The hurricanes and their infamous effects on the lives of millions throughout the Caribbean and United States will undoubtedly be remembered this year. Harvey brought power and destruction to the state of Texas at a level not seen since with Katrina and Wilma in 2005. Although Florida prepared better for Irma than for past hurricanes, people still lost their lives and property damage was immense.
This storm season began with Harvey. The hurricane built strength as it travelled through the Caribbean and swiftly reached category 5 status on Aug. 25 off the coast of Rockport, Texas. With peak accumulations of 51.88 inches, Harvey brought more rain than any other Hurricane on record in the contiguous United States.
Houston was hit particularly hard. There is an estimated thirty billion dollars in flood damages to homeowners from this storm. This will end up costing both homeowners and the federal government.
Harvey displaced more than 30,000 people, and prompted more than 17,000 rescues. Deaths totaled 83, while property damage estimates range from seventy to two-hundred billion dollars.
Irma trailed close behind Harvey with a slightly different path. The greatest destruction occurred in Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands, where it was labeled as a Category 5 hurricane. Cuba and the Florida Keys were also hit hard. Cuba’s Civil Defense conducted fuel rationing and evacuated nearly a million from low lying areas, even transporting dolphins by helicopter from a coastal resort. Mainland Florida received property damage as the storm lowered to category 2. It was the state’s largest evacuation and a successful measure considering 6.5 million people were ordered to leave their homes.
Gas prices are certainly higher from damage to the Gulf ’s infrastructure. This is likely the only way residents of the Valley are directly feeling the hurricane impacts, other than familial ties. Ryan Faraci, an EMU graduate, has family in Tampa that was impacted by the hurricane. “My family had power outages that lasted a few days, a lot of debris, and trees fall,” Faraci said. “I spent the entire weekend that Irma hit not sleeping and constantly tracking the weather and checking in to make sure everyone was okay.”
Due to his ties to Florida, Faraci wanted to do more than donate money. He decided to contact University Campus Pastor Brian Burkholder to see what they could organize. Since other community members also expressed interest in assisting with hurricane relief, Y-Serve decided to facilitate the Relief Kit Project.
Although Y-Serve is assisting with the project, it was an effort that started due to a push from the community Their assistance includes, “networking abilities and funding a large portion of the project,” said Bekah Mongold, the Y-Serve contact for the project. “There is an organization in Lancaster, Pa. where the supplies for relief kits can be bought for a much lower price than one can be built individually. Y-Serve provided the funds to purchase 100 of these ‘skeleton kits.’”
When looking for ways to assist, research what projects are efficient. The Center for International Disaster Information recommends monetary donation as the best way for non-locals to contribute. Donating goods can be counterproductive. Transportation costs are high and attempting to store and distribute random accumulations of supplies can be madness for the people on the ground. If you are donating physical items, make sure the items are useful and have arrangements to be functionally distributed Safe sources for hurricane donations include Global Giving, Direct Impact Fund, Oxfam America, Unicef, and American Red Cross.
If looking for a nearby opportunity to help, Y-Serve will be collecting items until Saturday, Sept. 23 at 4 p.m. to make relief kits for hurricane victims in Florida and Caribbean countries. EMU has already received donations, and some people outside of the community have reached out to donate to Y-Serve. “We have had many anonymous donations in the donation bins throughout campus,” Faraci said. “I have spoken with several faculty members who will also be donating. Even several of my neighbors are donating items. This has reached beyond the EMU community and I am really happy to see it.”
Although there have been more donations than Faraci expected, they are still asking for basic necessities including hygienic products and first aid materials. Email y-serve@emu. edu for questions. On Monday, Sept. 25 beginning at 5:30 p.m., there is an opportunity to assemble relief kits in University Commons Hall. Consider helping in the ways you can. Many communities have lost their sense of security but we can show them love and do our best to give stability back to their lives.