Charities Providing Aid During Disastrous Hurricanes
After the hurricane season in 2004, Science Magazine published a paper about the increasing intensity of hurricanes over the years. The number of category four and five hurricanes have increased by 80 percent in the past 30 years. The paper titled, Changes in Tropical Cyclone Number, Duration, and Intensity in a Warming Environment, links the rise in storms to increasing sea surface temperatures. The authors, led by the National Center of Atmospheric Research, concluded that “global data indicate a 30-year trend toward more frequent and intense hurricanes.” In recent years, the world has seen the serious aftermath of these chaotic hurricanes. Luckily, there have been numerous charities providing aid during disastrous hurricanes.

Hurricane Irma, ICNA Relief and Project C.U.R.E

In 2017, two hurricanes made their way into the headlines: Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Irma, classified as a category five hurricane, devastated a string of small Caribbean islands. Irma’s eye touched Barbuda, destroying 95 percent of the buildings on the island. The hurricane hit southwest Florida on September 10. When it left the following Tuesday, Irma had flooded major cities including Jacksonville, Florida and Charleston, South Carolina. It left millions without power. Thankfully, several charities came to provide support.

One of the charities during the disastrous hurricane was ICNA Relief. Its disaster relief team was one of the first responders after Hurricane Irma made landfall. Its mission was to assist the people by cleaning out the homes that fierce winds damaged. A couple of days later, it assisted the flooded homes. Another charity was Project C.U.R.E and for every dollar peopled donated, it provided $20 worth of life-saving medical supplies and equipment. A week and a half later, Hurricane Maria struck the Caribbean before it could complete reparations and restoration for Hurrican Irma.

Hurricane Maria, the Hispanic Federation and the International Relief Team

After making landfall on the Caribbean island of Dominica, Hurricane Maria landed on the U.S. territory, Puerto Rico. With strong, damaging winds, Maria pummeled through infrastructure and left Puerto Rico without electricity for months. To this day, Puerto Rico has not fully recovered after the disastrous hurricane. It has been the second-costliest hurricane in the history of the United States, just after Hurricane Katrina. Since it made landfall, relief efforts have continued to deliver much needed short and long term support to the people of Puerto Rico.

One of the biggest charities to provide assistance for Hurricane Maria was the Hispanic Federation, which managed to transport emergency first responders and 7.4 million pounds of food and essentials during the devastating months after the hurricane. Another charity worth mentioning is the International Relief Team. It provided more than 2,000 large, heavy-duty tarps to provide shelter and protect families from the blazing sun and frequent rainfalls, which is further proof of charities providing aid during disastrous hurricanes. A year later, charities became necessary as Hurricane Michael blew away infrastructure.

Hurricane Michael

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael, classified as a category five, made landfall in the Florida Panhandle. It was the first significantly damaging hurricane in the area. One of the hardest-hit locations was from Mexico Beach to Indian Pass where people observed nine to 14 feet of peak storm surge inundation. On Cape San Blas, the storm surge cut through a peninsula, creating two inlets. The hurricane heavily damaged or completely destroyed numerous homes close to the coast as the water slammed against the structures. Amid the chaos, different charities came up to share the burden.

Charities Aiding in the Aftermath

The Samaritan’s Purse deployed more than 300 volunteers to the area where it cleared downed trees and debris whilst tarping roofs. Because of the damage in infrastructure, a lot of health clinics and shelters suffered. Americares delivered 61 shipments of medicine, medical supplies, hygiene supplies and other relief items to local health facilities in relief efforts.

Charities providing aid during disastrous hurricanes have made a significant impact. They have provided people with support physically and emotionally after these traumatic events. With Hurricane Dorian recently threatening the East Coast and the Bahamas, one has to be thankful for those volunteers that have managed to help those people in need as these strong hurricanes become more frequent.

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

Cruise ships are most commonly used for pleasure voyages in which the journey, the ship’s amenities and the destinations along the route all come together to create a unique experience for the passengers. Destination possibilities are endless. Some cruises take tropical routes through islands and others sail along coastlines made of ice. During hurricanes, many cruise ships reroute to provide aid to the victims of hurricanes. Hurricanes cause billions of dollars of damage and multiple cruise lines provide aid for those in need.

