causing water to come rushing in.

"I was in waist-deep water in no time and could see that there were no way that I could do anything," Sullivan told News4Jax. "It was a foot and a half from coming up to the second floor -- that was how high the water had gotten."

So Sullivan and his wife took refuge in the attic until the storm passed. 

"Just waiting, waiting to get a break. When is it going to stop? But it took a long time," Sullivan said.

Before they took shelter in the attic, Sullivan said the water rose so high he couldn't see the top of his gazebo. The home lost power, and the couple's two cars were pushed out of the carport into the front yard from the strength of the surge. Sullivan's boat is also a total loss. 

“I could see the boat bobbing around, then leaning, then leaning even more, then partially submerged and finally (it) turned over and impaled itself on a piling," Sullivan said.

On Friday morning last week, Sullivan heard the Grand Celebration cruise ship was coming to rescue evacuees, so he made sure he and his wife were on board. They are now back safe in South Florida.

Sullivan said hundreds stood in line waiting to leave the island after the ship unloaded much-need supplies. The cruise ship, operated out of Florida by Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines, picked up 1,100 evacuees from Grand Bahama.

"Some people had a $5 bill in their hand and that’s all that they had," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said surveying the destruction as they left the islands was heartbreaking. He saw large fishing boats flipped on land where they weren't supposed to be, power lines down and houses completely flattened.