Watching American News from Abroad: Hurricane Aftermath

Donate to the Red Cross for people affected by Hurricane Harvey (in Houston) and Hurricane Irma (the Caribbean, Florida). On the one hand, they don’t have the best reporting on donation impact in the last few years, but I have heard a few different government officials assure that they are typically the first on the ground and have a wide reach.

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News of Hurricane Maria is developing. This is the third major hurricane we’ve had in the Western hemisphere in the last few weeks.

Hurricane Harvey was the first major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) to make landfall in the US for 12 years before it. Experts estimate “It dumped an estimated 27 trillion gallons of rain over Texas and Louisiana during a 6-day period” (CNN). It set a record with the 51 inches of rain it accumulated at one time. More than 72,000 people were rescued with more than 30,000 in temporary shelters, adding up to an estimate of $75 billion in damages.

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Rockport, Texas via ABC News

“A few days after Harvey was Hurricane Irma, a 650-mile-wide storm that swiftly moved through the Caribbean Islands and up the heart of Florida. Of the two, Harvey caused roughly seven times more deaths (to date, there have been 12 confirmed deaths from Irma in the United States), but ultimately, it was undoubtedly Hurricane Irma that was the more powerful of the two storms.” (Architectural Digest)

Harvey had wind speeds up to 130mph (Accuweather) compared to Irma’s 185mph (AD). 5,000 people were evacuated from the Bahamas, the largest ever in their history, and 6.3 million people were asked to evacuate Florida. The hurricane blasted and destroyed much of Barbuda, St. Martin, Anguilla, Cuba, and more. (CNN) It also hit the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which sucks because especially Haiti needs to catch a break when it comes to extreme weather.

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St. Martin via NBC News

 

When I read this, I feel absolutely helpless. Not nearly as helpless as those who are going through it, who lost their homes or are suffering damages to the homes they worked so hard to buy and build, in both a physical and spiritual sense. It feels so hard from afar; I feel even more powerless than if I were watching from the continental US.

And I feel selfish. And too lucky. For having a safe home, all the comforts of a good life, a pillow to rest my head at night. No worries compared to what others are going through.

How can I help? Not very much, short of flying there right now and undergoing Coast Guard training. But large amounts of money can be made from even small donations. If large numbers of people give $5 each, we can all chip in to help people that unwittingly and unwillingly became less fortunate than we are. We are more similar than we are different, and we owe it to our fellow humans to be kind so that we can expect it in our turn should something like this ever happen to us.

Plus, the most important thing to remember is NOT TO FORGET! This makes huge headlines for a time, but the people who are rebuilding will be dealing with the physical and emotional trauma for years to come. It’s not just important while it’s in the headlines. We can’t let it leave our minds although the news has moved on to other things.

donate-hands
Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub

I’m still researching how best to donate to those affected by Irma (considering it wreaked more devastation on countries that were less well equipped to handle it than the US), but UNICEF is a reputable option (link in Czech). Here are some lists of charities by Business Insider and Vox.

In the aftermath of Harvey, here are a few organizations I donated to:

Greater Houston Community Foundation An fund started by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Judge Ed Emmett to rebuild the city.

 

Texas Diaper Bank This organization distributes crucial supplies like diapers to mothers and children affected by the hurricane when they can’t get access to them.

Southeast Texas Food Bank Ensures all families have food on their table despite the tragedy that has affected them, focusing on children and seniors.

SPCA of Texas and Austin Pets Alive! These organizations rescue pets displaced and made homeless by the storms, placing them in foster homes until their families can search for them and take them back.

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If you’re an American expat, want to donate in dollars and still have an American bank account, transfer your money painlessly and easily with Transferwise. I was afraid too, but it has wonderful ratings and really is as easy as it seems, and it conserves as much money as possible in your transfer.

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