Cruise Ships Turn Into Shelters

Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the U.S. Katrina caused $125 billion in damage to New Orleans and parts of Florida. Three Carnival Cruise Line ships were chartered to provide shelter for at least 7,000 displaced people. The cruise line canceled thousands of passengers in order to provide much-needed accommodations for those in need.

Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of New Jersey and New York in 2012. It caused close to $62 billion in damage. Carnival Corp. offered free cruises to the victims of Hurricane Sandy alongside a donation of $2 million divided between four charities that provided relief. Norwegian Cruise Lines welcomed 150 New York-area mothers and their loved ones aboard its Mother’s Day sailing trip in an effort to alleviate some of the hardships these women were facing. 

2017 Hurricane Season

The hurricane season in 2017 caused multiple, devastating storms. There were four main storms: Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate. They were so notable their names have been retired from the hurricane names list. There was an estimated cost of $200 billion in damage; although, the final costs will not be known for years. Several cruise lines provided aid after each hurricane.

  • Royal Caribbean was one of the first cruise companies to provide aid after Hurricane Irma. It sent ships back toward the storm to rescue those stranded. In addition to repurposing their ships, Royal Caribbean matched Hurricane Irma donations up to $1 million.
  • Carnival Cruise Lines pledged a minimum of $2 million in aid after Hurricane Harvey to rebuild and relieve affected areas of Texas. Following Hurricane Irma a few months later, the cruise company released a statement that ships were on standby to help Florida after damage.
  • Disney Cruise Line donated money after both Harvey and Irma. Disney also pledged one million dollars to the American Red Cross. The Walt Disney Company followed suit and pledged to donate another $2.5 million to help those in Florida.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line worked directly with the government to provide supplies to St. Thomas days after Hurricane Irma. The cruise line also deployed ships to aid islands in the Caribbean that had been affected earlier.

Hurricane Dorian

In August 2019, Hurricane Dorian caused about $7.5 billion in damages. Royal Caribbean committed $1 million to Dorian disaster relief, and their partners in the Holistica joint venture donated an addition $100,000. The donations included matching guest and employee donations up to $500,000. Royal Caribbean went even further than monetary donations and pledged to provide 20,000 meals each day to those in need of relief. It also sent supplies in the form of water, toilet paper, pet food, tarps, plywood, diapers, flashlights and generators.

Hurricanes cause massive amounts of damage every year. They displace residents, flood entire cities and cause trauma to those who live in the affected areas. Despite the horrors hurricanes cause, cruise lines provide aid to those affected by hurricane damage.

Darci Flatley
Photo: Flickr

IsraAID Responds to Global Crises
Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, the nonprofit organization IsraAID responds to global crises, such as natural disasters and poverty, and sends teams of volunteers to help those in need. After its founding in 2001, IsraAID responded to crises in over 50 different countries. Its expertise in crisis relief includes emergency aid distributions, pinpoint trauma support and prevention training for local government and non-government professionals. These are some of the global crises IsraAID has responded to:

Typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines

IsraAID sent its first mission to the Philippines after Typhoon Ketsana in 2009. Working in collaboration with local partner Operation Blessing International, IsraAID dispatched a team of nurses and doctors to assist in the emergency medical operations. In 2013, another typhoon devastated the Philippines, killing over 6,000 people, injuring more than 28,000 and affecting over 16 million people overall. IsraAID responded within 48 hours with its medical team on the ground less than four days after the event. It spent the first three days of its efforts assisting the local health workers in one of the many hospitals the typhoon had destroyed. After that, IsraAID spent the next two years operating with the local government, instigating programs in medical support, psychotherapy and the rebuilding of the fallen cities.

Earthquake in Nepal

After a major earthquake left Nepal in ruins back in 2015, IsraAID sent a team to help the local police force locate survivors and provide emergency medical treatment. This was a relief to the local authorities and medical personnel outnumbered by the number of injuries and the chaos that ensued. Working alongside the authorities and an emergency response from the Israeli Defense Forces, IsraAID volunteers risked their lives to save and treat the survivors who the rubble had trapped. IsraAID not only provided the immediate essentials of food, water, shelter and medical aid to the Nepalese but also focused its efforts on long-term recovery via farming, fishing and a new supply of clean water. It also provided psychosocial services to the victims, helping them cope with and build resilience in the wake of the tragedy.

