Turning the Tide is here to raise awareness.
That although Hurricanes Irma and Harvey have passed, the homelessness and devastation caused will be present for years to come. That 10 hurricanes have occurred in the last 10 weeks, with over a month left of hurricane season. That in the past week, Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland, prompting the country’s first ever severe weather alert.
For the people who lost their livelihoods. For the people who don’t know if their loved ones across the Atlantic are alive. For the future of our planet.
First, we recognize the tragedy that hit the Gulf Coast and East Coast. But we want to turn our attention beyond the continental United States. U.S. territories with U.S. citizens were affected too. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were hit — hard.
We’re here to turn attention beyond the U.S.
Antigua and Barbuda. St Martin, Anguilla and St. Barts. The British Virgin Islands. Haiti. The Dominican Republic. Turks and Caicos. These, and more, have been devastated.
We’re also here to show how we affect the future: the part we play in climate change.
Although climate change doesn’t cause tropical storms, it certainly has a role in them. And humans have a role in climate change. In the short time we inhabit this earth, why not work to make it as livable as possible for generations to come?
Turning the Tide is here to show you why we care and why you should too.
-The Harbinger Online Editors
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and in the United States. The estimated damage caused by all of the hurricanes tops $200 billion. Many climate change activists claim these were caused by climate change without much evidence to back up their statement. Hurricanes are caused naturally, but are strengthened by climate change.
Hurricanes form most commonly in the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean around the equator because hurricanes need warm water and air to fuel their development. The peak of hurricane season occurs each year between June 1 to November 30. This is because the water and air are the warmest during this time of year.
There is no evidence that climate change directly causes hurricanes. Climate change does not cause hurricanes, but there is evidence that it makes hurricanes more powerful. While there is evidence, the hurricanes could also be occurring by chance.
This is not the first time three major hurricanes have hit the Caribbean and the United States. In 2004, four hurricanes hit the continental USA (Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne). In 2005, three hurricanes hit the US, including Katrina. The notion that hurricanes never come in waves is false and disputes the statement that climate change causes hurricanes.
In a Washington Post-ABC poll conducted shortly after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, only 39 percent of Americans believed that climate change helped to intensify hurricanes. That number is now up to 55 percent.
This is likely associated with the increased knowledge that scientists have gathered in the 12 years following Katrina.
With the new information on the reality that warmer ocean water makes hurricanes more likely to be stronger, this is the perfect time to start the discussion of climate change. There is no longer doubt that climate change is a real threat that needs to be addressed before it’s too late.
This is likely only the beginning if no action is taken. The more the ocean rises in temperature, the longer hurricane season will last and the more powerful each hurricane will become.
There must be action taken to curb climate change. Deadly series of hurricanes cannot become the norm. The United States must take action to lower carbon emissions as well as push high polluting nations to curb as well. This is the only way to push back on climate change.
Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast in 2012, which took the lives of more than 100 people in the USA and caused $65 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While Sandy caused widespread destruction, it was only a category 2 hurricane when it made landfall. It wasn’t even considered a major hurricane, which is any hurricane above category 3.
This storm caused more than $20 billion in damage to the state of Florida and took the lives of 62 people.
Hurricanes are fueled by warm water typically located near the equator and often occur during Hurricane season, which is each year between June 1 to November 30. This is because the planet is the warmest during this time. However, global warming has been found to be less impactful over the ocean than over land, according to NASA. This is because water is slower to absorb and release heat.
East parent Ava Kendall watched the national news every single morning leading up to Category 5 Hurricane Irma. She watched and hoped the storm would turn away from her home atop the highest point of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. She watched the reporters gloss over the fact that the hurricane was ripping through the same water her sons surfed on, towards the town she was born; they were instead focusing on what the continental states were focused on — the storm’s possible trajectory towards Florida.
“The last time I knew I was going to talk to her I told her I loved her and told her to be safe, but that’s all I could do,” senior Karson Kendall said.
Karson grew up in the the same house where Ava waited for the hurricane. Karson moved to Kansas City alone halfway through sophomore year to join the Sporting KC Academy soccer team, but he still considers the USVI to be his home. Although he stays with a host family, he still talks on the phone with his parents everyday. Having lived in the USVI for over ten years, he’s been through hurricanes, but none nearly as bad as Irma.
The USVI is a U.S territory, and the people inhabiting the islands are U.S citizens, but Ava’s husband Kelly Kendall thinks people often forget the islands and the fact that they are a part of the U.S.
“[The hurricane didn’t] have to wait until it gets to Florida to hit U.S. soil,” Kelly said. “One of the most infuriating things was an article in some paper: ‘1110 American citizens rescued from Caribbean Islands.’ That’s like saying American citizens were rescued from Texas.”
Once Ava and her husband Kelly knew that the storm was headed for St. Thomas, they braced themselves for its impact. They bought nonperishable food, 15 gallons of drinking water and put up storm shutters. The shutters isolated them from the mountain view of the lush, green island that would soon have it’s wildlife ripped from the ground.
After helping prepare his wife and their house for the hurricane, Kelly did the “most difficult thing [he has] ever had to do.” He left her.
Kelly is a freelance cameraman with an unpredictable schedule. He spends about half of his time in the states and half in the USVI, but he, like Karson, considers the USVI to be his home. As a freelance he does documentaries all across the country — he’s been anywhere from Seattle to St. Louis. This time, he was headed to Michigan to film for National Geographic. Ava stayed at their house on the island alone, continuing to watch the news.
