Categories: News Columnists

Hurricane brought out the good in people who helped after the devastation

Hurricane Dorian over the Bahamas was a monster. The storm slammed into the islands with sustained wind speeds of 185 mph, and gusts of up to 220 mph, the second most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever recorded.

Dorian was also a stunningly slow monster. It stayed over the Bahamas for 48 hours. KGO-TV weather reporter Drew Tuma noted that in one 19-hour period – from 9 a.m. Monday to 4 a.m. Tuesday – Dorian moved only a distance equivalent to the length of the Bay Bridge.

Not surprisingly, the Bahamas have been devastated. But amid all that destruction, people stepped up to help, providing some good news in an otherwise horrendous situation.

Chella Phillips runs a refuge for stray and abandoned dogs in Nassau in the Bahamas. She takes in street dogs, treats their illnesses, and finds homes for them through rescues in the U.S. Since she founded “Voiceless Dogs of Nassau, Bahamas” four years ago, she has helped 1,000 dogs find loving homes.

As Dorian bore down on the islands, Phillips began to chronicle what was happening to her with a series of posts on Facebook. She took 97 street dogs into her home. She posted pictures that show dogs everywhere. Seventy-nine of them huddled together in her master bedroom. “They are respecting my bed and nobody has dared to jump in,” she wrote, noting that all the dogs are getting along just fine. She thinks that the dogs welcome each other with tail wags because “they know they are their brothers and sisters in suffering on the streets.”

Phillips’ Facebook posts took readers along with her as she faced the reality of dealing with a major hurricane. Before the storm hit, she had barricaded her doors and windows. After three pumps broke down, she and her brother used buckets to try to keep the water from getting inside the house. She played music in all the rooms and kept the air conditioning blowing as long as she could to calm the dogs.

Although she did ultimately lose power and had some water in her house, Phillips and all the dogs survived in fairly good shape. She lamented afterward, in a post letting everyone know she was okay, that her TVs had been fried by lightning during the storm, which meant “no more cartoons for the sick dogs.”

Phillips was lucky that Nassau did not bear the brunt of the storm; the worst damage was almost 100 miles away. It’s hard for me to imagine how any animal or person could have survived if they had been outside. Without her compassion, most if not all of those 97 dogs would likely no longer be alive.

Chef José Andrés, along with volunteers from his charity, World Central Kitchen, was also in Nassau when Dorian hit. World Central Kitchen feeds people when disasters strike, from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico to California wildfires.

Andrés and his volunteers arrived in the Bahamas before Dorian hit so they could be ready to get food to people as soon as possible after the hurricane moved on. David Begnaud of “CBS This Morning” reported that Andrés group is working out of a “war room” set up in a Nassau resort. Andrés tweeted that his group had identified places before the storm where they hoped to use kitchens to feed people afterward. If the kitchens were destroyed, he added, they can go in and cook with big paella pans.

But they do a lot more than “just” cook. Andrés told Begnaud that he doesn’t want his food deliveries to interfere with rescue efforts. So, World Central Kitchen has essentially created their own distribution system, renting two seaplanes, two helicopters, a boat with a helipad, and an amphibious vehicle to stage and deliver food to the people on Abaco and Grand Bahama, the islands that sustained the most damage from the storm.

Hurricane Dorian was a monster. But when you hear about people like Chella Phillips and José Andrés, you realize that there are good people out there who are doing amazing things for all the right reasons. Thank you Chella and José, for what you’ve done and what you continue to do, and for showing us two rays of sunshine amid a devastating storm.

Sally Stephens is an animal, park and neighborhood activist who lives in the West of Twin Peaks area. She is a guest opinion columnist and her point of view is not necessarily that of The Examiner.

Sally Stephens

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