The Dadaab Refugee Camp and Famine in Kenya

Since 2007, IsraAID has been sending emergency relief teams to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya—the largest refugee camp in the world—to aid the victims running from violence and famine. Later in 2011, when a drought caused one of the worst famines to ever strike the Horn of Africa, IsraAID returned to Kenya with a distribution of food and relief items for the refugees and locals still suffering from hunger and chaos. It also offered that same assistance to the people of Turkana, Kenya’s poorest county. IsraAID has maintained a steady presence in Kenya since 2013, helping those in poverty and the refugee camp with medical treatment, water management and psychosocial support.

Refugee Crisis in Greece

During the refugee crisis in 2015, IsraAID responded by sending a team of volunteers to Greece. Special mobile units provided immediate medical and psychosocial aid, distributed supplies and identified particularly vulnerable groups, such as children. IsraAID volunteers also rescued refugees whose boats had capsized and provided sleeping bags to anyone who had to sleep on the ground. Throughout the crisis, the volunteers provided food, clothing, medicine and hygiene kits to the refugees, as well as psychotherapy training to the local government and non-government professionals so that it could better care for the traumatized population.

Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

After Hurricane Maria devastated the Puerto Rican population in 2017, IsraAID responded with a Spanish-fluent team of psychosocial and medical support, as well as experts in water and sanitation. At the time, the country’s poverty rate was 43.5 percent and the unemployment rate at 10.3 percent, on top of 95 percent of the populace losing electricity as a result of the storm. IsraAID provided emergency relief programs in the distribution of food, water and basic supplies, medical treatment and mental support. The team then shifted focus to long-term recovery and implemented a system to provide water and sanitation to the people of Puerto Rico.

The aforementioned countries and many others have benefitted greatly from IsraAID’s support, and IsraAID responds to global crises to this day. The organization has even established ongoing training programs for water management, psychosocial services and other relief efforts in the countries listed above, as well as in Japan, South Korea, Haiti, Jordan and South Sudan. As IsraAID responds to global crises, those in need have a chance to lead better lives.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Flickr

Help the Bahamas
After a record-breaking 185 mph category 5 hurricane ravaged The Bahamas in September 2019, the island is in need of assistance. Efforts to help the most affected are now accepting donations and aid in any way possible. There are many local drives around the nation. There are also many organizations that are receiving monetary donations. Below are five ways to help The Bahamas through organizations that are receiving monetary and material donations.

Five Ways to Help The Bahamas

  1. World Central Kitchen (WCKitchen): Celebrity chef and philanthropist José Andrés is notable for his relief efforts after Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico in 2017. He led kitchens all over the island and brought quality meals to families. In 2018, WCKitchen provided over five million fresh meals to people in need. He and his crew are now in The Bahamas providing the same relief and require as much help as they can receive. WCKitchen is receiving donations online to continue providing meals to the families on the island.
  2. The American Red Cross: The American Red Cross responds to an average of more than 62,000 disasters every year. Although much of the work and donations go to the United States, the well known nonprofit organization has a separate fundraising campaign that will apply directly to the disaster relief for The Bahamas after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian.
  3. The Bahamas Red Cross Society: The Bahamas Red Cross is also receiving donations to enable it to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from Hurricane Dorian. It urges people to send non-perishable goods, baby supplies, cleaning items and bedding.
  4. The Smile Trust: Florida native Valencia Gunder is the executive director of the Smile Trust. Since February 2014, the Smile Trust, or formerly, Make the Homeless Smile, has provided approximately 100,000 meals to people between Miami, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. She is now on the ground, helping people in The Bahamas recover from Hurricane Dorian. Valencia Gunder has said that the Bahamian people have a long history and crucial influence with the United States, specifically South Florida. She says that U.S. citizens should view The Bahamas as neighbors and family, and should find it necessary to provide aid to them in their time of need.
  5. The National Association of The Bahamas: The National Association of The Bahamas (NAB) is a nonprofit organization. Volunteers and friends of The Bahamas support it, working to better the communities in The Bahamas. After the devastation of Hurricane Dorian on the northern Islands of The Bahamas, the organization is reaching out to the public for support to help the people affected by this monster hurricane.

