Hurricane David recalled

The crushed bus at the Botanical Garden in Roseau is probably the only physical reminder of the passage of Hurricane David

It is a date that is etched in the minds of many Dominicans: August 29, 1979. It was the day Hurricane David struck Dominica.

The island had only twice been previously  struck by a severe hurricane. In a hurricane in 1806, 131 people died when the Roseau River shifted its course and flooded the capital. On September 10, 1834, 200 lives were lost as a result of what was to be known as the ‘Great Hurricane.’

And 33 years ago today Hurricane David, a Category 5 hurricane and one of the deadliest of the latter half of the 20th century, roared towards the island.

Days before, forecasters predicted the hurricane would spare Dominica and hit Barbados instead. But hours before moving closer to the islands the hurricane shifted and and headed for Dominica. Although it was clear David was coming residents did not appear to take the situation seriously.

Hence the island was totally unprepared as there was little local radio warning and no systems in place for disaster preparedness. Packing winds of 150 miles-per-hour the hurricane pounded Dominica for six hours from 9:00 am.

Thirty-seven people were killed and an estimated 5,000 were injured. Three-quarters of the population of 75,000 were left homeless. Many people slept in the open or huddled in homes of fortunate friends and neighbours for weeks or months to come.

The economy was totally destroyed, roads and bridges were blocked or swept away. Communications to the outside world was maintained only through Fred White’s battery operated ham radio until links were restored.

The Commander of a British Navy Frigate, which arrived in Dominica the next day, described the scene on the island as that of a bombed-out battlefield.

Dominica’s plight soon got swift attention from the Caribbean and the wider world. Food, tents, water and other supplies began arriving from the United States, Britain and Canada. Caribbean countries such as Barbados, Antigua and St. Lucia allowed temporary residence for scores of Dominicans who fled the island or who sent their children away until conditions improved.

The authorities struggled to restore some semblance of normalcy to the island. A food ration system was initiated. Foreign forces, contingents of the French Army, US Cee Bees and Royal Engineers set up camps here and assisted with relief efforts.

By November, Prime Minister Seraphin estimated that the pledges of assistance were at over US$37 million and that there was the probability of more in the long term. Assistance began pouring in from the IMF, International Red Cross, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organisations of American States, the EEC and Caribbean Community States among others.

For months after the storm the island echoed with the sounds of chain saws, hammering and electric generators as the people attempted to rehabilitate themselves.

August 29, 1979 is a day that many Dominicans will never forget.

Reference: The Dominica Story by Dr. Lennox Honychurch.

Aerial view of Bath Estate after Hurricane David. Photo courtesy of Ronald Charles
Damage by the hurricane

The devastation caused by Hurricane David. Photo credit: National Geographic

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64 Comments

  1. dragon
    December 18, 2018

    my dad was in the hurricane

  2. Davidson Le'Tang
    June 27, 2017

    I remember that day quite clearly. I had turned 20 earlier and we had come through a most difficult period of political upheaval. Then the hurricane hit exactly 3 months later. It was the most fascinating experience for me. It was also both mesmerizing and horrifying, all at the same time. Some people were devastated. Some people discovered a lower low in living conditions they had never experienced before. Others rode a tidal wave of a mass exodus from the island. It was a new beginning of the force of nature that brought change for everyone. We helped each other, we survived, and we strived.

  3. rowrowbaby
    August 29, 2016

    DNO when posting please proof read before posting. You message reads it’s 33 years to date that is incorrect 2016 minus 1979 is 37. Please make the corrections.

    ADMIN: This is an outdated story. Check the date before commenting.

  4. Pittsburgh Dominican
    November 1, 2014

    I was 3 years old and remember the destruction…..Have never been involved in anything like it since.

  5. Anonymous
    May 15, 2014

    oh my god thats what david do

  6. March 19, 2014

    Thanks God for the military help. I owe my life to them.Dominica united we made it today. God bless us all.

    • David Litchfield
      January 5, 2016

      :)Thankyou for the thanks. Was in nmcb1 and was sent there to help with the cleanup.

  7. Chris
    November 10, 2012

    I remember as a 21 year old United States Marine seeing the destruction that David left in his wake. I was in Squadron HMH-461 out of MCAS(H) New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina delivering supplies. We were all in awe that anyone survived. It was one of the most heartbreaking sights I have ever witnessed in my life. I am 55 years old now but, I remember it like it was yesterday.

    • mary
      March 19, 2014

      I was 17 terrible n worst thing I’ve ever witness .my whole family home was flat to the earth . To survive we had to run after the storm from mud slides.when we get to the village the sea n river was one ..Houses n debris all over. We had to head back to the mountain. Day 3 i go swallow by a mud slide. My family help but couldn’t get me out .a so was other people. But i want to thank the USA military for getting me out the mud slide .I owe them my life.

