As hurricane Dorian approached the Bahamas over the weekend, Ashton Neymour and Kendyll Curry, both natives of the archipelagic state and sophomores at Averett University, weren’t too worried. They’d seen plenty of hurricanes approach the chain of islands, and none had caused massive devastation.

“We didn’t take it as seriously as we should have,” said Neymour, 19.

When the hurricane reached a Category 5 status and hovered over the Bahamas for well over a day, Neymour and Curry could only pray and think about what their friends and family were experiencing. As torrential downpours and winds of nearly 200 mph hit their country, wrecking infrastructure and claiming lives, the students wished they were able to help friends and family in the middle of it.

“It’s not a good feeling,” said Curry, 18.

Natives of the island of Nassau, which did not receive the same beating as other islands, the students said most of their friends and family are safe.

“Some of them we still haven’t been able to contact,” Curry said.

The winds and floodwaters caused the most serious damage in the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, where Neymour has several relatives. The people they have connected with on those two islands have described destruction and loss.

“Most of them have been saying that everything’s basically gone,” Curry said.

Both Neymour and Curry spent the summer on their home island before returning to Virginia in the first week of August. Now, they wish to be in the country to help with cleanup efforts.

“When we do go home, we will probably try to help out with the rebuilding process of the two islands,” Neymour said.

He hopes Dorian will generate more awareness of the power hurricanes have and the destruction they can cause.

“People need to become more aware that hurricanes are not a joke,” he said.

Cassie Jones, director of marketing and communications at Averett University, said 13 students at Averett are from the Bahamas. Neymour and Curry were the only who could be reached by the Register & Bee.

As of Friday evening, the death toll in the Bahamas had climbed above 30, but could be “significantly higher,” according to the Bahamian health minister.

In the aftermath of the destruction there — the full scope still is unknown — organizations are raising funds and collecting donations to provide for those on the islands, many of whom have lost their homes and have nowhere to go.

Volunteers from God’s Pit Crew, a Danville-based crisis response organization, spent most of the day Friday collecting donations of food, water, medical supplies and hygiene items, as well as cash, outside of Sam’s Club and will be there again today. Their goal is to collect enough donations to fill at least one tractor-trailer.

Johnathan Tilley, who has volunteered with the organization for several years now, said they want to help those in need.

“You get out a whole lot more out than what you put into it,” he said.

Dorian, since reduced to a Category 1 hurricane, continued its assent up the East Coast on Friday, causing flooding along the coastal Carolina and Virginia communities.

Ayers reports for the Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 791-7981.

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Ayers reports for the Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 791-7981.

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