Hurricane Michael & Its First Responders
Florida residents desperate for aid after Hurricane Michael turn to each other for assistance
Hurricane Michael was declared a Category 4 storm before it crashed into the Southeast of the United States. As of October 16th, there are 29 confirmed deaths, most of which have taken place in Florida. However, it is likely that the death toll will rise as search-and-rescue crews begin to comb through the rubble. Now that the storm has passed, residents are beginning to return to their homes (or at least what is left of them) to survey the destruction that the strongest storm in the United States since 1992 has caused.
“Bottom line, it was one of the most powerful storms the country has seen since 1851… It’s going to be a long time before [most residents] can get back.” -- Brock Long, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator.
As with the aftermath of any storm, the victims are in dire need of relief supplies. Even days after the storm hit, residents lacked basic necessities like food and water. Residents of Panama Beach (one of the most impacted areas on the Florida panhandle), began to grow desperate under the brutal sun and lined up along the coastline to wait for help. With no government intervention, residents started to band together. Local crews were able to move some trees and power lines off some of the main roads but didn’t have the capacity to clear the mountains of rubble that spanned multiple blocks. Some stores without power opened to the public, doing everything they could to feed the starving masses. Unfortunately, solid answers were hard to come by when residents looked to the government for assistance. This was especially difficult because most residents had no cell service. Without service, it’s nearly impossible for disaster victims to ask for help or even let their loved ones know they’re alive.
However, as Craig Fugate, a former FEMA chief, explained to the public, a delay in federal assistance after a disaster is to be expected. “This is what disasters look like… Sit tight, help’s coming, but it’s not going to be there 12 hours after the storm passes.” This is, unfortunately, very true. Although the government plays a major role in disaster recovery (as they should), they are not always able to jump in right away. Agreeing on the best strategy for intervention often takes some time. But, as seen in Panama Beach, FL, local residents have the ability to make a massive and meaningful impact on their own recovery. In short, residents in the communities affected by a natural disaster are always the true first responders.