The USVI didn’t start getting national attention until about 24 hours before the winds of 225 mph rocked the very foundation of their house, according to Ava. Although there was some coverage, the territories weren’t covered to the extent it should have been — the continental U.S. was still focused on Florida.
“They were telling Florida to get ready, not our islands,” Ava said. “[We are] only of interest when it’s time to go on a cruise or go on a fantasy trip. We were down here. We were scared. We didn’t know what to expect, and from a Category 5 nonetheless.”
Ava took cover in her master bathroom with her two yorkies, Finley and Riley. She hid in the bathtub with Kelly’s old race car helmet on and Karson’s mattress over her head for almost 12 hours.
“It was hard,” Ava said. “It was noisy. It was mean, mad and ugly.”
Luckily, she was able to stay in contact with Kelly for most of the storm, calling every 10 minutes. Shutters were ripped off the windows and their coconut tree was ripped off its base like a blade of grass.
The Kendall’s house made it through Hurricane Irma. But that was just the beginning. About one week later, Hurricane Maria would destroy everything inside their house and slam the rest of the island once again.
“These metal poles [are] just thrown up on the ground like toothpicks,” Ava said. “It’s just like Mother Nature took everything and swirled it up and chewed it up and spit it out.”
The last major hurricane to hit the USVI was Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. Although it was a Category 3, it destroyed the island. According to Kelly, living through two Category 5 hurricanes is unheard of, and Ava experienced two in the span of two weeks. Hurricane Maria found weak spots in their roof that were created by Irma, flooding the house and ruining all of their possessions. However, the Kendalls were better off than the rest of the island because they still had a roof, albeit shaky.
“I’m bringing home a blowup mattress because my favorite possession in our house — my Tempurpedic California King — is gone,” Kelly said. “But as I told the boys, it’s just stuff. My wife is okay and that’s all that matters.”
A family friend who took vacationers on boat tours had his boats destroyed. He is now jobless. One of Karson’s best friends named Tommy had a little cottage on the beach where Karson and his brother Konner used to surf. Now there is no building at all — nothing but brown dirt. The police station and both main post offices are gone, too.
“Places Karson went to growing up, they’re gone,” Kelly said. “I know more people who have lost their homes than haven’t.”
In response to the devastation, the community is helping each other, offering any extra food and water to neighbors. The Kendall’s neighbors are staying with them because their exterior wall and roof were demolished by the first storm. A family friend of the Kendall’s is a doctor and set up an office the day after the storm ended for anyone who needed it.
Ava said that if she has the right mindset — of gratitude and positivity — she will make it through. Even though the island has gone through the worst storm in its history, Ava remains optimistic that the island will eventually find its way back to its beautiful self that has attracted tourists for decades.
“When [the storm] comes and it leaves its mark, that mark is left for a long time,” Ava said. “We will rebuild, but it’s going to be in phases.”
Video by Peyton Watts
On the morning of Oct. 24, 2010, my mom delivered the news that would divide my life into two distinctive parts. Lying in a St. Louis hotel room, I found out that my home for the past 10 years had burned to the ground. A backpack and duffle bag with only three days worth of clothes was all I had left. Everything we hadn’t packed to take to my oldest brother’s freshman year Family Weekend at Washington University burned with the house – including our dog, cat and tortoise. Just like that I was homeless.
My life is categorized as pre and post fire. Just as the lives are categorized in Texas, Florida, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as pre and post hurricane.
Before we were even on the road back to Kansas City, the East community was doing everything they could to help. Family and friends had already bought replacement backpacks and winter coats. Then seniors Hannah Stratinger and Emily Frye had already started to organize a benefit walk on the East track. Neighbors volunteered to take us in until we found more permanent housing. Prairie Village rallied behind us, never asking for anything in return.
After two weeks of sharing our neighbor’s guest room, my mom and two of my siblings had a rental house lined up. People we didn’t even know donated furniture, art and mattresses to my family. My classmates at Brookwood Elementary school donated books.
Just as a fire obliterated my life in the blink of an eye, major hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, categories 3 or more, have changed lives in Texas, Florida, the USVI and Puerto Rico.
As of Oct. 1, 97 percent of people in the USVI are without power according to CNN. New York Times reported that 24 people have died as a result of Hurricane Irma. In Houston, where concrete covers much of the ground, the flood waters have nowhere to go, according to CNN. Small towns are still struggling with flooding and molded debris more than four weeks after Harvey hit. It is estimated that parts of Puerto Rico will not get power for up to four months, according to vox.com.
To think of what all these people have lost, and then to think of how our government won’t stand behind them like the East community stood behind me, makes my stomach fall and eyes water.
We don’t blink when we buy one more pair of Adidas to our pile of sneakers, or hesitate to get a latte from Starbucks on the way home from school. If we’re not relying on every penny we have to survive, why aren’t we all donating? Why are we hesitating to raise taxes to lighten the burden for hurricane relief.
So I call on people to find a way to help: donate money, blood or cleanup supplies, send food or clothes. Help the millions of people in Florida, Texas, the USVI and Puerto Rico; stand behind them like the East community stood behind me. Donate because you can, donate as if it were your neighbors fighting flood waters and high winds.
The citizens of Texas, Florida and the USVI have now also had their lives split into two distinct parts. Like I had to, they will have to recoup and rebuild. I stand behind them, willing to do anything I can to help. We must get behind our fellow citizens and fund hurricane relief.
Infographic by Abby Walker