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HURRICANES

Do you have an emergency plan? Hurricanes, floods and other extreme weather events such as wildfires, drought, extreme heat and cold are becoming a fact of life and the destruction from these catastrophic events goes beyond individual homes and health centers; they may completely destroy neighborhoods and entire communities in a few hours or even minutes or they inflict other deadly consequences. Extreme weather warnings in Southern States are happening with increased frequency, threatening storms of the highest level of intensity.

Severe Storm Season

Extreme weather is rapidly becoming the expected norm. The start of the 2021 Hurricane is already making itself known as Subtropical Storm Ana formed early in the morning of Saturday, May 22, becoming the first named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season and marking the seventh consecutive year in which a named storm has formed prior to the official start of the season (June 1). And Tropical Storm Claudette brought deadly flooding rains to several southern states.

Our Emergency Response Team closely tracked the path of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Elsa that left a wake of torrential rains and dangerous flooding all along the East Coast. We are always ready to respond if and where we are needed. Keep an eye on the weather map (it is interactive so you can move to another ocean area) and Get Ready Now.

The Atlantic Hurricane season is predicted to be an above normal season. That could mean 11 to 12 Named Storms, 3 to 5 Major Hurricanes and 6 to 10 Hurricanes. Check in with the National Hurricane Center for the latest on the season’s storms.

Hurricanes, Tornadoes…

The 50+ inches of rain that flooded Houston with Hurricane Harvey, the fury of Hurricane Maria devastating Puerto Rico, the path of Hurricane Dorian that struck the Bahamas with such force, the extreme weather emergency in Texas, the monstrous EF-5 tornado that leveled Moore, Oklahoma, the swath of destruction cut by Typhoon Haiyan through the Philippines stand as testimony of the escalating threat from “100 year storms/floods.”  As the hurricanes form in the warming ocean and the storm cells produce tornadoes, It’s past time to Get Ready Now.

HURRICANES

While high winds cause great damage, storm surge can be the most deadly threat for coastal areas, along with major flooding from torrential rains. These storms can be tracked for days, however, and preparations can be made that save lives. 

TORNADOES

A deadly funnel appears, giving only minutes of warning; the incredible power of the wind vortex can literally tear apart anything above ground.

FLOODS

While major floods are often “slow moving disasters,” flash floods catch people unprepared in cars or at home. Flooding rivers and broken dams can sweep away entire communities particularly in low lying areas. Floods also contaminate water supplies, leading to water borne disease outbreaks, as well creating conditions for deadly mudslides. 

Disasters caused by extreme weather events over the past 20 years almost doubled to 6,681 from the 3,656 that occurred in the previous 20 years. Read more.

In the 2020 Hurricane Season there were 30 named storms. Thirteen became hurricanes, including six major hurricanes with 12 named storms making landfall in the United States – the most active season on record. The previous record for named storms in an Atlantic hurricane season was 2005, which had 28 named storms. 2020 was the fifth year in a row with an above normal number of storms, though 18 of the previous 26 years have also been above the normal number. Of this year’s storms, 9 were classified as “rapidly intensifying,” tying a record set in 1995 and matched in 2010. These types of storms are happening more often, leaving people with less time to prepare. The 2020 season resulted in approximately 430 lives lost and cost an estimated $40 billion in damage. The devastation left in the wake of multiple storms will take months, even years to restore and rebuild, and communities with the least resources are the ones facing the greatest challenges.

Americares responded to 8 out of the 30 named hurricanes of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season (Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Sally, Delta, Zeta, Eta, and Iota) We track the storms and respond where help was needed – even as the COVID Pandemic ravages communities around the world.

And in 2021 a different extreme weather threat proved deadly in Texas. The Texas Cold Weather Crisis has starkly demonstrated the impact that extreme weather can have on communities and basic infrastructure that have not adequately prepared for potential weather disasters.

