National News

A year of severe weather caused damage, destruction

By Rhodesia Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Dec 26, 2017 - 8:30:55 PM

What's your opinion on this article?

Images: MGN Online

Parts of the United States as well as its territories are still recovering from a 2017 that was a   year of unusual, unpredictable and destructive weather that left entire cities in ruins. No region across the U.S. was seemingly spared. Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, and other weather events reared its ugly head making this year the costliest and deadliest for disasters in recent history. 

“Watch the weather,” are the words the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam repeated almost every time he spoke this year. He has been adamant in warning the masses of people in America of divine chastisement striking America through extreme weather, a message taught to him by his teacher the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. 

Dating back to the ‘60s, Mr. Muhammad said America would suffer from unusual rain, snow, earthquakes and wildfires for its enslavement and mistreatment of the Black man and woman and the indigenous people of America.

There is cause for alarm, especially since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that 15 natural disasters struck in 2017, each costing at least a billion dollars and claiming 323 lives collectively. It was one of the worst years on record for natural disasters.

For many, recovery has been a long and arduous task. It’s almost the end of the year and many victims of these destructive natural disasters are still displaced and without water and electricity.

Nearly 1,400 tornadoes have touched down since Jan. 2 wreaking havoc across the U.S. However, this hurricane season was the busiest and costliest. Three major hurricanes struck within weeks of each other, Harvey, Irma, and Maria, leaving altogether an estimated $300 billion worth of damages.  Harvey first made landfall Aug. 25 in Rockport, Texas.

“We knew the rain would be heavy, but it was worse than we predicted,” said Lance Wood, meteorologist from the National Weather Service about Hurricane Harvey. “That storm produced more rain than this city has ever seen. It exceeded our expectations. It’s hard to even predict what’s coming next, especially with unusual weather patterns we’ve been experiencing,” he told The Final Call.

By far, the most difficult road to recovery has been in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These two U.S. territories were hit two weeks apart by Irma on Sept. 10 and Maria on Sept. 20.

Irma ravaged St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix first before making landfall near the Florida Keys leaving at least $100 billion worth of damages. Then, Maria obliterated Puerto Rico and made the island of Barbuda completely uninhabitable.

At this point, 66 percent of power on the island has been restored, 93 percent of the island has access to water, but it remains on a boil advisory, 73 percent of cell sites are up and running, 982 survivors remain in 41 shelters across the island.

Although progress has been made, officials say, there’s still a long way to go. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has received more than a million applications for assistance and approved about 251,000 as of Nov. 28, a spokesperson said. Because of difficulties with cell service and internet on the island, that deadline has been extended from Nov. 30 of this year to March 18, 2018.

So far, FEMA has given more than $230 million in assistance to families, however, Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello said it wasn’t enough. Many residents across the island say they still haven’t received federal help.

Many of those affected by the hurricanes have voiced that the toughest part of recovery is a lack of income and having to rebuild with a lack of resources.

Dr. Abdul Haleem Muhammad, Nation of Islam student minister for the Southwest Region in Houston, Texas, and a member of a diverse coalition of community-based organizations in Texas is calling for federal agencies and many other advocates to implement a transitional program that has proven in the past to be an effective method for housing recovery called the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP).

“Currently, there is no plan to implement the cost-saving and effective program,” Dr. Muhammad emphasized. “Twelve U.S. Senators as well as Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner have called on FEMA Administrator Brock Long and HUD Secretary Ben Carson to consider implementing DHAP, but says state officials, including Gov. Abbott and General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush, also have a responsibility to express Texas’ needs for recovery.”

Gov. Abbott should push agencies to work together to help families escape from the trauma of disaster and uncertainty and get them into a home and DHAP is a proven and important step in that process, he added.

Dr. Haleem Muhammad is concerned if federal agencies don’t take action soon, tens of thousands of Hurricane Harvey survivors will be spending Christmas and New Years in hotels and motels.

Meanwhile, others are returning to a sense of normalcy. Like those in the city of Naples in Florida. The city is back open for business, people have returned to work. Schools are open and nearly all stores and restaurants are open.

The Florida Keys was also hit hard by Irma and is back open for business. Florida Keys spokesperson said power and water have been restored. The airports and hotels are back open and tourism is beginning to boom again.

High demand, coupled with refinery disruptions after Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast, had driven gas prices up 42 cents a gallon over a two-week span.  Although gas prices are fluctuating in different parts of Florida, it’s slowly decreasing.

While one part of the U.S. is still recovering from hurricanes, another part is recovering from the costliest and most destructive wildfire year. Two wild fire outbreaks, one in northern California early October and one in southern California early December is predicted by ACU weather to have an economic toll of $180 billion.

Overall, the October wildfires burned more than 245,000 acres, destroyed an estimated 8,700 structures and killed at least 42 people, according to state officials. The December wildfires burned over 297,000 acres, destroying thousands of structures and killing at least two people.

“It will take months and even years to recover from this,” said Joseph Springs, who evacuated from his home near Los Angeles. “We take for granted fresh air. The sky was filled with black smoke and the smell was unbearable. I left wondering if I would ever see my home again.”

The weather continued to baffle people all over in other parts of the country this year. Close to noon on Friday, Dec. 8, the Baton Rouge, La.  area had gotten 2-3 inches of snowfall, since snow began falling between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. Friday morning. More than 12,000 residents in East Baton Rouge, about 6,000 in Livingston and about 30,000 in Tangipahoa parish were without power as wet snow took down tree limbs and power- lines, according to Entergy. Power was not restored in some areas until later that day. 

Residents were in awe of the drastic change in weather. Francine Thomas, a Baton Rouge resident said, “Last week, the weather was beautiful and wonderful and then we have today,” she said regarding the snowfall.

“As southerners, we’re used to our weather fluctuating and we’re used to warm Thanksgivings and Christmases, but we’re not used to wintry mix (rain, snow, sleet) mainly because we can’t drive in it,” said Ms. Thomas. She said she believes the world has affected the climate.

 “God is the creator, but man has made the world the way it is. We are responsible for the destruction of nature.”