Susanna Ross Professor Weaver English 113 9 October 2017 America’s Lack of Preparation for Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters When Hurricane Irma swept across the South a few weeks ago
9 October 2017
America’s Lack of Preparation for Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters
When Hurricane Irma swept across the South a few weeks ago, many families in Georgia and Florida lost their homes, schools, and workplaces. As emergency personnel worked to clean up in Florida, record-breaking winds traveled up through Georgia, reaching Atlanta at 50-60 miles per hour. In Gainesville, Georgia, a small town about an hour north of Atlanta, the wind was so strong, that trees were bending over and breaking. Some of the trees fell on power lines and cut off power for many homes. After the storm, there were trees over roads and on houses, and the roofs were damaged because of high winds and fallen trees. Leaves were everywhere, as if fall had happened overnight, except everything was covered in green. The meteorologists were predicting low storm impact in Northeast Georgia, and more severe impact in the Atlanta city limits. It did not happen that way. Gainesville was hit hard. Some people lost power for over a week. Many people living in North Georgia get their water from wells. Thus, when the power goes out, they do not have electricity nor water. While humans could not have stopped Hurricane Irma, they could have been better prepared. Practical examples include having a generator in case of power failure, storing up water, and having emergency supplies like batteries, flashlights, and medical supplies on hand. America’s lack of preparation for hurricanes and natural disasters is a significant problem.
Natural disasters can be devastating, especially hurricanes. According to the Meriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of natural disaster is “a sudden and terrible event in nature (such as a hurricane, tornado, or flood) that usually results in severe damage and many deaths.” A hurricane is a very powerful storm with large amount of rain and extremely strong winds. It is the third most feared natural disaster in America (“64% of Americans”). The lack of preparation for hurricanes in America is a large problem. According to Willie Drye, in the past twelve years, there have been more than twenty hurricanes that have impacted the United States mainland. Hurricane Dennis went through Mobile Alabama in 2005. A couple of days later, Hurricane Emily, category five, broke records and was officially named the strongest hurricane in history in 2005. Two other category five hurricanes were Hurricane Rita, which hit the Louisiana-Texas border, and Hurricane Wilma, which impacted Florida Keys, in 2005. Hurricane Ike was category five when it hit Texas in 2008. The seventh most expensive hurricane in U.S. history was Hurricane Irene, which caused nearly 16.5 billion dollars in damages when it hit North Carolina (Drye).
One of the most recent and famous hurricanes was Sandy. It caused much damage and was extremely powerful, second only to Katrina (Drye). The last hurricane to hit Florida was hurricane Irma. This is one that many people recently suffered from. Hurricane Irma was “the size of Texas” (Loria). According to Kevin Loria, this hurricane went from one coast of Florida to the other coast. As Irma made its way to Georgia, many homes were without power—nearly 720,000 homes and businesses (Loria and Mosher). If you consider the above-mentioned hurricanes, only about 40% of Americans in the areas of anticipated impact were prepared (“Sixty Percent of Americans”).
Many American are inadequately prepared for natural disasters. On August 29, 2005, one of the most disastrous hurricanes happened—Hurricane Katrina. Katrina was not very large; it was only a category three hurricane. The hurricane’s aftermath, however, was “ranked as the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history” (“Hurricane Katrina,” Britannica.com). Massive flooding followed hurricane Katrina. All included, Hurricane Katrina caused around one hundred million dollars in damage, claimed 1,200 lives, and produced sixty-two tornados (“Hurricane Katrina,” Britannica.com). Interestingly enough, “Many people charged that the Federal government was slow to meet the needs of the people affected by the storm” (“64% of Americans”). During Hurricane Katrina,
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took days to establish operations in New Orleans, and even then, did not seem to have a sound plan of action, and Officials, even including President George W. Bush, seemed unaware of just how dreadful things were in New Orleans and elsewhere: how many people were stranded or missing; how many homes and businesses had been damaged; how much food, water and aid was needed. One reporter said, that Katrina had left a “total disaster site” where people were “getting absolutely desperate” (“Hurricane Katrina,” History.com).
A recent survey found that two-thirds of people “lack adequate plans and supplies for a disaster, and half of them are not confident that their own communities have adequate plans for dealing with a hurricane, flood or other major event” (Earth Institute). This quote supports the issue of America’s lack of preparation for hurricanes and other natural disasters. Another interesting fact from that survey is, “While Americans are generally less prepared and less confident in the response of the government, they still have high expectations for a quick response and recovery when disasters do strike” (Earth Institute). This is ironic. What if the
government is not prepared? America’s lack of preparation for natural disaster, especially hurricanes, is a big problem, because if the citizens of America are not prepared, many lives could be lost. Having survival and medical gear would considerably lessen the risk of injuries or lost lives, because if majority are prepared, they are able to assist those in need. Nearly, “Eighty percent of Americans live in counties that have been hit with a weather-related disaster” (“Sixty Percent of Americans”). If that many people have been at some point affected by a natural disaster, should not preparation for natural disasters be important? As shown above, the lack of preparation for natural disasters, including hurricanes, is undeniably a problem.