Currently the World Health Organization tells us that heat waves are considered among the most dangerous of natural hazards but rarely receive adequate attention because their death tolls and destruction are not always obvious. From 1998 to 2017, more than 166,000 people around the world died because of heat waves. The early summer deadly heat wave hammering the Pacific Northwest has killed dozens of people with temperatures rising past 120 degrees in some areas, as the extreme heat buckled roads and melted powerlines.

And the 2021 Hurricane Season is now upon us with five named storms thus far. No time to waste. Get Ready Now.

And what about typhoons and cyclones? Physically, they are hurricanes by a different name. They are called hurricanes in the Atlantic and in the Eastern Pacific, typhoons in the West Pacific and cyclones around Australia and India.

Drought & Deadly Wildfires

Now extreme weather is manifesting itself in the form of record drought conditions that produce famine in some parts of the world.  Here in the U.S. drought followed by high winds and then combined with such phenomena as insect infestations in forest lands and manmade causes including land management and building code practices or electrical accidents have created some of the worst wildfires on record in California and in parts of the Southwest. As is often the case with extreme weather events, manmade factors can complicate and amplify the destructive force of the event itself. The Camp Fire in northern California in late 2018 became the worst fire in the state’s history killing more than 80 people and destroying thousands of homes. The 2019 “fire season” brought another round of deadly fires to the state and again in 2020 more fires raged – a lethal combination of drought conditions and man-made causes. The 2020 fire season far surpassed previous years and fires still burned even after the official end of the season.

Well into another year of severe drought and record extreme heat, the 2021 fire season looms ominous with two fires east of Phoenix, AZ that burned more than 100,000 acres in less than a week. During the Pack Creek Fire near Moab, Utah which is now contained, Americares provided supplies for the Moab Free Health Clinic as poor air quality affects patients and staff. Oregon’s Bootleg Fire has already consumed more than 380,000 acres as the second round of heat waves is seeing dozens of fires ignite across at least 13 Western States. The Dixie Fire in Northern California has already consumed over 60,000 acres.

And then we face the deadly results of extreme heat which is actually a top weather killer – sometimes after a storm where power and access to clean water are lost. Heat kills nearly twice as many Americans each year as tornadoes and almost three times more than hurricanes. Climate change continues to intensify the deadly results of extreme weather events. Photo by Gene Blevins / REUTERS

Nebraska Floods

Epic Floods

In 2019 Americares emergency teams responded to major flooding disasters caused by major storms in Africa and the central plains of the U.S. Cyclone Idai followed by Cyclone Kenneth devastated Mozambique and then carried more death and destruction to Zimbabwe and Malawi, putting nearly 1,900 square miles underwater. Record rainfall and continued violent storms, spawning dozens of tornadoes in the U.S. Midwest brought historic flooding to Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma and other surrounding states, covering entire communities and caused massive damage to farms in the region. And in 2021, floods have already devastated some of the most vulnerable areas in the South. Lake Charles, LA, for example, that was so heavily damaged by Hurricane Laura in 2020, recently suffered major flooding from heavy rainfall in the region.

Extreme weather does not spare even the most developed and wealthy regions as evidenced by the latest deadly and unprecedented floods in Western Europe, particularly in Germany where nearly 200 people have died and many more are missing. In China, in what experts describe as the heaviest rains in 1,000 years, deadly floods have affected more that 1.2 million people. The effects of flooding are often exacerbated by human activity (i.e. building in flood zones, loss of wetlands and increasingly climate change). Where is the greatest flood risk in the U.S.? Click here to see a map of areas at risk.  Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Extreme Threats

Extreme weather events create some specific challenges for Americares Emergency Response Team and our health care partners, and good planning provides response solutions. Building Resilience in the health system as the threats from climate change multiply becomes more and more critical. For example:

Threat:

Wind and subsequent water damage to roof, windows and doors of the facility — destroying equipment, medicine & supplies, rendering the facility inoperable when it is most needed.