    • Earl Tallman
      October 28, 2014

      I was one of the first group of US Navy Sea Bees into the airport. We slept in sheets on the tarmac as supplies, Vehicle’s and construction equipment was brought in. We were in total awe of the destruction we seen. The homeless population was over whelming. Even to this day the dreams of this disaster still invade my sleep

  8. Dominican to de bone
    August 30, 2012

    I was four years old when hurricane David passed that was a hurricane to remember.

  9. speaking logic
    August 29, 2012

    It was a terrible day….

  10. A Observer
    August 29, 2012

    We should never forget, especially the generosity and the support we received from people all over the world.

  11. August 29, 2012

    I remember that David. I seen a man leave on a donkey with a cutlass to salvage things prior to the hurricane and the donkey came back with half of him on the donkey from flying tin off a shed roof top… That was one ruff hurricane ya hear .. Wow! The force !!!! Long Co Co Nut Tree Top Bend And Touch Ground.

  12. Dominicanpearl2
    August 29, 2012

    It was rough. We tied the roof with a rope and held on to it to prevent the roof from flying away. The sound of the wind and the damage you can her was awful. Thank God it did not happen during th night, more lives would have been lost, and there would be more injuries. Imagine going to SIFOCOL and having to study with candles. Too much canned foods, getting immunizations becasue of fear of communicable diseases such as diarreah. Lineing up for rations. The looting was also bad in Roseau. There was a Christms song I the words “Come along students even though you live in tents, Christmas is a time for fun so forget the hurricane.” God bless all the countries which came to our aid. God bless America and Good bless “Lovely Dominica, land where the people smile.”

  13. "O" STRESS!
    August 29, 2012

    Memories do not leave like people do they always stay with us. That was the last time some people came united,show their neighbors love,Least we forget look at us now, fighting, hating,killing, smoking,ect, we do not need a next Hurricane to do the right thing. But sad to say the whole world gone mad, therefor lets pray, pray, and pray.

  14. August 29, 2012

    I will never forget this day as a little girl at the age of 7 yrs old i still remembering like it was yesterday it was a day off pray in my family all the haily mary was said by my then late dad .my eighbour who died just recently went under the bed she was so afraid.when every thing was over o’lord look coconuts and many other .i could go on an on .ANYway we cant aford any other like david lets all give thanks to the most high for every thing he has done for us in dominica doimincans you all must be greatfull at all times

  15. JC
    August 29, 2012

    Before this hurricane my family was pretty well off . After the hurricane we lost everything. My mom had just rebuilt her three bedroom home, I was 11 at the time. I cannot and will never forget this horrific day. Broads were not passable to town for many months and rations were dropped ba helicopters. I lost two cousins in that storm when their home went tossing through a cliff with them inside……MEmories

  16. Frenzy
    August 29, 2012

    The memories of this hurricane will be forever at the forefront of my memory bank. But even more profound is the way we recovered from this massive disaster. With a great leadership and government this country really made some strides.
    The great Eugenia Charles and the Freedom Party took the mantle and brought us forward. I will not emphasize the details so as to avoid the semblance of politicing. Nevertheless the truth is the truth and when I hear people today talking about the best administration Dominica ever had is what we have today I have to shake my head in sorrow and amazement. We were a much more united people – there was one voice rallying for forward movement.
    Hurricane David reminds me of how vulnerable and fragile we are but the memories of how we rose from the rubble reminds me that we were once a progressive people and a people with great resolve and fight.

  17. Frequent Flyer
    August 29, 2012

    I remember that morning when I awoke, outside was bright and sunny and by 9:00am, the weather had already started to change. Briefly, I saw many roofs go, including the one of the Portsmouth Pentecostal Church. That roof went off so funny, from the church top to the Benjamin’s Park and then again, way up and in fell in the sea just off the Portsmouth Police Station. My family and I were at home and then we all moved to the Portsmouth Catholic Church for shelter. I recall, only 1 galvanize left our house, the one to the end on the back of the house. What an experience. I really do not want another one like DAVID for us. Protect us Lord through all forms of disasters, natural or man made, amen

  18. Dominican abroad
    August 29, 2012

    Wow, its just to keep us in check the mother nature is just that, mother nature and can’t be taken for granted. But we are a blessed people. We should never forget what could have been, and make the best of what we are still blessed to have.

