Hurricane Michael Recovery Efforts Point To The Power Of Local Generosity After Overlooked Disasters

Hurricane Michael Recovery Efforts Point To The Power Of Local Generosity After Overlooked Disasters
The former site of a Panama City plumbing business remained a pile of debris months after Hurricane Michael. AP Photo/David Goldman David Berlan, Florida State University

When Hurricane Michael made landfall on Florida’s Panhandle on Oct. 10, 2018, as a Category 5 storm it was only the fourth on record to have ever hit the U.S. mainland. The storm surge it brought about, along with 160-mile-per-hour winds, leveled coastal communities from Panama City to the town of Mexico Beach.

Then the storm continued northward, causing flooding in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a government agency, attributes a total of 16 deaths to the storm and the authorities say that Michael killed another 43 people indirectly.

I’ve been traveling throughout the Florida Panhandle – the area Michael hit hardest – to towns like Marianna and Port St. Joe, meeting with a wide range of dedicated community members and conducting a survey of recovery efforts by leading a team of public administration student researchers. We have identified nearly US$150 million in donated money, supplies and time.

Most of this support garnered within 11 months of the storm is coming from or being channeled through organizations within this part of Florida, near my home in Tallahassee. We’re finding that local residents are organizing themselves to meet lingering needs in the absence of substantial outside attention and support.

Causing massive damage

Even after getting $1.3 billion in assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Administration and other government agencies, much of the region remained devastated from Michael’s estimated $25 billion in total damage.

Many of the region’s largest employers, including forestry companies and Tyndall Air Force Base, are still rebuilding a year later. So are school systems and homeowners.

But unless you live nearby, this may come as a surprise. Michael garnered less attention from the media and donors than the other storms that also caused damage on a massive scale, such as Harvey and Maria in 2017 and 2018.

Hurricane Michael Recovery Efforts Point To The Power Of Local Generosity After Overlooked Disasters
People left homeless after Hurricane Michael were staying in tents pitched in a Youngstown, Fla., backyard months after the storm. AP Photo/David Goldman

Giving after the storm

The gravity and force of this hurricane, which NOAA only upgraded to a Category 5 storm six months later, may never have fully registered on the public’s radar.

That may explain why Americans didn’t donate as much to support relief and recovery efforts following this disaster as they did a year earlier.

For example, the Red Cross collected donations totaling some $97 million following Hurricane Irma, nearly triple the $36 million it obtained after Michael a year later. But Irma only caused twice as much damage, according to NOAA.

Studying Hurricane Michael

The aftermath of other big storms like Sandy and Katrina have made it clear that the recovery process takes years to complete, with the burden falling on local nonprofits once the sense of urgency outside the immediate area dissipates.

In the largely rural Florida counties where Hurricane Michael hit hard, a few nonprofits are leading the way with rebuilding efforts that bring local religious congregations, businesses, governments and independent organizations together. These new networks are coordinating efforts by national, regional and local organizations that bring their own expertise and resources.

The donations, which include cash, services, supplies and volunteer labor, add up to about $145 million. While far less than the total of $1.3 billion in federal funding for the storm, this support equals about two-thirds of the $240 million Florida’s government has appropriated so far.

Nearly all of the funding is coming from organizations with a local presence.

Playing a critical role

Another reason why recovering from disasters takes so long is that relatively few post-disaster government programs serve renters, homeowners without clear property titles or the homeless. That leaves big gaps for charity to fill.

And when communities don’t get much in the way of donations after disasters, they have trouble meeting the needs of their most vulnerable. This is made worse by poor targeting and coordination of aid that can leave out rural or remote communities.

Donations come with fewer restrictions than government programs, giving nonprofits more flexibility. They tend to arrive quickly and do not need to wait on the government to appropriate money.

Throughout my research in a string of beach towns and rural inland communities along a stretch west and south of Tallahassee known as the Forgotten Coast, I directly observed nonprofits relying upon donated funds, supplies and labor to meet housing and other needs not being met by flood insurance or government funding.

Everyone my students and I spoke with relayed multiple stories of how neighbors helped one another and how this generosity made the disaster recovery quicker and more bearable.

Hurricane Michael Recovery Efforts Point To The Power Of Local Generosity After Overlooked Disasters
Children attending Northside Elementary School in Panama City, Fla., after Hurricane Michael devastated their community can get donated shoes. AP Photo/David Goldman

Being generous after disasters

The aftermath of Hurricane Michael shows how when public attention outside the region experiencing a disaster is minimal, it can lead to lower levels of donations.

As a result, I’ve seen people in the region feel overlooked and forced to rely on themselves. Fortunately, the post-disaster generosity of residents, neighbors and friends was more extensive than is immediately visible. Still, the region faces a long struggle to full recovery and cannot be certain the resources available with be enough.

From this example, I have two main suggestions for those wishing to help support survivors of disasters reevaluate how they choose to respond.