Americans should continue to donate essentials to nearby drives. However, there is a need to provide monetary donations to no-profit organizations that have teams on the island preparing for the recovery of living conditions. The organizations mentioned above are only just a few ways to help The Bahamas.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: Flickr

Hurricane Dorian
On September 1, 2019, hurricane conditions emerged within some of the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. A mere few hours later, the conditions developed into a Category 5 storm named Hurricane Dorian with winds from 185 up to 220 mph, leaving massive amounts of chaos and destruction in its wake. The storm tore houses and buildings from their foundations as if they were cardboard and glue, leaving most of the citizens in the northwestern region of the island displaced and looking for shelter. The disaster also killed at least 50 people and many expect that number to rise as more bodies turn up. Reports state there are 2,500 people missing.

People classify hurricane Dorian as the joint strongest Atlantic storm to ever hit land. Many companies in the United States have made contributions to help the relief efforts, in addition to repairing some of the devastations in the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahamas.

Six Companies Donating to Hurricane Dorian Relief in the Bahamas

  1. Disney: The Walt Disney Company announced on September 3, 2019, two days after the hurricane struck, that it would give $1 million dollars in efforts to help alleviate some of the devastations. The Disney Cruise Line led the donation with its president, Jeff Vahle, releasing a statement saying, “The Bahamas is such a special place to us and our guests, and we have watched the devastation created by Hurricane Dorian with concern and heartache.”

  2. Lowe’s: The Lowe’s Emergency Command Center took action in the midst of the disaster on August 29, 2019. It set up a core team of people working tirelessly to send medical supplies to areas that the hurricane impacted. The company has also committed to sending a $1 million donation to the Bahamian Red Cross. 

  3. Verizon: The Verizon company waived all unlimited talk, text and data usage for its customers in the areas that suffered destruction from the storm in the Bahamas. People in this area received waived service from September 2, 2019, through September 9, 2019.                               

  4. Coca-Cola: The Coca-Cola Foundation announced a $400,000 grant to the Salvation Army in order to send immediate help to those the devastation of Hurricane Dorian affected in the Bahamas. Furthermore, Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottling and other CC1 Companies are lending a helping hand to the Coca-Cola Bottler in the Bahamas by organizing donations and supply drives with the help of the Puerto Rican business communities.

  5. Walmart: Walmart, Walmart.org and Sam’s Club pledged up to $500,000 in cash and in kind donations for the country’s recovery. The money that they committed will go to the organizations working directly with those impacted by the disaster. Walmart is also working very closely with government entities and local officials to alleviate the needs of the citizens.

  6. Amazon: In partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Mercy Corps and the Grand Bahama Disaster Relief Foundation, the Disaster Relief by Amazon team is sending two Amazon Air flights full of supplies to the areas Hurricane Dorian impacted. The planes will contain tarps, buckets and water containers. Amazon has also launched a wish list campaign, specifically created for nonprofit partners, for customers to donate materials to aboard the plane by September 13, 2019.

These six largely successful companies have made monumental efforts to alleviate some of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian and give back to communities that lost so much. Rebuilding the communities will likely take years, but these donations are a wonderful starting point.

– Joanna Buoniconti
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Dominica

Dominica is one of the islands in the Caribbean that suffered from two destructive hurricanes within the last four years. The hazardous climate in this region has been a catalyst for the building of resilient infrastructure. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Dominica highlight the benefit of disaster relief.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Dominica

