By Andrew Byrne-King ’20
The past few weeks have been littered with news coverage on the recent and ongoing hurricanes that have been affecting the Atlantic basin. Though a common sight in the news cycle, we are seeing an increasing number of tropical hurricanes hitting the United States. One of these was Category 4 Hurricane Michael. Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle on the eve of October 9, 2018, breaking numerous records. Michael, the first storm to reach land in the Florida Panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005, was the only Category 4 storm to ever hit the Panhandle. Not only breaking records in the region, Michael was the strongest storm to make landfall in the continental US since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The large scope of this hurricane prompted around 30 million residents of six states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina) to to be put on hurricane watch or warning. Michael marks the seventh hurricane in the Atlantic basin by October 8. Around this time of year, it is usual to have around 5 major hurricane events, marking 2018 as an anomaly.
Reports have been coming in the wake of Michael telling of the devastation that has ensued. In Panama City, residents are surrounded by toppled power lines, severed trees and metal roofing. The mountain of debris has littered every area, not only in Panama City but the entire Panhandle. On October 13, the estimated death toll was around 17 people. However, this number is expected to rise as search-and-rescue teams continue to help the region. This effort has been difficult for many volunteers, as roads have become consumed with debris, making it impossible for ground evacuation and first responders to enter or leave.
Many residents, especially those who chose to stay or couldn’t make it out of the area preceding Michael, have had difficulties ascertaining basic necessities. These residents, totaling around 60,000 people, were left hopeless. One resident said, “We’re not getting any help. We need food. It’s just crazy.” This sentiment is shared among many residents throughout the states affected. Now, the governmental body in charge of disaster relief, The Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA, has been lackluster in their relief attempts. Many have expressed their feelings, saying they think FEMA has failed to help those affected and that they have been negligent in their response to Hurricane Michael.
However, state and federal reports share a different view on FEMA’s presence. Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio told news stations that all FEMA requests had been met. In the coming weeks, residents affected by the storm can apply for aid or reimbursement for any damages or lost property.
The relief efforts are still underway in the Florida Panhandle and surrounding states. It will take months, or longer, to bring back the region to its state before Hurricane Michael. With more hurricanes affecting American citizens every year, it is imperative that the government take a larger and more hands on approach in relief efforts.