First, consider helping after overlooked disasters. That includes the ones that don’t draw saturation media coverage, and those that occur on the heels of other tragedies that ushered in big donation drives. That’s what happened with Hurricane Maria, which crashed into Puerto Rico within a few weeks after Harvey and Irma.

Second, consider waiting before you give, or repeating your gift later. Try donating six months, a year or even two years after a disaster rather than right away because the need will continue for a long time. Not rushing also makes it easier to identify the best nonprofits to support.

Making choices like these may bring hope and assistance to communities seeing too little of both.

About the Author

David Berlan, Assistant Professor of Public Administration, Askew School of Public Administration and Policy, Florida State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities

by Peter Plastrik , John Cleveland
1610918495The future of our cities is not what it used to be. The modern-city model that took hold globally in the twentieth century has outlived its usefulness. It cannot solve the problems it helped to create—especially global warming. Fortunately, a new model for urban development is emerging in cities to aggressively tackle the realities of climate change. It transforms the way cities design and use physical space, generate economic wealth, consume and dispose of resources, exploit and sustain the natural ecosystems, and prepare for the future. Available On Amazon

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

by Elizabeth Kolbert
1250062187Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human. Available On Amazon

Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats

by Gwynne Dyer
1851687181Waves of climate refugees. Dozens of failed states. All-out war. From one of the world’s great geopolitical analysts comes a terrifying glimpse of the strategic realities of the near future, when climate change drives the world’s powers towards the cut-throat politics of survival. Prescient and unflinching, Climate Wars will be one of the most important books of the coming years. Read it and find out what we’re heading for. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

300 Million Face Severe Risk of Climate-Fueled Coastal Flooding by 2050
by Democracy Now!
As a shocking new report finds that many coastal cities will be flooded by rising sea levels by 2050, Chile’s President…
Climate Warning: California Continues To Burn, Data Estimates Of Global Flooding
by MSNBC
Ben Strauss, CEO and Chief Scientist of Climate Central joins MTP Daily to discuss alarming new information about…
Stanford Climate Solutions
by Stanford
Climate change has brought us to a defining moment in human history.
Buying Renewable Energy From Your Neighbor
by NBC News
Brooklyn Microgrid, a project of parent company LO3 Energy, is looking to disrupt the more than 100-year-old energy…
Debate Over Pipelines Clouds Concern For Climate Change
by Global News
Climate experts are warning that Canada shouldn't ignore the wildfire crisis in California
How Climate Change Affects Wildfires
by NBC News
NYU environmental studies professor David Kanter explains how climate change is creating the perfect conditions for…
Rice Bowl Of Malaysia Threatened By Climate Change
by The Star Online
Kedah is known as the country’s “Rice Bowl,” and it is especially suitable for the growing of the grain.
Maine Cow's Seaweed Diet Research Could Help Climate Change
by News Center Maine
Research in Maine will measure the methane released by cows who have been fed a seaweed diet.

LATEST ARTICLES

Why The Global Climate Treaty Is Not Working
Why The Global Climate Treaty Is Not Working
by Tim Radford
Three out of four nations have yet to start to honour the global climate treaty. The world waits, the seas go on rising…
Why Taxes Are Better Than Bans For Keeping Homeowners From Rebuilding In Fire-plagued Areas
Why Taxes Are Better Than Bans For Keeping Homeowners From Rebuilding In Fire-plagued Areas
by Alexander Smith
Almost 200,000 Californians have been ordered to evacuate as ferocious winds drove several wildfires near Los Angeles,…
How Will 20 Years Of Houston’s Growth Affect Flooding?
How Will 20 Years Of Houston’s Growth Affect Flooding?
by InnerSelf Staff
A new way to show exactly how much the city of Houston has changed in the last two decades gives a dramatic visual…
Why Australia Could Fall Apart Under Climate Change
Why Australia Could Fall Apart Under Climate Change
by Ross Garnaut
Four years ago in December 2015, every member of the United Nations met in Paris and agreed to hold global temperature…
How Greenhouse Gases Drive Australia's Bushfires
How Greenhouse Gases Drive Australia's Bushfires
by Andrew Burgess
Australia’s bushfires are feeding on heat from the climate change happening in the tropics, but its government doesn’t…
How Children Born Now Face Multiple Climate Health Risks
How Children Born Now Face Multiple Climate Health Risks
by Tim Radford
Multiple climate health risks threaten today’s babies. They may grow up hungrier, more diseased and facing more…
This Is What Australia's Growing Cities Need To Do To Avoid Running Dry
This Is What Australia's Growing Cities Need To Do To Avoid Running Dry
by Ian Wright
The increasing thirst of Australia’s biggest cities routinely exceeds our capacity to rely on rainfall for drinking…
Evangelicals In Brazil See Abuse Of God's Earth As A Sin – But Will They Fight To Save The Amazon?
Evangelicals In Brazil See Abuse Of God's Earth As A Sin – But Will They Fight To Save The Amazon?
by Amy Erica Smith
When the Brazilian city of São Paulo abruptly went dark at midday on Aug. 19, there was talk of the Apocalypse – not…