Response:

Provide emergency repairs or a temporary facility, restock medicines/supplies, replace equipment and then build back better. And beyond repairs, the next step is to help build Climate Resilient Health Centers.

Threat:

Loss of power and thus loss of medicines that require refrigeration such as insulin and vaccines.

Response:

Generators and/or fuel to run them along with rapid resupply of lost medicines. Tetanus and chronic diseases are life threatening without vaccines, medicines and supplies.

Threat:

Loss of access to ongoing health care due to remote location and/or infrastructure damage. A particular threat to people with chronic disease, expectant mothers and children.

Response:

Send emergency medical teams to communities and house-to-house if necessary to provide primary health care and referrals for specialized care.

Threat:

Evacuations to temporary shelters or to makeshift camps.

Response:

Hygiene kits, emergency medicine and supplies for those who had to flee quickly without their personal belongings or medications. Supplies such as mosquito bed nets, insect repellant, water purification and cleaning materials and tetanus vaccine are also important for those who return to their homes in the aftermath and face possible water and vector borne diseases and cleanup injuries.

Threat:

Trauma and other extreme stress for survivors including health workers in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

Response:

Trained health workers to identify trauma and support programs for those most at risk, and especially support for health workers who are often survivors themselves.

As we get ready for the next super storm, we know that we can’t do it without you.

Please help your neighbors near and far with a gift right now.

Our Work:
Responding to Extreme Events

An EF-5 tornado, like the one in Oklahoma in 2013 had winds near 200 mph and was over 2 miles wide. Typhoon Haiyan in the same year was the most powerful storm on record. Extreme weather of this magnitude is merciless and leaves little standing in its path.  With the rise in such disasters, we know the life-saving value of “ready, respond, recover”.

Past Emergency

Hurricanes 2017

The 2017 Hurricane Season produced Harvey, Irma and Maria, leaving death and destruction on an epic scale. Americares responded to all 3 and continues the recovery.

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Activity Recovery

Hurricane Dorian

Americares responded to Hurricane Dorian that lashed the Bahamas for more than 40 hours with winds of 180 mph and more.

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Active Recovery

Hurricane Laura

Hurricane Laura made landfall in southwest Louisiana as a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds, hammering Texas and the Gulf Coast with extreme winds, heavy rains and powerful storm surge. Our Emergency Team responded as the storm came ashore.

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Protecting the Vulnerable

Americares has expanded and deepened emergency programs to meet the formidable challenges of storm destruction on an ever-larger scale. We actively engage with our partners in regions particularly at risk for these storms to prepare for the next one by building greater resilience and capacity in each local health center and for every health worker. And in storm-prone regions, we often seek out and serve the most vulnerable members of a community – children, elderly, the very poor, single-parent families, expectant mothers and those with chronic disease. A person with diabetes will still need insulin after the storm and a mother about to give birth will still need a safe place to deliver. Emergency teams constantly evaluate and deploy new tools and programs that target local concerns and needs. The growing demand for mental health support in disasters has led to offer more mental health services to meet those needs. Better weather forecasting and tracking of storms allows us to deploy a team early, connect with our local partners and respond more rapidly when the storm strikes.  But even with better technology, we have learned to “expect the unexpected” in each disaster and be ready to adapt to conditions on the ground and respond accordingly.  And in 2020 we faced the enormous challenges of responding in the midst of the Global COVID-19 Pandemic. Our commitment remains the same: to respond where help is needed.

We Expect
Extremes

Emergency programs at Americares represent a continuous cycle of ReadyRespondRecover and then get Ready again, only better. Each disaster presents a new set of challenges to lay the foundation for a better response the next time around.  It is a dynamic process, ever changing as more extreme weather and unforeseen manmade crises arise – always demanding that we increase our knowledge and capabilities. In that work, we are ever mindful and incredibly grateful for the ongoing support of our individual and corporate donors along with the presence of local partners who have the ground sense and skill necessary to meet the challenges and often only lack resources to prepare for them.