  1. Dominica’s government is funded through the exchange of passports through the Citizenship by Investment Program. This program invites foreign residents to come and live on the island under certain agreements. One-third of the population of 74,027 lives on the coastline. The rest are scattered inland.
  2. Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, has expressed concern for the living situations caused by Hurricanes Erika and Maria. The Citizenship by Investment Program is funding projects for housing developments that brave Dominica’s natural hazards. The residential reconstructions include electrical, cable and telephone lines that run beneath the surface.
  3. The state has an international disagreement with Venezuela’s dominion over Aves Island. This calls into question whether the circumstances fall under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. But instead of a military, the Commonwealth of Dominica has a police force that includes a coast guard.
  4. Dominica has subtropical valleys and cool coastlines. However, the mountainous parts of the island can experience flash floods. Between June and October, hurricanes pose a major threat. These natural hazards contribute to soil erosion.
  5. Dominica suffered disruption in more than 40 of its water systems as a result of Hurricane Maria’s destruction. The Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance has partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to provide support with water, sanitation and hygiene. Access to safe drinking water was an urgent need for hurricane survivors.
  6. The Japan Caribbean Climate Change Partnership donated wood chippers, tillers, brush cutters, seeds, water tanks, soil testing equipment, machine-powered mist blowers and laptops to 40 Roseau Valley Farmers. The total cost of the project to equip farmers affected by Hurricane Maria’s devastation of agriculture $390,000.
  7. In an effort to sustain school feeding programs and engender the value of farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture is working to form an agro-entrepreneurship program in schools nationwide. The ministry has invested $70,000, not including other resources. The Junior Achievement Agricultural Program will use this opportunity to give students the experience of fundraising to cultivate their own food.
  8. The World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme assisted the Dominican government in the maintenance of public services following Hurricane Maria. The restoration of four hospitals, five medical clinics, three schools and six structures at the Dominica State College took place in the summer of 2108. More than 400 contractors learned the methods of climate resilient reconstruction.
  9. Plastic pollution has affected the island’s coast. In an effort to heal Dominica’s ecosystem, the country will have to restrain from using plastic through a plastic ban that the Prime Minister has introduced. The U.K. government is also funding the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme (CME), which will improve the economy’s tourism sector by developing navigation charts to reduce the damage to Dominica’s coral reefs.
  10. The U.K. government’s CME Programme will also restore a tide gauge at Roseau’s port to detect unsafe sea patterns. Instructions on the conservation of data equipment, like the Tidal Analysis Software Kit, and connections to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, as well as to other experts, will contribute to the region’s tsunami warning system. These foundations and skills will bring stronger pre-disaster security.

Though strides are being made to establish Dominica as the first climate-resilient country, there is still danger in the unpredictability of these natural disasters. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Dominica show how proactive development of a stable infrastructure is the most effective way to respond to calamity. Systems must be put in place to overcome adversity before the blow.

Crystal Tabares
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 Worst Hurricanes

Hurricanes represent an annual threat to the lives and livelihood of millions living in coastal or insular geographic regions. Throughout history, certain natural disasters have stood out as especially destructive. This is a compilation of the 10 worst hurricanes in modern history, with 10 being the worst.

