2017 Storms Tested Army’s Disaster Resources

The 2017 hurricane season has been particularly destructive for the Caribbean, Central America and the southern parts of the U.S., with Salvation Army responders being stretched beyond what they thought they were capable of.

Tropical Storm Harvey formed Aug. 17 in the Caribbean, strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane and made landfall in Texas Aug. 25, causing severe damage, particularly in and around Houston. In late August, Tropical Storm Irma formed and increased to a Category 5 hurricane and hit Antigua, Barbuda, St. Martin, Sint Maarten, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, U.S. Virgin Islands, and British Virgin Islands on Sept. 6. Over the following days the hurricane moved to the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, Cuba and the southern U.S., where Florida bore the brunt of what was one of the strongest
hurricanes in recorded history. It left behind major damage and devastation, killing at least 44 people in the Caribbean and 61 in the U.S.

Tropical Storm Jose formed in early September, becoming a Category 4 hurricane, but it weakened again to a tropical storm without much havoc. A day later Tropical Storm Katia formed in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico and strengthened into a hurricane the same day, making landfall in Mexico Sept. 8.

Tropical Storm Maria formed in mid-September and rapidly intensified to a Category 5 hurricane, hitting Dominica, Puerto Rico and Turks and Caicos. The death toll from Maria is at least 48 people in Puerto Rico and at least 15 in Dominica. Ninety percent of the buildings in Dominica sustained damage and schoolchildren were evacuated to Antigua and Bahamas to attend schools there.

Tropical Storm Nate formed Oct. 5 near the coast of Nicaragua and killed 28 people after passing over Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras.

The response to this widespread devastation has involved Salvation Army relief teams and local Salvationists and friends from across the region.

• The Caribbean Territory responded to the recent hurricanes in Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Antigua and Barbuda, Sint Maarten, St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica.
• The Latin America North Territory is providing relief in Cuba and Costa Rica.
• The Mexico Territory responded to Hurricane Katia.
• The USA Southern and Eastern territories are still operating in Texas, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida.

In many of the affected places, The Salvation Army has been providing hot meals, sometimes through mobile canteens and at other times cooked in Salvation Army kitchens and transported to evacuation centers.

Two months after Hurricane Irma laid waste to their island, 95 per cent of Barbudans are still evacuated to Antigua, with no expectation of an imminent return. The Salvation Army is providing hot meals and weekly food parcels.

When Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Sint Maarten, The Salvation Army hosted people at the corps and is currently supplying food parcels in three communities. For the first couple of weeks after Irma hit, The Salvation Army provided 15,000 meals in Turks and Caicos and 200 meals per day in the Bahamas. The Army is also providing food support on St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as in Cuba.

In Mexico, 200 meals were provided daily for four days after Hurricane Katia hit. In addition, 120 families received a food parcel. At the time, the Mexico Territory was responding to earthquakes in Mexico City and off the southern coast.

In addition to food, The Salvation Army also gives out mattresses, tarpaulins, hygiene kits, cleaning kits, flashlights and blankets. Such items have been distributed in Sint Maarten, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis and many more in Turks and Caicos, Cuba, Costa Rica and other places, often in partnership with organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse, Hope for Haiti and others.

The relief phase is almost over in most of the places hit by the recent hurricanes and the needs of the affected people are turning towards recovery support. The Salvation Army will continue to assist affected communities in restarting their lives and getting back to a sense of normality.

Donations can be made online at sar.my/amappeal