Dowdle said, “We have to learn from the past and prepare for the future” (qtd. in Jones). More than ten years after Hurricane Katrina, a recent poll states that Americans are still saying that they are unprepared for a natural disaster (Earth Institute). Russel Honoré, a retired Army lieutenant general, who is “best known for coordinating military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina affected areas across the Gulf Coast,” said, “You have to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Right now, people are hoping for the best and not planning for the worst” (qtd. in Jones). This is an interesting statement, as recent history attests to this as truth. Americans are hoping for the best, but, unfortunately, they are not preparing for the worst during natural disasters, and it fails to prevent many unnecessary deaths and suffering.
The State and Federal governments trying to be more prepared for future natural disasters. After Hurricane Katrina, the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act was put in place. Before, FEMA had to “go through a lengthy process before it was able to access a disaster zone” (Jones). Now FEMA personnel can go to the disaster scene within minutes. Many government leaders believe that, “If aid could have been moved into New Orleans sooner after the storm, many lives would have been saved” (Jones). An insightful statement by Rafael
Lemaitre, director of public affairs for FEMA, is “One thing you do not get back in disasters is time” (qtd in. Jones). With respect to time, government officials are trying to be better prepared for any disaster by being able to respond faster and more efficiently.
Although there have been many hurricanes where the government and individuals have not been very well prepared in general, there have been a few where the public was prepared. For example, hurricane Irma was destructive and caused devastating flooding and property damage, however, it did not claim many lives, unlike other hurricanes before it. According to the Los Angeles Times, the manner in which the government lowered the risk of death, was by “getting people away from flood-prone areas” (Matt Pearce, et. al). The primary cause of loss of life during a hurricane event is flooding. As discussed above, once government established that dealing with flooding is the most destructive aftermath of the hurricane, plans were put into place to minimize its impact. The past mistakes were considered in the making of future plans.
Over the years, two things have been improved significantly in the hurricane aftermath. One, is that the number of people killed in hurricanes is minimized. The second aspect is, technology to predict when and where a hurricane will strike is more accurate. Hugh Willoughby said, “The number of people killed in hurricanes halves about every 25 years, in spite of the fact that coastal populations have been increasing, because of what we’re doing with forecasting” (qtd. in. Los Angeles Times). Willoughby also stated that “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s errors in storm tracking have been cut in half in the last dozen years, giving residents 36 total hours of advance notice that a hurricane is expected, up from 24 hours five years ago” (qtd. in Los Angeles Times). Ultimately, some aspects of preparation have been improved for natural disasters, however many Americans, personally, are still unprepared.
As evidenced above, there needs to be a solution to the problem of individual Americans’ lack of preparation for hurricanes and natural disasters. The first thing that would help with this problem, is to spread awareness. People need to know the problem before they can begin to fix it. This can be done through articles, advertising, flyers, and classes. Once the problem is known, the local and state governments should designate and build community shelters in all potential disaster areas. The shelter would provide an avenue of escape for people unable to evacuate. Near or within these shelters, there should be designated storage with emergency supplies for individuals in need. Further, once the government knows that a hurricane is heading inland, they should start evacuating, instead of waiting until the day before. This would allow many more people to evacuate and consequently more lives could be saved.
Even if America prepared as fully as possible, there could still be a significant loss of life because, ultimately, everyone is in God’s hands, and He gives and takes life as He sees fit. The Bible teaches that God sends a nation blessing and judgement through weather. He is the One Who controls the wind and the rain. He is the One Who created Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Katrina. Ultimately, God is the only One who can stop the hurricanes, the wind, and the rain. In the Bible it also says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (King James Version, 2 Chr. 7:14). I believe the only real solution to the problem of America’s lack of preparation for natural disasters is to have another revival, because God would then have mercy on our country and stop chastising us for our wicked ways.
America’s lack of preparation for hurricanes and other natural disasters is a major problem. As shown with Hurricanes Irma and Katrina, many people were unprepared when the
disaster happened. Our government should raise awareness, build shelters and food storages, allow people to evacuate as soon as it is known that a natural disaster will happen, and, lastly, be quick in their response to a natural disaster. If the government does this, then they will, in the end, save many more lives and we will not go through another “Hurricane Katrina.”
Barnes, Jay. North Carolina’s Hurricane History. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013. Print.
Bedient, Philip B. Lessons from Hurricane Ike. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2012. Print.
Drye, Willie. “Tropical Storms in One Graphic.” Nationalgeographic.com. National Geographic Society, 29 Aug. 2015. Web. 24 Sep. 2017.
Earth Institute. “Ready for Natural Disasters? Not so much.” Columbia.edu. Earth Institute: Columbia University, 9 Feb. 2016. Web. 24 Sep. 2017.
Ghose, Tia. “Hurricane Season 2017 Guide.” Livescience.com. Live Science, 18 Sep. 2017. Web. 24 Sep. 2017.
“Hurricane Katrina.” Britannica.com. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 26 April 2017. Web. 24 Sep. 2017.
“Hurricane Katrina.” History.com. A+E Networks, 2009. Web. 24 Sep. 2017.
“Hurricane Katrina: Plans, Decisions, and Lessons Learned.” Voanews.com. N. p., 30 Oct. 2009. Web. 24 Sep. 2017.
Jones, Judson. “Are We Prepared for a Major Hurricane?” Cnn.com. Cable News Network, 24 May 2017. Web. 24 Sep. 2017
Loria, Kevin and Dave Mosher. “Irma is Finally leaving Florida and now Hammering Georgia.” Businessinsider.com.