The shipping and naval community response to three major hurricanes that hit the southern United States, U.S. Territories, the Caribbean, Cuba and the Bahamas is vital to their recovery.
The damage and destruction that Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria left in their wake is almost unimaginable. As with any natural disaster, there are unique and difficult challenges. The evacuations, sheltering during and after the storms and providing recovery resources to citizens stretches resources under the best of circumstances but in this case, it is mind-boggling. This massive undertaking would not work near as well if not for the shipping and naval community response such as the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and private ships and watercrafts.
Hurricane Harvey hit south Texas August 22, 2017, as a Category 4 where it weakened and moved further into Texas before stalling and bringing record-setting amounts of rain. The flooding of Houston and surrounding areas left residents stranded, running out of food and in need of immediate rescue. People from all over the country came with bass boats, jon boats, flats boats and just about every other form of small watercraft that could fit through the neighborhoods safely. Louisiana’s Cajun Navy showed up and used the experience that they had gained during Hurricane Katrina to aid in the rescue and recovery of area residents. he U.S. Coast Guard sent helicopters to rescue people that the boats could not get to or that had a medical emergency. The U.S. Navy sent an amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and the landing ship USS Oak Hill to aid with the rescue and also worked to deliver supplies. The Massachusetts Maritime Academy sent the TS Kennedy, a 540-foot-long training ship, to bring aid to Texas. The shipping and naval community response was paramount in helping with the recovery efforts.
The U.S. Coast Guard sent helicopters to rescue people that the boats could not get to or that had a medical emergency. The U.S. Navy sent an amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and the landing ship USS Oak Hill to aid with the rescue and also worked to deliver supplies. The Massachusetts Maritime Academy sent the TS Kennedy, a 540-foot-long training ship, to bring aid to Texas. The shipping and naval community response was paramount in helping with the recovery efforts.
Then came Hurricane Irma. Irma began her destructive path hitting Barbudos and Antigua as a Category 5 hurricane, with sustained winds of 185mph, flattening the islands damaging or destroying close to 90% of their buildings. Then it hit Anguilla and St. Marten, continuing through the Virgin Islands tearing them apart. The hurricane passed over the southern Bahamas as a Category 4, gains speed again and struck north Cuba September 8th as a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 160mph. The hurricane weakened as it passed over Cuba. The morning of Sept. 10th Irma hit the Florida Keys, making landfall over Cudjoe Key as a Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph sustained winds, leveling the Cudjoe Key and causing enormous damage to surrounding Keys, including Islamorada and Marathon. After passing over the Keys, Irma again makes landfall at Marcos Island in SW Florida as a Category 3 hurricane.
The hurricane continued to move over Florida, September 10th and 11th causing extensive damage, power outages and flooding as far as South Carolina. The enormity of the damage and the large area that it covered created a daunting situation for responders. U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships were stationed and ready to respond to the needs after the hurricane passed. The recovery will be long and intensive throughout the Virgin Islands and the Keys requiring them to rely heavily on the shipping and naval community response to provide supplies and help with evacuations.
As if this was not enough of a stretch of available resources, along came Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Maria hit Dominica in the Caribbean Islands on September 18th as a Category 5 hurricane and then headed straight for Puerto Rico on September 20th. Ripping through the island as a Category 4 hurricane it took out 100% of the island’s power and virtually all of its communications. The damage was widespread. As of this writing, Hurricane Maria has passed over the Turks and Caicos as a Category 3 and will stay off the coast of the United States as it moves out to sea. Again the shipping and naval community banded together to address the needs of the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and other islands hit by the third massive hurricane in just over a month. The Massachusetts Maritime Academy is expected to send the TS Kennedy to Puerto Rico from Texas to help with recovery. Several of the cruise ship companies are bringing aid and donating to the recovery efforts of the areas hit by Hurricane Maria. The U.S. Navy has helped with evacuations, supplies and emergency response. In the coming months, the shipping and naval community response will be vital to the rebuilding of the island.
The effects of these three huge and dangerous hurricanes will be felt for a long time coming. There are immediate needs to be met, such as the evacuation of islanders where needed then progress can be made to restore services and rebuild. During the entire process, the governments and the citizenry of all the affected areas will rely heavily on shipping and aid to rebuild. This will be a historic effort and while we are in awe of the work and planning that has already taken place, we also know that there is a long road ahead.
How can you help?
Following you will find sites where you can donate to help with the relief efforts:
Before donating make sure that you are giving to a reputable charity.