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Most Catastrophic Events in the History of The United States

Pembroke+Pines%2C+Florida+is+hit+with+strong+winds+on+September+10%2C+2017
Pembroke Pines, Florida is hit with strong winds on September 10, 2017

Pembroke Pines, Florida is hit with strong winds on September 10, 2017

Michele Eve Sandberg

Michele Eve Sandberg

Pembroke Pines, Florida is hit with strong winds on September 10, 2017

Kristi Harris, Hard News Editor

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A devastating tragedy started late Friday night on  August 25th. Hurricane Harvey was predicted to hit near Corpus Christi as a category 4 with 130 mph winds. Starting out as a tropical storm Thursday morning, it turned into the strongest hurricane to hit the United States. Harvey made landfall on the coast of Texas, heart of the storm being in Houston. As it made its way through Texas, moving southeast, Harvey degraded to a category 1 by Saturday morning with winds of 90 mph. This did not mean it became any less deadly. Harvey created life-threatening conditions that would continue over the next few days. “The storm turned Interstate 10 into a roaring river,” says Ann Gerhart, writer of What’s Happening in Houston and Beyond. Within the first twenty-four hours of the storm, eight people were reported dead.  

 

 

In Houston, even after rainfall ended Tuesday evening, the water continued to rise and submerge houses. Different parts of Texas saw various amounts of rain. Some experienced thirty inches; other forty inches. The most rainfall received was 51.88 inches in Cedar Bayou. Only about eight inches short from being a once-in-a-million-year recurrence. Some Houston areas got eleven inches in just one day. Beaumont and Port Arthur area received 26.03 inches on Tuesday and roughly 47 inches in the total length of the storm. Making a new annual record of 87 inches with one/third of the year to go. By Wednesday, August 30, river levels began to decrease, however, water levels continued to rise.

 

Houston P.D Drive team saved 3,000 people in four days. Many civilians stepped in, risking their lives in order to save families. Two of these courageous individuals drowned during their acts of heroism. Donald Rogers, 65, and his wife Rochelle, 58, were two more victims of Hurricane Harvey. While on the phone with 911, the couple was swept away, drowning in their pickup truck. Devy Saldivar, 16, Dominic, 14, Xavier, 8, Daisy, 6, and their great-grandparents Manual, 84, and Belia Saldivar, 81, were found trapped in their van underwater. Ric Saldivar, the son of Manual and Belia, was rescuing his family from their flooded house when they were pulled under by the current. He was able to escape but unable to rescue any of his family members.

 

The evacuation of Texas cities began by noon of Thursday, August 24. “I am taking every precaution prior to tropical storm Harvey making landfall,” says Governor Greg Abbott, “preemptively declaring a state of disaster will allow Texas to quickly deploy resources for the emergency response effort in anticipation of the storm’s hazardous conditions.”

 

More than 120,000 Texans were evacuated along with the 5,000 rescued pets. Mayor McComb strongly encouraged his people to evacuate, however, some chose to stay and hunker down through the storm. Once they realized how intense this storm was going to be, it was too late for them to leave.

 

In Houston, Ben Taub Hospital’s basement flooded, raising concern about power outage. “Our first concern is patients on ventilator support,” said Brian Mcleod, spokesperson for weather.com.

 

Critical condition patients, NICU and 18 people on life support were transported by helicopter to be sent to a safe hospital. The hospital remained on lockdown, employees switching off shifts watching after the other patients in the hospital. Bayshore Medical Center evacuated their 196 patients on Sunday, August 27th. Thankfully, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center only had minor leaks and no one was harmed within the hospital.

 

Hurricane Harvey took roughly 80 lives. Considering the force of the storm, this is surprisingly low, however, there are still  many people being mourned. The city streets all around Texas are lined with debris. Families are emptying their houses of the rotting items, starting their long process of recovery. Tosha Atiba, her husband, and their four children returned to their gutted home. Atiba says, “I know it’s not a safe place to be, but I don’t know where else I can go.”

 

Close to 20,000 people reside in shelters or hotels. People are relying on each other for support during this difficult time. Harvey survivor, Lathan Oliver talks about the difficulty of putting their lives back together. “As you can see, it’s a total waste,” he said, gesturing toward his molded possessions.

 

Officials are worried about the government’s ability to recover the 75 million dollars worth of damage. Fortunately, there has been an improvement. Schools have started opening again in Houston, as well as Interstate 10 that was torn apart, and Beaumont’s water plant is getting fixed. The damage and loss in Texas was not the only aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, it also sent flash floods to Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. This is only the start to the 2017 hurricane season.

 

Hurricane Irma was the second hurricane to hit this year; starting in the Atlantic Ocean with winds of 185 mph. It continued that way for 24 hours, making Irma the strongest hurricane to occur in the Atlantic. Wednesday, September 6 at 2 a.m. Irma made its first landfall in the Caribbean Islands with winds of 185 mph. It slammed into Barbuda causing destructive damage then moving onto the islands of Anguilla, Antigua, St. Martin, and St. Barthelemy. At least ten people were reported dead;  one in Barbuda, one dead in St. Barthelemy, and eight in St. Martin. Homes and facilities were flattened and there was a great number of power outages. Gaston Browne, the prime minister in Barbuda, informs us that as of Thursday, September 7, 90% of buildings have been destroyed and 50% of the population is homeless. It continued to demolish the islands for a couple days before moving onto Cuba.