The World’s 10 Worst Hurricanes

  1. Sandy
    • Death Toll: 186
    • Economic Losses: $65 Billion
    • Summary: In 2012, this massive, slow-moving storm wreaked havoc not only in Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica but also on the United States East Coast in New Jersey and New York. Sandy caused devastating flooding, killing 80 people in the Caribbean and damaging 18,000 homes. Sandy hit especially hard in Haiti, where the storm execrated food insecurity, which Haiti had already been struggling with after Hurricane Isaac.
  2. David
    • Death Toll: 2,000
    • Economic Losses: $1.54 Billion
    • Summary: In 1979, Hurricane David, a powerful Category 5 storm, struck both the Dominican Republic and the East Coast of the United States. In the Dominican Republic, David killed at least 600 people and left over 150,000 homeless.
  3. Jeanne
    • Death Toll: 3,000
    • Economic Losses: $8 billion
    • Summary: Jeanne was the deadliest hurricane of the 2004 season. Jeanne was a Category 3 hurricane, which caused devastation in the same region as the prior storms on this list, the Caribbean and the East Coast of the United States.
  4. Flora
    • Death Toll: 7,000
    • Economic Losses: $125 million
    • Summary: Flora struck in 1963, but it remains one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes of all time. The storm swept through Tobago, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, triggering massive landslides and destroying crops. Inland flooding caused by the storm surge was among the chief causes of crop destruction, especially in Haiti. In Tobago, crop destruction was so great that the agricultural backbone of the economy was abandoned in favor of a new emphasis on tourism as a means of revenue.
  5. Katrina
    • Death Toll: 1,800
    • Economic Losses: $125 billion.
    • Summary: Katrina is infamous for being one of the worst natural disasters ever to strike the United States. Coastal flooding caused by Katrina completely devastated many communities on the gulf coast. Katrina nearly completely submerged New Orleans and destroyed around 800,000 homes in Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. While it is not quite among the deadliest hurricanes of all time, the extensive destruction caused by Katrina makes it by far the costliest in terms of economic damages.
  6. Maria
    • Death Toll: 4,500
    • Economic Losses: $90 Billion
    • Summary: Maria is the most recent of the tropical storms featured on this list, and the devastation that it brought is still fresh in Puerto Rico, Dominica and Guadeloupe. The most severe effects of Maria were felt by Puerto Rico, where Maria severely damaged the infrastructure, leaving countless citizens without power for extended periods. Maria was also the most costly hurricane in modern history for the island territory. Fortunately, thanks to efforts funded by the federal government, Puerto Rico has seen a slow, but steady recovery, with power being entirely restored.
  7. Fifi
    • Death Toll: 8,000
    • Economic Losses: $1.8 Billion
    • Summary: Fifi was a catastrophic storm that struck Central America in 1974. Fifi triggered landslides and flash floods, which swept through crop fields and small towns throughout the region. Dozens of villages in Honduras were completely wiped out. Twenty-three hundred people were killed when a natural dam in Choloma gave way to the flooding and burst. The impact of Fifi sparked a series of reconstruction projects among the villages of Honduras, which succeeded in rebuilding housing and infrastructure across the nation.
  8. Galveston
    • Death Toll: 8,000-12,000
    • Economic Losses: $20 million
    • Summary: Galveston was a vibrant trading port, and the largest city in Texas at the turn of the twentieth century. Though Galveston had endured many tropical storms since its founding, the 1900 Hurricane was in a class of its own, and the ensuing 15-foot storm surge wiped out the city, destroying 3,600 buildings. Galveston was the deadliest natural disaster in the United States history at the time. Remarkably, despite the immense damages, and the loss of 20 percent of Galveston’s inhabitants, the people managed to rebuild and construct a new seawall to protect it from future catastrophes.
  9. Mitch
    • Death Toll: 10,000-20,000
    • Economic Losses: $6 billion
    • Summary: Hurricane Mitch was a Category 5 storm that predominantly affected Nicaragua and Honduras. Flash flooding and landslides caused by Mitch destroyed thousands of homes, rendering 20 percent of the population homeless. Mitch also caused extensive damage to the infrastructure of Honduras, leaving numerous roads and bridges destroyed, which prevented the transport of much-needed aid. In Nicaragua, a mudslide off of La Casitas Volcano killed over 2,000, and over 1 million homes were damaged or destroyed. In the aftermath of Mitch, countries around the globe donated billions to Central America, which the affected countries used to rebuild, constructing stronger foundations to withstand future disasters.
  10. The Great Hurricane of 1780
    • Death Toll: 22,000-27,000
    • Economic Losses: Unknown
    • Summary: The Great Hurricane of 1780 predates modern storm-tracking technology, but it is widely accepted to be the deadliest storm in history. Making landfall on Oct. 10, the Great Hurricane devastated Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean, causing incalculable damage and claiming more lives than any other storm in recorded history. The Great Hurricane represents a disaster of unprecedented scale and truly belongs at the top of the 10 worst hurricanes of all time.

Hurricanes often serve as a bitter reminder of human vulnerability, however, even when in the path of the 10 worst hurricanes, people show an incredible capacity to adapt and recover from tragedy. The 10 worst hurricanes of all time illustrate not only the fierce violence of nature but also the ingenuity and tenacity of humanity.

– Karl Haider
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in the Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands are a tourism hotspot in the Caribbean comprised of four major islands: St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island. Many people retire on the islands to enjoy the white sandy beaches and blue coastal waters. However, this list of top 10 facts about living conditions in the Virgin Islands goes beyond the images of tropical paradise to get a closer look at life on the islands.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Virgin Islands