  19. hmmm
    August 29, 2012

    i remember that day. I was 7. I was spending the summer in the country. It was so so hot before. Then the weather changed and my grandparents were busy putting things in plastic bags. Next thing is wind. That was something. The roof went. We had to run to the neighbor’s house. But his roof went soon after too. We held up in an old kitchen and my grandmother just prayed. The next morning I couldn’t believe it. Everything was flat. You could see for miles. The mountains were bare and black. We thought it was the end of the world.

  20. da gyal
    August 29, 2012

    that last picture… wow. I didn’t experience hurricane David but I’ve the stories from my mother and father. Never want to be caught in such a devastating phenomenon.

  21. true dominican
    August 29, 2012

    This brings tears to my eyes. It is so hurtful. Just so hurtful. Thank you God for where we are today. All i can say is thank u lord. Thank you my redeemer. mY REDEEMER LEAVES. mY REDEEMER LEAVES.

  22. Trolol
    August 29, 2012

    Hey, I can see my house from there. :-o

  23. Somenon Somewhere
    August 29, 2012

    In spite of all this we have been through we are yet still so stubborn, so unforging, so quick to cast judgement, to criticize,to insult and hate- Why can’t we always remember that God spared the lives of most of us, he gave us a second chance without reproach, and that we should use every opportunity ( including the mistakes or poor judgements of others) to encourage to develope to make stronger to work hand in hand, head to head with each other as we did after hurricane David to build and rebuild our
    SWEET DOMINICA?

    • Somenon Somewhere
      August 29, 2012

      Correction first line (Unforgiving) not unforging

  24. En Ba La
    August 29, 2012

    DNO do you still think that I am not human after I already said that I am human back then. I only use my EN BA LA

  25. Aye Dominique
    August 29, 2012

    Is August 29th just a bad day? David, Katrina, isaacs…..

  26. Willam James
    August 29, 2012

    I was 18 years old and made it down to Roseau from Marigot on the only Bus that actually made it there. We had to turn back and use the East cost road because there trees across the Bells Road.I was on my way to Roseau to Register for Guitar Classes At christian Music School. By the time we were approaching the City, The Interim prime minister at the time (Oliver Seraphin)Was talking to the nation to take cover. I thought that it was the end of the world while passing the Hurricane with my sister and her family at their Apt in Upper lane Roseau; Close to the Roseau Boy school. My description of the devastation is this…Coconut Trees became like a battered Banana Tree,(what I was used to seeing in previous smaller storms) The Banana Tree became like Grass and The grass became nothing. Because of the Devastation I ended up Going to Trinidad for 3 years where I attended a Music School such as Mr Christian’s Music School.I return back home to Dominica after 3 years.

    • Christy Pointer
      October 5, 2018

      I was 6 years old and there with my parents. We were missionaries. My parents built a Christian school in the countryside and it was destroyed. I was born at St. Marg. Hospital and lived in Castle Bruce before the school was built. We survived the devastation of David and returned to the states in Dec. Of 79. I am planning a visit to my homeland next year.

  27. Fact
    August 29, 2012

    We currently have a hurricane that just won’t go away and causing widespread damage to our Country. The labor Party!!!!

    • Jonathan drew
      August 29, 2013

      somebody had to bring politics into it.

  28. Anonymous
    August 29, 2012

    i remember that :cry: day , it’s that day that changed my whole family life forever. after that we came to england to leave and this is where we stayed 33years on i would like to say that the best god had for us but only he knows . i thank god we made it ,but will never forget

  29. En Ba La
    August 29, 2012

    I was really young and I still remember this clearly. This is some day I will never forget to the extent that this was my “First Hand Experience” essay when I got to college.

    After the hurricane we had an unobstructed view of Grand Bay stay anywhere and see anyone, anywhere. Felt like you were standing in an open field. That was a sight.

    The mass helping and seeking the older persons in their homes and getting them to safety during the storm that was undertaken by the young men of Grand Bay at the time. The Late Pierre Charles and L’echelle – I remember you all they helped rebuild people’s houses after the hurricane also – COUDMEN – a few hours and they move on to the next.

    Thanks to them.

    God really had a hand in there – the magnitude of this disaster and lack of preparedness and to have so few people die.

    This is one day in our history we ALL prayed together – everyone on island praying at the sometime.

  30. Dorival John
    August 29, 2012

    That day there I learnt to respect a coconut tree. I see one bend north, south, east and west like a bow and the coconut tree never broke.

    I remember going under my mother’s bed and that was probably the first time I ever said the “Our Father” with that much urgency and so earnestly.

    And I remember afterwards all the ration and nuff blogodo-w. Thank God for those.

