Coast to coast, communities learn to recover from natural disasters during pandemic


Recently, many communities in America have been suffering from natural disasters such as Hurricanes Laura and Sally in the Gulf Coast and wildfires spreading across the West Coast. 

Although Hurricane Laura has already made landfall and has now died down into a tropical storm, communities in the Gulf Coast are still feeling its effects. “Hurricane Laura was a bad hurricane, category 4 at landfall. [Lousianians] were fortunate that it hit a relatively unpopulated part of the state,” KETV-7 Chief Meteorologist Bill Randby said. According to NPR, Hurricane Laura has caused around 8-12 million dollars in damages and 10 people in Texas and Louisiana have died.

This hurricane may have been isolated to the gulf of Mexico, but many Marian students have family and friends living in these natural disaster hotspots. “Our family friends had to evacuate their home,” junior Fiona Gautschi said. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and power outages, communicating with their loved ones became quite a challenge.

However, the complications due to COVID-19 go beyond difficulty communicating. The virus also impacted evacuation missions. “COVID-19 played a small part in Laura as some people who tested positive could not be evacuated on some of the buses or housed in some of the shelters,” Randby said. 

People who could not be evacuated and the rest of those who stayed behind face a whole new wave of challenges. Many stores, already low on supplies during the pandemic, cannot provide for families searching for the provisions they need to stay safe. “They have to maintain health regulations while supplies and space are limited, which makes them vulnerable to COVID-19,” junior Bailey Kollasch said.

Some students have experienced hurricanes and the damage they bring firsthand, but for most, the idea might seem pretty foreign. However, students may have had a taste of the hurricane experience in August. “I believe the recent Iowa derecho was as bad as the hurricane from a wind damage and power outage standpoint,” Randby said, referring to the powerful wind storm that hit Iowa and parts of Eastern Nebraska on Aug 10.

In 2020, wildfires in California have consumed around 7,000 square miles, and 10 percent of the state’s population of 4.2 million has been forced to evacuate, according to USA Today. Fires spanning from Washington to California have also struck a major toll on the air quality in the surrounding area.

Even as Hurricane Laura has calmed into a tropical storm and the wildfires are in the process of being contained, the damage that trailed behind will still take time to repair. Communities along the West and Gulf coasts are working to heal from these tragedies, but many still need supplies and a place to stay while they wait for the danger to pass. 

Even from Nebraska, people can offer aid to those in need due to natural disasters. Donations can be sent to victims of the wildfires through donation centers like The Red Cross and the California Community Foundation’s Wildlife Relief Fund. Hurricane relief donations are delivered most effectively through Louisiana’s local charities such as Junior League and Second Harvest Donations.

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