  1. The average household income in the U.S. Virgin Islands is $37,254 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This is 75 percent of the mainland’s average income. Its economy relies heavily on tourism which makes up more than half of the islands’ GDP. More than 2 million tourists come to the Virgin Islands every year. However, when hurricanes damage the islands, they hurt the economy as well.
  2. The territory is $2 billion in debt due to hurricane damage, the collapse of sugar production and the closure of factories. In 2012, the Hovensa refinery closed down, leaving the islands without its largest employer.
  3. Hurricanes Irma and Maria damaged up to 90 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authorities’ (VIWAPA) transmission and distribution lines. The U.S. provided $1.9 billion for recovery to the islands. The Virgin Islands have since regained its water and power, but many top hotels and resorts will still be closed until late 2019.
  4. The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands is a nonprofit organization that supports aid to the islands and works with the government to provide essential resources. In addition, All Hands and Hearts and Repair the World are two groups which provide relief to the islands following the aftermath of hurricanes.
  5. The U.S. Virgin Islands have three main sectors of employment: mining, logging and construction; accommodation and food and leisure and hospitality. Because of hurricanes, as the tourism sector declines, the construction and rebuilding sector is experiencing growth. Following the 2017 hurricanes, employment declined by 7.8 percent.
  6. The cost of living in the U.S. Virgin Islands is higher than on the U.S. mainland. On average, apartments cost $2,000 per month. A two-bedroom house costs at least $285,000.
  7. Not everyone can afford health care on the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are high levels of HIV on the islands with 31.4 people out of 100,000 diagnosed with HIV. In the continental U.S., only 12.5 people out of 100,000 people have HIV. In addition, doctors who come from the U.S. mainland often have issues communicating with locals.
  8. Water conservation is important on the islands because it only rains an average of 38 inches per year. Many residents rely on cisterns to store water instead of using the main water supply. This can cause problems with the water not being safe to drink. To combat this issue, the U.S. Virgin Islands have constructed new, efficient desalination plants.
  9. The middle and lower class is largely made up of Black Americans. Hurricane seasons push many people in this demographic deeper into debt when they have to reconstruct or rebuild. It is estimated that over 480 people are homeless in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  10. The U.S. Virgin Islands provide private and public schooling to kids K-12. The University of the Virgin Islands offers 43 degree-options. It has campuses on both St. Thomas and St. Croix and there are 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students who attend the university. Though many schools were destroyed during the hurricanes in 2017, many have been rebuilt.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are more than just a tropical paradise with luxury homes. There are differences between the locals and those who move there from the mainland. Hurricanes wreak havoc on the small island territories every hurricane season, causing the islands to struggle economically and physically. This list of top 10 facts about living conditions in the Virgin Islands is not exhaustive, but it paints a clearer picture that the island territory is not solely about palm trees and sea breeze.

Jodie Filenius

Photo: Flickr

Puerto Rico
On September 20, 2017, tragedy struck the island territory of Puerto Rico with the landfall of Hurricane Maria. The people living there were faced with many consequences from the category 4 storm, including the temporary closure of schools and a cost of damage reaching $94 billion.

In the midst of an economic recession, this disaster left many poverty-stricken families without the means to survive. As the storm passes its one-year anniversary, Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in Puerto Rico are still in full force, and progress is being made each day.

The Initial Response

With sustained winds at 155 miles per hour along with catastrophic flooding, several trees, cell towers and homes were uprooted during the hurricane, causing a loss of electricity and lack of clean water or food. The initial response by The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was criticized. They faced a particularly difficult set of problems with hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as wildfires in California. The organizational fatigue resulted in specific flaws in the preparation for hurricane season in Puerto Rico and the failure of having adequate supplies in the area.

FEMA emptied 80 percent of its Puerto Rico-based Caribbean Distribution Center in response to Hurricane Irma, landing just weeks before Maria. However, despite the lack of resources available, FEMA, along with local first responders, the government of Puerto Rico, The Department of Defense, The U.S. Coast Guard and many others began recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, providing food, water, first aid and other life-saving supplies. Furthermore, FEMA activated its “surge capacity force” with more than 640 federal employees temporarily leaving their jobs to support the efforts.

Recovery Through the Months

A month after Hurricane Maria hit, 80 percent of the island was without power and 30 percent was without drinking water. However, FEMA’s response efforts continued, becoming the largest and longest commodity delivery mission in the agency’s history. The agency provided 17 million gallons of potable water and 72 million liters of bottled water the months following.

More than 60 nongovernmental organizations and government partners were on the ground assisting less than a month after the tragedy. The Red Cross developed a recovery plan to assist with the most urgent requests, focusing on four key aspects- access to power, access to clean water, livelihood restoration and community health. With many families losing their homes and livelihoods because of income-generating crops being destroyed by the storm, The Red Cross aimed to help citizens restore their jobs and become more self-sufficient through microgrants to small businesses and training in agriculture and home reconstruction.

