On September 1, Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas. The Category 5 storm tore off roofs, lifted and destroyed cars, leveled homes, flooded airports, and killed at least 50 people, Reuters reported. It was the second most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded and has left a nation already struggling politically teetering on the brink of instability.
“The Bahamas is presently at war and being attacked by Hurricane Dorian,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said, according to the Washington Post. “And yet, it has no weapon at its disposal to defend itself during such an assault by this enemy.”
The hurricane has since weakened slightly to a Category 4 as it inches offshore. Because of the destructive nature of storms like Dorian, and their increasing frequency during what is known as “hurricane season,” nations that face these natural disasters rely heavily on structures that have been set in place ahead of time and the goodwill of others for rebuilding their cities, finding medical care for survivors, and more.
Over the weekend, helicopters from U.S. Coast Guard were evacuating injured people from the Marsh Harbour clinic on Great Abaco and taking them to Nassau, the capital, for urgent care, the Washington Post reported. But rescue efforts were suspended after the airport went underwater and the winds picked up. Celebrity chef José Andrés told the New York Times that he was in Nassau making 10,000 sandwiches for the people of the Bahamas.
“The situation is as bad as you can imagine,” Andrés told the Times. “Before food, they need to take care of rescue missions.”
If you can’t support rescue efforts or help Andrés and his team at the World Central Kitchen make 10,000 sandwiches, there are still plenty of ways to help.
If you have the means, you can donate to any one of the organizations helping to rebuild houses, clear debris, or organize volunteers like Team Rubicon Disaster Response. Before the storm, they helped fill sandbags and board up windows in the Bahamas. Once it’s safe enough to go into the affected areas, they plan to clear roads for first responders and survivors. You can also donate to Andrés’ organization World Central Kitchen to support both their emergency food relief efforts in the Bahamas and other areas affected by natural disasters and their long-term programs that work to serve millions of meals every year.
The South African-based newsletter The Citizen reports that at least 61,000 people will need food aid in the aftermath of the storm. To help those who have been injured in the storm, look to the International Medical Corps, a humanitarian nonprofit that delivers healthcare services to devastated populations, particularly those affected by war, natural disaster and disease. You can also donate to Save The Children, which is working with local organizations to help reopen childcare and education programs that have closed because of the Hurricane.
As the storm heads up the east coast, the Humane Society of the United States has already begun evacuating animals to shelters across Florida. To help with their efforts, you can donate here.
“By transporting dogs and cats who were already up for adoption out of the region, we are able to increase the capacity of the threatened communities as they prepare for flooding and an anticipated influx of displaced animals,” Kate MacFall, Florida senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement to CBS News. “A lot of these animals are big dogs with lots of love to give, and they will make fantastic family members.”
Not every organization needs monetary help, though: Others are looking for goods. Bahamas Red Cross is asking people to donate any non-perishable goods, baby supplies, bedding, and cleaning items. Good 360, a Virginia-based charity, is asking for similar donations, as is BahamaStrong, an organization launched by Miami Commissioner Ken Russell on Sunday, which is accepting donations at any fire station in the city of Miami. Bahamas Relief, an organization supported by Florida Representative Shevrin Jones, is asking for toiletries, diapers, canned goods, cleaning supplies, tents, water, power generators, and more. Items can be dropped off at the Miami-Dade Community Emergency Operations Center. Those who are unable to travel to the center can contact the organization directly.
Bahamas Red Cross is asking people to use the hashtag #HelpUsHelp to create awareness about those most affected by Hurricane Dorian. But even if you aren’t sharing information directly about how you can help people in the aftermath of the hurricane, you can talk about one of the factors that made this storm so disastrous: the climate crisis.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, climate change unequivocally affects hurricanes. The Atlantic Ocean has warmed about 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit every decade since the 1970s: While warmer waters have a minimal effect on the frequency of hurricanes, they do strengthen the storm, UCS reports. Moreover, the rising sea level, a consequence of the climate crisis, leads to higher and more extensive storm surges. Finally, warmer air can hold more water, which means a higher potential for heavy rainfall, UCS says.
“The environment for all such storms has changed because of climate change,” Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Climate Analysis Section, told Scientific American in an email. “The case can be readily made that all storms are affected, but each responds differently,” he added.
While you can’t exactly vote out a natural disaster, you can vote people into office who will work to combat the climate crisis that only adds to the problem. How you vote will also affect who is in office to make decisions about offering humanitarian aid: The current administration has a less-than-stellar precedent for responding to natural disasters. Over the weekend, President Trump wrongly claimed Hurricane Dorian will hit Alabama and doubled down on the lie after Alabama's National Weather Service tried to quell fears. And after hurricanes devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, his administration gave inadequate resources to its own citizens, resulting in many residents going months without power, food, and water, NPR reported. Trump even failed to accurately account for the nearly 3,000 deaths that occurred on the island as a result of the storms, according to the New York Times. Check your voter registration status, and find out when your next local election is set to take place.