    What a day that was……what a day……

    • Domerican/Possie
      August 29, 2012

      Oh my gosh, we have similar stories for that day. You are so right about the coconut trees. I saw coconut trees hit the ground and sprung right back up; can never forget that sight. The only prayer I knew at the time as a six year old was “Our Father” and my grandmother had me praying that prayer like there was no tomorrow. But thank God my family and I came through unscaved. Most of my neighbours weren’t that lucky even though their houses were much bigger and appeared much stronger than ours.

  31. Report
    August 29, 2012

    I remember clearly I had to stand on a bed to prevent myself, my little sister and brother from drowning. I was made homeless sleeping by aunt here a friend over there. And how could one forget the ration! I can never again eat cornbeef harsh and white rice – God my body got tired of that

    • kim
      August 29, 2012

      I so agree with u dont like rice hate that cornedbeef harsh

  32. Son of the soil
    August 29, 2012

    It was the pre condition to Da’s death.It was the time when DA was stripped of it’s abundance of potential and established interlectuals never to return and replaced by what we have and became as a nation a skeleton of what we were and could/should have been.

  33. Tri-State Beauty
    August 29, 2012

    This brings back so many memories. I was so very young but Hurricane David has left it’s footprints etched in my memory. I have never seen a tree bend, sway and refuse to break like that ever, not even in a tornado in the US which I have experienced. My mom being pinned against the side of our little kitchen, with my sister and I trying to help move things into the house. My dad was worried about his patients and my mom had gone to town early to get batteries and poor woman struggled home. For what seemed an eternity my sister and I were home alone, my brother was in the country with our grandparents for the summer. When our roof went and the house started to rattle and roll we decided to make a run for the neighbour who actually was so evil she had a chain on her already steel fence. The old bat stood in the door mouthing out commands. My mom braced my sister under her arm, a plastic bag on her back like a makeshift backpack and me holding on to her in a fowrard carry postion. 3 attempts before we could make the run, everything was clear, all you were seeing was an open sky, and things flying. my mom had to return to our porch and yell at the woman to please open the door and move so she could run with my sister and I.

    That woman had us mopping water because she was concerned about her settie, with my mom and her husband pressed against her huge slidding door. Goodwill was a clear as a savannah. Seeing my dad return was the one thing that warmed my heart. When he left my sister and I were both crying and poor thing had a hard time consoling me and telling me we were not going to die. I don’t know why I remember these things,being so young but like many children I do. God bless and protect Dominica that we never have to experience this again.

    • Admirer
      August 29, 2012

      My darling Tri-State I too was young and made homeless.We lived in TENT CITY after. Butteroil,klim, white rice, corn beef harsh etc

      Anyways I guarantee you I will protect you with my life no matter the storm. Hail, sleet, snow,hurricane, Tsunami, tornado, life’challenges. Woman I can hardly explain how much I love you!!! Next time I call you don’t stick your tongue out for me and walk past me eh. See you and your fine self labour day weekend.

      DNO leave my comment you know I making progress,Tri-State fine and I’m destined to make her my wife!

    • CONCERN
      August 29, 2012

      Aye this is something else eh!

  34. Powerful
    August 29, 2012

    Reading these accounts have brought tears to my eyes. Marpin needs to do a documentary.God really watched over us.

  35. stacymaria
    August 29, 2012

    I would like to erase that horror from my mind, but alas I can’t. I was in my twenties and thank God for my parents, who had never witnessed a hurricane themselves, but were able to protect me. At some point even my father broke down and asked the lord why? but it was nature at work with no preparations. It was a Labour party Government with Ferdinand Parrilon as Minister of Home Affairs, who kept saying the hurricane was in Barbados , and all the time, roofs and antennas were flying in Dominica. It started at about 8.45am with full force although it had been raining from morning. I never want to feel hungry like that in my life ever. Surely these memories cannot be erased from my mind,tears are streaming down my face as I think of that experience. I would like to tell any body who want to experience a hurricane, that it is not pleasant, be careful what you wish for.

  36. Anonymous
    August 29, 2012

    what a day. i remember hiding under a bed with my baby tucked under my belly when the roof of my parents house blew. i later made it downstairs and when i looked out the window i thought i saw waves breaking on the back street of my village. two weeks later i used to walk up to birds and just ketch them. They were still dazed. I cannot count the number of humming birds i held played with them and then released them. I thank God for the strength of the Dominican people.We can overcome any hurdle.

  37. Kelma
    August 29, 2012

    wow! I’ve always heard about the devastation that hurricane David caused to our beautiful island though i do not leave their and was to young at the time to know what was going on , it really is something to think about and how far we’ve come.Actually i was 1month and 19days old when hurricane David struck Dominica, i must say to GOD be the glory.

