Joe Henderson: What happens when aid can’t keep up with all the hurricanes?
The devastation in the Bahamas from Hurricane Dorian prompted Flagler Health+ to set up a longterm medical clinic. .

People believe we can always restore normal for victims of a disaster. What if a day comes when we can't?

People can and will rise above partisanship when the need is greatest. Emergency aid is on its way to the Bahamas following the horror of Hurricane Dorian. People are donating money, supplies, whatever they can.

Leaders can rise above partisanship, too. We saw that after Democratic state Rep. Shervin Jones, a Bahamian-American, asked President Donald Trump’s administration to waive visa requirements for residents of the Bahamas seeking refuge after Dorian.

Republican U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott quickly endorsed the request. Good on them.

If that means more people moving into Florida soon, we’ll all scoot a little closer together and make room for as long as it takes. It’s what decent human beings do in a crisis.

But the frequency and severity of these storms raise an uncomfortable question. Can aid workers, volunteers, and even the government keep up with nature’s wrath? Workers sometimes can’t complete repairs at one disaster site before another storm hits somewhere else.

Business Insider reported in July that FEMA’s disaster workforce was already stretched to the brink.

In several places along Florida’s east coast, residents are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. That storm delivered a ferocious punch nearly three years ago.

The same goes for victims of Hurricane Irma in 2017.  And we know about the plight of residents in the Panhandle to rebuild after Hurricane Michael last year.

Now we can pile the apocalyptic wrath of Dorian on top of that, but where do relief workers start? To me, that’s the next big crisis that states like Florida will face as catastrophic hurricanes just keep coming.

Dorian is still at work, too, pushing up the east coast.

Of course, anyone with a heart bleeds for people in the Bahamas. It is a humanitarian crisis, just as it was in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria delivered a lethal blow in 2017.

But we were just as shaken when Michael roared ashore in North Florida. The images were horrifying, and the human toll was unimaginable.

Volunteers and professionals mobilize when disaster looms, and they move as quickly as possible to render assistance. On a level like we see now in the Bahamas, though, only so much can be done.

The scope of the damage is incredible, and repairs or rebuilds would take years, even if that were the only place that needed help.

It isn’t.

It’s not just about home repairs, either. Displaced people need food, jobs, clothing, a safe place to stay. Kids need to attend school. Some need counseling. They are scared, confused, and trying to piece it together.

People do the best they can to help, as they will this time.

But what if Dorian had wobbled a few miles to the west and parked over South Florida? That would have been a catastrophe that even exceeded Hurricane Michael. Could aid have kept up?

Except, now, well, the unimaginable has become a routine part of living in coastal areas.

The storms are getting larger and deadlier. We are trained to believe we can always restore normal for those victims of a disaster.

What if the day comes, though, when we can’t?

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Michael

    September 4, 2019 at 7:41 pm

    Would you ever ask that question of Socialized Health Care? Can American tax payers keep up with governments wrath?

    What happens when you run out of other people’s money?

    A very interesting take from a Leftist like Joe. How ironic.

    • MAGA 2020

      September 5, 2019 at 1:33 pm

      Great point…. However, i think the underlying slam in this article is Climate Change/Global Warming causing all these hurricanes. The facts are, the numbers of named storms is not increasing in any kind of unusual rate. We are well within the fluctuation wave.

      • Valerie Sprieser

        September 5, 2019 at 11:47 pm

        You ability to ignore basic statistics of the number of cat 4 and 5 that we’ve had in the last 5 years shows that you rather believe your political brainwashing than the facts.
        Hurricanes don’t care if your a Republican or a democratic! Stop using your political blinders to ignore what is a fact!

    • Valerie Sprieser

      September 5, 2019 at 11:42 pm

      Socialized healthcare and medicare for all are Two different things. Socialised healthcare is when the government owns and runs the hispitals, clinics and is the employer of doctors and nurses. Medicare for all just removes the middle man the gatekeeper for access to healthcare. Hospitals and doctors are not employed by the government.
      Please research what you are talking about before spreading rumors and lies!

      • Michael

        September 7, 2019 at 5:44 pm

        Lol. Every person/candidate/elected Socialist who supports Medicare for all also supports ending private health insurance industry. The Payer being the government. No private Hospital ever gets to take the Government to court when they only pay 20% of the bill. …kind of makes the government the owner of the hospital if they become the single source of income for them.

        You people are sick

Comments are closed.


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