Irma, Harvey, and Maria

Rincon, PR, USA after MariaIt’s hard not to think about the recent weather-related events without feeling frustrated. The first storm of the season to hit the U.S. this year, Irma, was hyped so much that people 3 and 4 hours inland were preparing for shelter. Luckily, that one only injured the Florida coast and it was damage they were familiar with handling. I am not minimizing the damage done in the Caribbean, just focusing on the states.

But Texas is another story, they don’t have that level of disaster preparedness and the damage has exceeded the infamous Katrina in New Orleans. Ironically, many of the people of New Orleans relocated to Texas only to get hit again, only harder. Now, I’m reading that due to a shortage of manufactured housing, it will cost 140,000 for the displaced people of Houston to obtain a 430-square foot replacement home that is basically a reinforced garage and it could take from seven months to two-and-a-half years to get everyone permanently settled again – according to George P. Bush at a hearing at the University of Houston.

Other costs of having 27 trillion gallons of rain and category 4 winds ravage a major city and surrounding area:

  • Hauling away debris from thousands of destroyed homes and businesses is approximately $260 million.
  • Rebuilding government-owned buildings is estimated at about $175 million – Houston is insured up to $100 million.
  • The cost to widen bayous to contain future flooding, purchasing disaster-related equipment, manpower and readiness training is not currently known.

What a relief that the federal government will pick up 90 percent of the tab …

Now, due to a glancing blow from hurricane Irma and a direct hit by Maria, Puerto Rico is described by the FEMA Director Brock Long as “the most logistically challenging (recovery effort) the United States has ever seen.” Between trying to get supply planes and boats into damaged ports and navigating down trees, power lines, and obstructed bridges – all with no telecommunications – getting food and water to the population is next to impossible. A story in USA Today states, “Only 45% of Puerto Rico customers had access to drinking water, according to the White House.” It could take years to rebuild what was already a poor infrastructure and population. It is a shame that our government has let this beautiful island fall into disrepair.

No doubt, many people unaffected by these storms will have friends or families in these areas telling them horror stories about their personal devastation and receiving dysfunctional government aid over incomprehensible time periods. I have friends in Puerto Rico and know a nurse who was recruited to help in a Houston area hospital.

Luckily my friends in Rincon, Puerto Rico could get food, water, and gas, and are currently waiting in line for a plane to take them back to family in New York. However, they decided to leave their restaurant business behind since they are unsure how long it will take the island to get back up and running, if ever. They do not plan on returning and are starting over.

A friend and nurse who helped in Houston is disgusted that she was paid top dollar to be flown and bused in from Colorado to an emergency area that was on the outskirts of the city and not in need of any real FEMA support. It was not flooded. The hospital had changed management companies and lost nursing staff as a result. Timing allowed them to use FEMA funds to rectify the staffing issue since they were near the disaster area. The emergency nursing staff was to be flown by helicopter to the hospital even though there was nothing wrong with the roadways in the area. After paying nurses to wait two days in their hotel for this expensive and unneeded transportation expense, it was determined that the helicopters were too busy transporting people in desperate need. Administrative staff then used their personal vehicles to drive the nurses to the location without incident. This particular nurse really wanted to give needed support during a crisis but experienced what she felt was diverted government funding instead.

Feel free to share your personal experiences during this tumultuous time. Maybe you have heard some positive stories. Regardless, I felt a need to share and some of you might too.

 

 

Sources and links:

Moritz, J.C., USA Today, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/10/02/cost-hurricane-harvey-recovery/725473001/

USA Today, Trump heads to Puerto Rico, on the defensive over Hurricane Maria response, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/10/02/trump-puerto-rico-defensive-over-hurricane-maria-response/722510001/

Photo Credit: Weatherbug.com

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