United States taken by storm


Home destroyed by fire in Sanoma, CA

In the past three months, the United States has become very familiar with the names Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria. Now, none of those names need any introduction anywhere in the United States, because four hurricanes with those names ravaged the Houston area, South Florida, and Puerto Rico.

The United States has seen hurricanes cause damage before, but never before has it seen four category 5 hurricanes strike the country over the course of six weeks. Wildfires are also to be expected, but during October, raging wildfires spread all over California. The fires have been spread by hurricane-like winds, devastating entire communities. Numerous relief efforts have been in motion since these hurricanes passed through, but the areas afflicted are still in shock over the damage done.

“I lived in Florida for a couple of years so I knew that hurricanes can be scary, but the houses are built to withstand hurricane force winds.” junior and former Miami resident Austin LaVigne said. “That put me at ease until news reports started to show the devastation in Puerto Rico. That’s when I started to get worried.”

Hurricane Harvey afflicted the densely populated Houston area. It affected over 13 million people, damaged or destroyed 135,000 homes, wrecked over 1 million cars, and killed 82 people. Texas Governor Greg Abbott estimated that it will cost around 180 billion dollars to repair the damages, the majority of which will have to come from federal aid, according to World Vision. However, numerous independent organizations have set up relief funds and have raised millions of dollars to assist the recovery effort. “[Hurricane Harvey] made us scared and aware that if the hurricane is supposed to hit where you live then evacuate and hope for the best for your house.” junior Greg Curtain said. Curtain has family near the Houston area.

Less than two weeks after Harvey hit the Houston area, Hurricane Irma came storming up the Atlantic Coast, hitting Florida and the Caribbean hard. It started out as a category 1 hurricane in the ocean, but worked its way up to a category 5 when it hit the Caribbean and Florida. Winds topping out at 185 miles per hour led to a mandatory evacuation of the Florida Keys. Over 3 million people in the Miami area lost power according to USA Today, and these power outages continued for weeks. The damage done to the Caribbean Islands was just as devastating, with 95% of buildings in Barbuda being damaged or destroyed.

“I had many family members try to make plans to live here in Arlington while the hurricane passed, but they all decided to stay.” LaVigne said. “Most of my family was unaffected, but my grandfather down in Fort Lauderdale got hit hard by the hurricane. His house in Key Largo had five trees fall on it, but the house somehow didn’t have too much structural damage. We’re all happy he’s okay, but now he has to work to fix his house.”

A little over two weeks after Irma, the islands off of the Southeast Atlantic Coast were hit again, and again. Hurricanes Maria and Jose wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands almost consecutively. Two weeks after Maria, 90 per cent of Puerto Rico still did not have power, and recovery efforts are still in place despite some budget controversy in the Capitol and the White House. President Trump called the Puerto Rican budget “a little out of whack”, which got some partisan reactions from both sides. Regardless, an estimated five billion dollars is still needed to repair Puerto Rico’s electricity system alone, according to the Department of Homeland Security.  

To cap off the bombardment of natural disasters that has transpired over the past few months, an arid climate and high-velocity winds have spread deadly wildfires all over the state of California. Over 210,000 acres of land have been destroyed, forcing 90,000 people to evacuate from their homes. The fires hospitalized 185 people, killed 43 people and destroyed 8,900 buildings according to the Los Angeles Times. Thousands of families have been left without homes. The California state government is asking for 7.4 billion dollars for recovery.

“We were kind of in the middle of it, and our house was burned completely to the ground, along with all of our neighbors’ [houses] except for one.” California resident Byron Wood said. “There were around 3,700 houses and 1,900 businesses in our area that got burned. We did find a place to live, but pretty much everything we owned with the exception of a few clothes is gone.”

The Natural disasters of this year have devastated the homes and lives of millions. These events are not things that can be prevented, and they have done significant damage. The best news for America when it comes to these disasters is that they have done their worst, and now focus is on recovery. However, it is clear that it’s going to be a long and slow process.  

“The first recovery activity is clean-up.” Wood said. “ But when it comes to repair, the price of my house is going to cost approximately double the amount that I bought it for, and it’s going to take three to five years. Although part of the [recovery] problem is that because of the natural disasters in Houston and Florida, a lot of the builders have moved their crews to those places because there is so much work, so there’s really nobody in this area to help rebuild right now.”