  38. Anonymous
    August 29, 2012

    Does anybody know where that last photo was taken? I would really like to know.

    • Zemi
      August 29, 2012

      Photo taken from a US helicopter over Scotts Head village, Cashacrou. The picture later appeared in National Geograhic Magazine.

    • Informed
      August 29, 2012

      Scott’s Head

    • "O" STRESS!
      August 29, 2012

      Grand Fond.

  39. I Survived
    August 29, 2012

    I was 19 and working for the government at the time. I stayed home that day (although I was getting ready to go to work). I wanted to experience a hurricane, but after David, I never want to go through that again.

    One ot the things that stand out most in my mind was the generousity of my family after the hurricane.

    I was stationed at a food distribution centre and one time I sent a good portion of rice, flour, oil, beans and sugar to my family in the countryside. The following week I went to visit them and I asked them where was all the food I sent. Their response was “we were not going to keep all this food while the neighbours went without”. That is a lesson in generousity I will never forget. I was very happy they shared the food with our neighbours.

  40. wat a ting
    August 29, 2012

    I am stting here with tears streaming down my eyes as I recall that day it was the worse hurricane I have ever seen not to mention the longest school holidays, the most dreadful Christmas,n the list goes on I mean things was never the same since I was just ten years old at the time I still could recall everything like it was yesterday.today I can surely give god a high note of praise cuz am still on the land of the living.sometimes when I hear how people still complaining how Dominica hard stop complaining lets all stand still and see the salvation and how god has kept us and bring us a long way thanks DNO for the remembrance although it left me very emotional thats why the song writer wrote roll back the curtain remind me now and then show me where you have brought me from and where I could have been remember am only human and human forget so remind me remind me Dear Lord.

  41. Zane
    August 29, 2012

    DNO, I think remembered is a more appropriate word than recalled for this story.

    Dominica is a blessed nation.

  42. god child
    August 29, 2012

    see people seem to leave these areas empty they worry more about discussing issues and poor dominica went through such a disaster and nothing much to say i never seen this before but Lord i pray that we never go through this again

  43. Simone
    August 29, 2012

    All I can say is wow…I pray I never get to see one like this. To all the people who survived this especially my mom and grandma, you are so lucky. I would not have been alive if my mom did not make it though this. WOW!

  44. Mavis Royer
    August 29, 2012

    OMG! I will never forget that fateful day in 1979. I was seven months pregnant with my son Dave. I was so scared. I took my children to my aunts house, and with my cousin’s seven children we huddled in a room to weather the storm. We made it through the storm, and when we emerged from the room Vieille Case was a different place. We could see for miles. All the vegetation was gone, and what was left standing was bare. There were coconuts, avocados and banana all over the place. No water, electricity and because of the landslides, no transportation. We were locked in with no way to find out what happened to the rest of the Country. I will never forget Aug. 29th 1979. At the time looking out I thought Dominica was finished, but we made through the hard times, and survived. Thank God!

  45. Anonymous
    August 29, 2012

    I still recall that day like it was yesterday! It impacted my life in an absolute way because David was the reason that I finally decided to migrate to N. America. We were just totally unprepared. It was like a bad dream but on waking up in the mornings the first thing one heard was sound of the helicopters overhead. I recall helping the police rescue and transport patients from the PMH that night, and taking them to the top floor on NCDB on Hillsborough Street. The days and weeks after were pretty tough and everyone seemed in a daze. It was an experience I will never forget…as is usual I will fire one tonight! :)

  46. Aye Dominique
    August 29, 2012

    I was very young but remembered some events of that horrific day quite vividly. 150 mph, these were some strong winds! I’m happy for the photos, my first time seeing what an actual area look like after the hurricane.

    May God continue to protect us!

  47. me
    August 29, 2012

    I have a very vivid remembrance of that day. Thank God, nothing happened to our home;I spent the hurricane in an old kitchen, and not even the galvanize on it that were not properly nailed were removed. I only realised the impact when it was over after seeing the destruction around. I can remember hearing that hurricane would not be able to do anything to Dominica because we were protected by the mountains. But little did those who said that knew.

  48. Anonymous
    August 29, 2012

    I will always remember that day and pray dominica does not see another hurricane like that again.Today also is my wedding anniversary i chose that day to remind me of David’s wrath

    • budman
      August 29, 2012

      you wanted to be reminded of this?

  49. Anonymous
    August 29, 2012

    I remember that day although I was just about 5. ALthough our home (we live up north) suffered no damage, our kitchen roof blew away and I remember our latrin (pit toilet) spinning in all directions until it tipped over.

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