Hurricane Maria Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico Today

On August 28, 2018, the catastrophic death toll was 2,975. This count makes Hurricane Maria one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history and increases the pain each citizen continues to feel as a result. Though the community endures the heartbreak of Hurricane Maria every day, the progress since the tragedy has shown tremendous hope.

The island’s power authority says more than 95 percent of the population has restored electricity. All 68 hospitals are open, and efforts are being made to provide temporary facilities for the remaining damaged health clinics. More than 1,843 generators have been installed, and about 4,200 power line workers are working to repair transmission and distribution lines for the areas that have had an inconsistent power supply.

As the territory recuperates and works towards attracting tourism again, the citizens have expressed much resilience and hope. Though this may sound like a tragedy come and gone, the Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in Puerto Rico will reflect through each citizen every day.

– Beth Dowdy

Photo: Flickr

international hurricane relief

Hurricane season: a three-month span between the months of June and November when people from Panama to Maine brace for destructive and often deadly wind and rain. These large storms, often the size of small countries, can bring winds from 74 mph at their weakest to well over 100 mph at their strongest, dumping large quantities of rain as they move across land and sea. The warm waters of the mid-Atlantic and Caribbean help feed these spinning storms, which can lumber along at 30 to 70 mph. Due to their immense size, the amount of precipitation often causes flooding in areas along a hurricane’s path. Combine this with high winds, and areas often hit by powerful hurricanes regularly need international hurricane relief.

Hurricanes begin their life in the mid-Atlantic, either off the coast of Western Africa or over the middle of the ocean. From there they move in swinging arcs and paths that are difficult to predict for the coast of Central America, the Caribbean islands, the Southern United States and the Eastern Seaboard. Since these storms hit so many countries and often leave devastation in their wake, state-sponsored organizations, NGOs and privately-funded charities offer international hurricane relief. Many of these charities also operate in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Following are examples of organizations that provide international hurricane relief.

USAID

The United States Agency for International Development is the main arm of the United States effort to aid its neighbors and other nations around the world. USAID provides both long-term aid programs and disaster relief programs, and International Hurricane aid provided by USAID reflects this. Programs already operating in nations in the hurricane danger zone are provided with funding and technical assistance to help people when disaster strikes. Being prepared beforehand can help to save many lives. USAID also utilizes their Disaster Assistance Response Teams, or DART’s. During the 2017 hurricane season, DART teams provided aid and organization to 11 locations in six different countries. Through USAID, the United States provided nearly $23 million in aid. Everything from chainsaws to desalination units was flown in on 55 air missions which delivered 155 metric tons of supplies. Approximately 83,000 people were helped by this DART mission.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent

While many hurricanes strike impoverished or underprepared countries, they also strike the United States. When they hit the United States, the large storms do not discriminate. Wealthy and poorer areas alike are usually struck, and it is only after the hurricane that money matters. This was evidenced during Hurricane Katrina. 

The American Red Cross society not only prepares and responds to the worst in the United States; they also provide international hurricane relief to other countries hit by the severe storms. The American Red Cross emphasizes preparedness. A main focus of the organization is to pre-position supplies so they can be easily accessed during and after a storm.

On the American Red Cross’ website, useful advice for preparing for a natural disaster such as a hurricane can be found. This simple advice includes making sure that you have a store of freshwater, learning your evacuation routes if evacuation is an option and keeping an emergency kit stocked. Advice on what a person or a family should do before, during and after a hurricane can also be found.

Habitat For Humanity

Habitat for Humanity works in the United States and around the world, focusing on three main activities: neighborhood revitalization, homebuilding and disaster relief. International hurricane relief is part of their expansive disaster relief program. One division of this program is called Habitat Hammers, which works to rebuild houses after natural disasters. Habitat Hammers missions were launched from Texas to Puerto Rico after the 2017 hurricane season. Over the next five years, Habitat for Humanity will help families affected by the hurricanes which hit Puerto Rico in 2017. According to the government, more than 780,000 houses were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by the hurricanes. Habitat Hammers will work to build and rebuild houses with families in Puerto Rico.

How You Can Help

Records indicate that hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are becoming stronger and more frequent as ocean temperatures rise. Devastating storms year after year will increase, and agencies and charities around the world will need help. This can be provided through donations to organizations like the American Red Cross, or by traveling to disaster areas as a volunteer or aid worker. It is a large planet, but in the end, we are all neighbors.

– Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr