A former psychologist in Portland schools who traveled to St. Thomas late last month and planned to work for a year in schools there has been trying for days to get off the Caribbean island heavily damaged by two hurricanes in two weeks.

Brooke Quinn Dunphey, 36, who was a psychologist at Lyman Moore Middle School and Lyseth and Riverton elementary schools, says she is lonely and homesick and desperate to get home to Wells.

“There is absolutely no way off the island,” Dunphey said Saturday.

Dunphey’s saga started Aug. 29, when she arrived on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands with her husband, Will, for a few days of vacation before her work for the St. Thomas Department of Education was to start.

Her husband flew back to his job in Maine a couple of days ahead of Hurricane Irma. The school year was just about to start.

“It was going to be a yearlong adventure, but it has turned out to be a nightmare,” Dunphey said in a telephone interview.


She has been without power since Irma hit Sept. 6, destroying much of the island’s infrastructure and leveling homes.

At the height of the storm, she telephoned her father back in Maine.

“I called my dad bawling my eyes out I was so terrified. He said to get in the bathroom, stay low, crouch down and pray,” she said.

She said at first she hoped to stick it out, and busied herself helping out at a shelter to provide water and food to hurricane victims. With her 9-pound chihuahua-beagle mix, Piper, for company, Dunphey managed by candlelight and solar lamps at night.

She learned to flush toilets without running water. She cooked her meals – packaged macaroni and cheese and rice and beans she managed to stockpile before Irma – on a propane stove. She has been charging her cellphone by her car’s battery.

“My apartment smells like a fish bowl with dead fish in it. I have to pour bleach on the floor,” she said.


But after more devastation from Hurricane Maria last Wednesday, she decided it was time to leave once it became clear the schools on St. Thomas will not be opening for months. Any available education resources are being focused on high school seniors. All of the schools that withstood the storm are being used as shelters by storm victims.

With the airport closed and no word of when it might reopen, Dunphey has been trying to find a way out by boat.

She said it is possible a cruise ship may come in to nearby St. Croix and she has thought of finding a boat there.

“But there is a lot of fake news and scams with chartered boats and flights,” she said.

Her cousin, Matt Cosby of Portland, who alerted the Press Herald to her plight, said the whole family is worried for her.

“She is pretty lonely and sad. It has been over three weeks without any electricity and with the curfew,” Cosby said.


Dunphey said she has had some very low days.

“It is just hard to get out of bed when you don’t have much hope,” Dunphey said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:


Twitter: bquimby

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