A look back at America’s most devastating superstorms of 2017

Remembering hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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The North Atlantic hurricane season lasts from the beginning of June to the end of November, and it reaches its peak from late August throughout September. Superstorms Harvey, Irma and Maria claimed more than 250 lives across the nation. While each hurricane caused severe damages to surrounding areas, celebrities, good Samaritans and local organizations reached out to help. The impacts were critical – thousands of people were left needing emergency assistance.  Although the storms have long passed, their aftermath prompted many developments.

The Hurricanes

Harvey and Irma

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the southern borders of the United States. They rank within the top three of the nation’s costliest storms, along with Katrina. Both storms caused an estimated $280 billion in damages. People in Texas, Louisiana and Florida were heavily impacted.

Harvey affected Texas and Louisiana from Aug. 17 through Sept. 3. It is the costliest natural disaster on record.

Harvey began as a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico, and eventually became a Category 4 storm with heavy rain and threatening winds at 130-150 mph.

Source: Texas Hurricane Files 

Nearly 140,00 homes were destroyed or damaged, and more than 80 lives were lost. As residents returned, they faced significant health hazards.

Although much of lower Texas was affected, Houston had the most damage.

As part of the Harvey relief package, ProPublica reported that Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is still asking Congress to build a storm surge barrier that would protect residents from extensive flooding. So far, Congress has provided them with $15 billion that can only go towards rebuilding the flooded areas.

“When a disaster happens, we avoid duplication of services,” said Greg Forrester, CEO of The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

Just a couple of weeks after Harvey, Hurricane Irma arrived.

Irma battered the Florida Keys and its southern mainland in September. Millions of residents in Florida experienced severely damaged homes and power outages. As the Category 4 storm, Irma killed more than 130 people and left thousands of people homeless.

The heavy downpours set a new record in Jacksonville, Florida, as the flood increased to 5 feet. On average, the amount of rain that Jacksonville receives in a year totals just over 4 feet. Irma eventually weakened by early September and began to travel towards Georgia and Alabama.

Credit: NASA

In total, the hurricane estimated to cost $100 billion in damages.

Here are a few of latest developments:

  • It’s an going recovery
  • People are back to work
  • Almost 30-percent of property claims were closed
  • FEMA is having a job fair for Irma recovery work

Maria

More than three million residents on the island of Puerto Rico are still struggling to recover after Hurricane Maria created mass destruction. The Category 4 superstorm lasted from mid-September to the beginning of October.

Winds were as high as 174 mph and knocked out all of the island’s power. There were more than 60 fatalities over its duration.

Source: WPRI Eyewitness News

The storm cost nearly $90 million in damages. Thus far, Congress has only given them $5 million as aid.

Many of the residents are still without power, food and clean drinking water.

In several tweets, President Trump shared his thoughts about the disaster relief aiding the citizens of Puerto Rico.

S.O.S Online

Many of the media-savvy people affected by the three superstorms used social media as an outlet to get help using these hashtags: #SOShouston, #SOSharvey, #SOSIrma and #MeUnoAyudar, for Puerto Rico, which says “I’m joining to help.”

Forrester said that more of the outside communities will be relied on. “The engagement of community volunteers is the next big segment.”

Credit: Japaira Ellison

Organization Outreach

Local organizations made hurricane relief efforts to all those affected. Greg Forrester is the CEO of The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD.) The organization oversees 62 disaster relief organizations like Red Cross and the Salvation Army, among others. Forrester said his ultimate goal is to help communities and survivors after disasters. Unlike some organizations, the donations provided by NVOAD are not “in kind,” like food and clothing. “When a disaster happens, we avoid duplication of services,” Forrester said.

NVOAD pre-stages disasters so that they know which appropriate organizations should be called to action. For the recent natural disasters, NVOAD donated 3.8 million hours of voluntary service to help residents in affected areas. They provide sheltering and mass cleanup teams. Disaster-trained chaplains are also present to provide mental health care to victims and families.

Because they’re big on volunteerism, online sign up forms to help out with disaster relief are provided. Those who apply are not required to be affiliated with one of the 62 organizations. Volunteers as young as 16 and as old as 93 have helped with debris cleanup and other recovery efforts. Since about 20 percent of people have a disaster plan, Forrester said they’ll rely more on the outside communities. ” The engagement of community volunteers is the next big segment.”

The American Red Cross exemplifies a significant role in disaster relief. The organization is spread across 60 regions with over 300 thousand volunteers. Director of Communications Nathan DeVault said the organization’s purpose is to alleviate human suffering. His organization provided food, shelter, casework management and financial aid for Harvey with 91 percent of volunteer help.

Thus far, Red Cross has deployed more than 180 people to assist with relief. “We’ll continue to help until they feel comfortable,” DeVault said. Long after the natural disaster relief has occurred, DeVault said they keep up with recipients through voluntary text surveys about the personal success of recovery efforts.

According to statistical data provided by DeVault as of Nov. 28, 2017, Red Cross has distributed more than six million emergency relief items and has sheltered more than one million victims affected by the recent hurricanes.

Celebrity Relief Efforts

Celebrities also played a huge role in the road to recovery for affected areas. For more information, take a look at which celebrities donated to these individual relief efforts: Harvey, Irma and Maria. Additional celebrities and known figures who rallied for hurricane relief can be found here.

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