Equity Beat: How to help victims of recent natural disasters in the U.S.


Courtesy of Wikimedia Images

The aftermath of the Tubbs Fire in Northern California in October. The Tubbs fire was one of the largest wildfires among the eight that killed 42 individuals this October.

by Rose Guan, Wingspan designer and writer

Several catastrophic natural disasters have shaken the U.S. in recent months. To match the spirit of the holidays, here is a guide about what you can do to help with recovery efforts for some major natural disasters.

Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25. The first major hurricane of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season and the costliest Atlantic hurricane on record, it caused at least 91 deaths and nearly $200 billion in damage, more than the approximately $108 billion that Hurricane Katrina caused in 2005.

The hurricane left more than 300,000 people without power and dislocated thousands in Texas. Heavy rainfall and loss of electricity also extended into other southeastern U.S. states.

Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida on Sept. 10 after traveling through and causing disastrous damage in the Caribbean in the days prior.

In total, the hurricane has caused at least 134 deaths, 90 of which were in the U.S. mainland, caused more than $60 billion in damage and led to more than a million people in Florida and thousands in South Carolina and North Carolina losing power. Access to electricity in Florida has returned to normal.

Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, magnifying the destruction wrought by Hurricane Irma there.

In the storms’ wake, the majority of the U.S. commonwealth’s millions of residents were without access to running water and almost all lost power, as Hurricane Maria wiped out its already damaged electrical grid. The hurricane has caused at least 103 deaths in the Caribbean and the U.S.

Currently, although the status of USPS post offices, commercial flights and ports has returned to normal and more than 90 percent have water, the island is at under 60 percent of its peak capacity for generating electricity, and only 69 percent of cell towers are operational.

Northern California wildfires

Wildfires broke out throughout October in several Northern California counties including Napa, Sonoma and Lake, spanning more than 200,000 acres and causing at least 43 deaths and at least $3 billion in damage.

High levels of particulate matter and ozone in the air following the first fires on Oct. 8 and 9 led to declarations of hazardous air quality in and around wildfire-affected cities as well as those further south, including Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose. Low visibility due to smoke also caused some flights to and from San Francisco International Airport to be canceled.

Southern California wildfires

Six wildfires are currently burning in Ventura County, Los Angeles County and San Diego County in Southern California. The largest, the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, has burned 155,000 acres, is currently 15 percent contained and threatens 15,000 structures.

The fires started this week and spread, spurred by the strong, dry seasonal Santa Ana winds, throughout the week. Red flag fire warnings remain in effect as of Saturday evening.

The fires have forced thousands to evacuate, destroyed at least 800 structures and caused the deaths of at least one person and several racehorses.

How to help

Nonprofit charity watchdog Charity Navigator has compiled lists of highly rated charities that are responding to Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Read our guide on how to assist recovery efforts for the Northern California fires.

United Way of Ventura County is sponsoring donations to those affected by the Thomas Fire. GoFundMe has spotlighted several campaigns raising money to Southern California fire victims, and the American Red Cross is taking online donations for the cause.