 

Cuba evacuated a million people before Irma made landfall on Friday, September 8 at 9 p.m. The hurricane struck as a category 5, with winds of 185 mph. “[Irma became] the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in Cuba in more than 80 years,” says Kate Linthicum, a contact reporter writing about the devastation. The hurricane caused flooding in Baracoa, an eastern city at the tip of Cuba. This was especially devastating to the residents of Baracoa, considering they were still recovering from hurricane Matthew the previous year.

 

Irma struck Even Havana, hundreds of miles away from the heart of the hurricane. The hurricane caused severe flooding and wind damage. The government is financing 50% of construction work to help rebuild homes and facilities. In order to prevent the spread of disease, cubans were strongly encouraged to clean the streets and interior of their homes that were affected by the storm. By Monday, the day after Irma left Cuba, the flooding in Even Havana was still chest deep. Unfortunately, there was still more to come from this years hurricane season.

 

Hurricane Irma was originally expected to hit Miami, Florida head on, however, by Sunday, September 11, the hurricane’s path shifted towards the Florida Keys. It clobbered through the Keys as a category 4 with winds of 30 mph. Irma then worked its way up the west coast of Florida moving towards Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. Tuesday, September 12, hurricane Irma downgraded to a tropical storm, but continued to produce strong winds and storm-surge flooding.

 

In Florida Keys, 90 percent of properties sustained extreme damage. Mercedes Lopez, 50, and his family fled their home and stayed in a hotel to wait out the storm. “I don’t have a house. I don’t have a job. I have nothing,” he says after learning that his house and gasoline station, where he worked, was destroyed.

 

The ferocious hurricane ripped a hole through Cindy Dresow and Jim Hoffman’s house. They acted quickly and thought creatively by plugging the hole with pillows which surprisingly worked. “Most of Monroe County’s parks, boat ramps and museums suffered damage due to Hurricane Irma,” says officer Cammy Clark. The restoration of all historical structures will be in progress for several months. “Before hurricane Irma struck, the only access to the island was by boat due to the bridge repair work,” Clark said. “During the storm, the dock sustained severe damage and is unsafe for use.” Some parts of Florida Keys are still inaccessible. In result of the hurricane, 12 people were killed. Hurricane Irma sent destructive wind and rain storms to Georgia, the afternoon of Monday, September 11.

 

Irma hit with winds of 60 mph and greatly increased, resulting in downed trees and power lines. By Monday night, the flooding water receded. However, the residents who stayed were still in danger from falling trees. As of Tuesday, September 12, 3.1 million people in Georgia were without power. Death toll merges from 3 to 5, a 55-year-old man crushed by a tree and a 62-year-old swept off the roof of his house. There were a few other cases of trees crashing into living rooms or barely missing people running for their lives.

 

This same day, Irma struck Charleston, South Carolina. Irma’s flooding in this area was not only caused by rainfall, but by the 10-foot storm surge. This was the worst storm surge since Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and the third highest on record in the Charleston Harbor. The storm cleared by the next day, however, the flood being 8.86 inches, took some time to despair. Irma caused four deaths in South Carolina, none being in Charleston.

 

 

Although South Carolina’s coast was 200 or more miles away from the eye of hurricane Irma, the beaches were still caught in the crossfire. Some beaches’ sand was sent inland from the strong winds. The damage the residents are dealing with as a result are similar to Hurricane Matthew from the previous year, but not as intense. This is the third hurricane season in a row that a big storm struck this particular coastal area, Charleston, and southern beaches. Cities further up the coast did not experience the same degree of damage. The reason for this being areas like Simpsonville and Greenville are higher up in elevation and have a different kind of landscape. However residents of Simpsonville still had dangerously high winds and rain. “Luckily in my neighborhood we just had tons of branches and debris everywhere,” says Christy Williamson, “but some people in the area had some trees come down.”

 

School and some jobs were cancelled for two days due to the extent of the storm. “It poured and we had flash flooding, very cloudy and dark,” says Laura Watson, resident of Greenville, “thousands in Greenville lost power due to downed trees and power lines.” It was very important for people to stock up on canned goods and water in preparation for the power loss. If the hurricane had gone up the eastern side of Florida, it would have hit their coastline causing more mayhem than it did.

 

Monday evening, September 11, parts of Alabama felt the winds of 45 mph sent by Irma and received 3.5 inches of water. However, the heart of the storm was still in Georgia. Birmingham, Alabama got 1.69 inches of rain, the most they’ve got at once since 1906. As for other parts of Alabama, receiving more than that is not uncommon. Their highest temperature is at 66 degrees, which is the lowest high temperature they have experienced at this time of year. Eastern Alabama is where most reports of downed power lines and trees were being reported. The storm started to subside by Tuesday, September 12.

 

These two hurricanes were only the beginning to this year’s hurricane season. From these places impacted, a total of at least 100 people were killed. The United States along with other countries really took a hit this year. Residents involved in these areas have a long road to recovery.

Resources:

  • WSBTV.COM
  • TheHill.com
  • Washingtonpost.com
  • Miamiherald.com
  • Americanrivers.org
  • Theatlantic.com
  • Weather.com
  • Vox.com
  • Latimes.com
  • Newsweek.com
  • ABCnews.com
  • postandcourier.com
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Most Catastrophic Events in the History of The United States