A Nation Unites after Catastrophe

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Photo by Paula Murphy

Written by River Stone, Adeline Furlow, and Dominique Cruz

Incredible things can come from tragedy. In the wake of disaster, people from around the nation are coming together to rescue, support, and donate to victims caught in the destruction of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

Devastation hit Texas in the form of Hurricane Harvey. Over the course of eight days, the category four storm engulfed Houston and the surrounding coastal cities in a torrential downpour. Five days later and 1,186 miles to the south, another natural disaster by the name of Hurricane Irma began ravaging the Caribbean. Without pause, Hurricane Maria continued the assault on the Caribbean.

Volunteer relief efforts have come quickly and selflessly, pulling a nation together as it overcomes it’s emotional shock.
Woodgrove itself supported the efforts, taking part in two different fundraising drives aimed at collecting donations for victims of Hurricane Harvey. The first, a four day donation drive, was lead by Junior Cole Zimmerman. Zimmerman, moved by the stunning pictures and reports on Hurricane Harvey, connected with an organization called Victory Van to involve Woodgrove in the hurricane recovery process. Victory Van accepted donations of toilet paper, water, and hygiene products, which they would then caravan in a truck down to Texas.

The second drive, sponsored by Woodgrove resource teacher Ms. Sarah Armel and the Outlander staff, accepted school supply donations going towards the students and staff of Mayde Creek High School, which was struck hard by Hurricane Harvey. By the end of the drive, Armel was able to send several hundred pounds of school supplies to the high school.

“With everyone in Houston now, it’s become a big community. There’s no room for thinking about race, or religion, or
any of that stuff; everyone is just coming together,” says Ian Fulton, a Woodgrove junior with family in Houston. “It is a catastrophe, but it has strengthened the community.”

Volunteer efforts are incredibly important. This is the first time in United States history that two hurricanes, Category 4 or higher, have hit in one year- moreover, three weeks. While most people associate hurricane damage with wind, the rain from Harvey is what caused the most destruction in Texas. At its peak on September 1, one-third of Houston was underwater.

“It wasn’t even the hurricane, it was the rain that was bad,” says Fulton, “The hurricane didn’t touch Houston, but we got all the backlash from the water around it.”

By August 30, Harvey had broken a national record for rainfall from a single tropical storm in the continental United States. Flooding forced over 39,000 people out of their homes and has cost an estimated $180 billion in damage. This places Harvey as the second most destructive hurricane, in terms of dollars in damage, to ever hit the United States; surpassed only by Hurricane Katrina which hit the Gulf Coast in 2005.

As with any event this catastrophic, recovery will take time. “The water’s not going to go down for another month or two,” says Fulton. “All of the highways in the inner city are flooded entirely.”

Irma broke records as well. The hurricane developed near the Cape Verde Islands from a tropical wave coming from the coast of Western Africa. This colossal storm broke records, as she became the strongest hurricane the National Hurricane Center has ever recorded in the Atlantic. After Irma’s highest peak, with winds reaching up to 185 mph, more than 6.8 million people were left without power and without any way to communicate with loved ones.

The third strike in the hurricane nightmare was Hurricane Maria. Maria developed east of the Lesser Antilles, later making her way across the Northeastern Caribbean. Hitting hardest in Puerto Rico, Maria left millions of residents without power and an estimated fifty billion dollars in destruction.

Florida resident Joe Gonzalez recalls his experience in Hurricane Irma. “I was thinking ‘what if the roof goes’ and you just think about things like that,” Gonzalez says. “A lot of people are definitely scared. I think it’s because of Harvey. If Harvey had not happened, I don’t think people would have been as worried. Back during Hurricane Andrew, a category one, there was still a lot of damage and this is a category three so we’ll see what happens.”