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Hurricanes Scar the Atlantic and Carribean

Gabrielle Daley, Feature Editior

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Houses were filled with over two feet of rain within a span of 24 hours. All of their owner’s possessions, their loved belongings have drowned into the deep abyss. Outside it was an ocean, with winds of around 135 mph. This was a reality for the 39,000 now homeless people whose lives were uprooted in Texas at the conclusion of August, 2017. Most recently, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands have been left in shreds and without power, and they could be in the dark for months. 3.4 million people struggle to get back on their feet on the single island. Humanity has seemed to become a victim of nature.

Hurricane Harvey, a category four tropical storm, hit the coast of Texas on August 25, 2017. The following day, it moved onto Houston, where it stayed for four consecutive days. About a quarter of the city’s Harris county, an area the expanse of New York City and Chicago combined, was flooded. In some places, 51 inches of water struck the ground. Moving away from Houston on the 29th, the storm hit the coastal cities like Port Arthur and Beaumont near Louisiana leaving over a two feet of water within twenty four hours. On September 1, it flooded Nashville, Tennessee with ten inches, leaving a third of Houston underwater.

Harvey, a hurricane covering the earth with a diameter of 280, left a two centimeter depression in the Earth’s crust due to the sheer weight of the rainfall. It was said that after two days of the storm, on August 27th, Texas had become a pool of 27 trillion gallons of water. Never in the history of the continental United States has there ever been a storm that poured so heavily. In comparison, Katrina rained 10 inches in 48 hours. Texas was not only flooded, but it was drowning in toxic and sewage-filled water. Over 800 wastewater facilities were flooded, and on August 31, a chemical plant was ignited, contaminating the water.

The damage Harvey brought to the largest state in the continental United States is estimated to be around $125 billion dollars. 203,000 homes were damaged, approximately 13,000 of which were destroyed. Tens of thousands of trapped people were rescued by Federal forces and the Houston Police Department’s Dive Team. 70 people were killed in the chaos. Although rescued, many were injured, left without housing and struggling for meals. West Springfield High School’s staff and students took it upon themselves to help support those affected by Harvey.

Ft. Meyers, Florida, pictured above, was one of the many areas impacted by this year’s devastating hurricane season.

WSHS art teacher Ms. Kasunick wanted to start off the school year strong, and immediately have students and staff working collectively to help others in need. “I wanted to promote that West Side spirit of generosity and just get everyone working together right at the start of the school year. Even if it’s a small gesture or small it brings us together,” the art teacher explained. She decided to initiate “Hearts for Houston,” and the staff and administration were extremely keen to the idea and let her start to immediately collect money for the Houston Food Bank, an organization in Houston that serves food to struggling citizens.

At lunch, National Art Honor Society members collected money and whoever donated got to sign their name on a colorful heart the art students painted with watercolor and cut out. Sinead Garvey, a student who helped Ms. Kasuick said, “I feel horrified by the destruction these hurricanes have caused and feel for the families and homes that will take years to truly rebuild.” Mr. Taylor had the idea of having the teachers donate money to Ms. Kasunick’s fundraiser so they could dress down for a day. Many people just generally put money into a box in front of the bulletin board. The school raised $485 in total for the Houston Food Bank.

The chaos was far from over, for Hurricane Irma moved across the Caribbean and onto Florida on the 30th of August. Half the resident’s of the Caribbean islands of Barbuda and Antigua homes were demolished when the category five hurricane hit with 175 mph winds. Cuba, the Bahamas and the Florida Keys were hit hard with winds and flooded. By September 10, when Irma branched toward the Florida mainland, it lost its streak and downgraded to a category three hurricane, and then to a tropical depression on the following day. It is estimated that Irma left $100 billion worth of damage.

On September 20th, Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean were left in submission to category four Hurricane Maria. 3.4 million people fell in mercy to high winds and flash floods, and the entirety of island was in a blackout. That afternoon, the storm simmered down to a category two. People are now living and sleeping on the floors of airports, waiting for a flight they don’t even know they can get on. Some wait in lines for gas for twenty hours to power generations, and walk miles upon miles for provisions. Without running water, many residents of Puerto Rico have to boil pond and river water over hand made fires. “They’re starving, I’ve heard that some people have to resort to basically Naked and Afraid status and have to boil their own water,” said Mr. Rivera, a math teacher who has family in Puerto Rico.

With their civilization in shreds, no source of income, and in some areas, no aid, Puerto Ricans are forced to live off their pure strength for survival. “They’ll pull through, they won’t give up,” Mr. Rivera said. The areas where FEMA, a federal natural disaster aid agency, has yet to reach people are trying the best they can to recover the foundation by themselves, endlessly cleaning roads and schools. Ms. Lugo, a WSHS Spanish teacher, also has family in Puerto Rico including an aunt whose first floor was flooded by a river and washed away. Slowly, the people of the island have made progress, for example chain department stores like Costco have opened in areas. “It’s after the hurricane that the real disaster has hit us. The lack of news, the lack or access, the comments on the news about certain political figures that to them that this is some Hollywood drama,” Ms. Lugo explained. Glad that her family is safe, Lugo hopes to see some movement of aid on the island. On the other hand, Mr. Rivera still has yet to hear from some family living in the island.  Mr. Rivera is hoping the postal service will establish itself so supplies like water, clothes and food can be sent down to the island.

All in all, hurricane season has weakened a multitude of countries, especially the United States with Harvey. Thousands of people were injured, left homeless, and too many died at the will of the environment. The West Springfield Key Club along with Ms. Kasunick and possibly Student Government are in the process of fundraising for more of those affected.

 

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Hurricanes Scar the Atlantic and Carribean