No Major Natural Disaster in the U.S. This Year?

Susanne Gilmore | November 26, 2013

Volunteers unload CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets for distribution to homeowners in Granbury, Tex. Photo: Don Tatlock/CWS

Volunteers unload CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets for distribution to homeowners in Granbury, Tex. Photo: Don Tatlock/CWS

Thankfully, the United States didn’t suffer a Katrina- or Sandy-scale disaster in 2013. Or did it? An incessant string of regional disasters has affected thousands of households.

There was not a neat “spring storms” or “fall tornadoes” season this year. Instead, since the spring, the disasters have just kept on coming and the toll has mounted in deaths, injuries and homes damaged or destroyed.

The cumulative impact amounts to a major disaster. Destructive water, wind and/or fire events have affected almost every U.S. state this year. On Nov. 17, a mind-boggling 91 tornadoes, 565 high wind events and 42 hail events took lives and homes in 14 Midwestern states.

Some of this year’s regional disasters got more than passing mention in the national news. Examples include the Moore, Okla., tornado and wildfires in several western states. But many regional disasters go unreported nationally or fall out of the headlines quickly.

Who besides the communities directly affected is still concerned with tornado survivors in Granbury, Texas, and Lindsborg, Kansas? Who is still thinking about survivors of floods earlier this year in Florida, Alabama, and Iowa? Who remembers that 49 Illinois counties were declared federal disaster areas due to spring floods?

Church World Service remembers the people recovering from these and other U.S. regional disasters even as we work hand-in-hand with our member communions, ACT Alliance and other partners to support recovery following Superstorm Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan and other large-scale disasters.

In the United States, CWS emergency response specialists have made countless calls and visited dozens of disaster-affected communities to offer materials and long-term recovery expertise.

So far in 2013, CWS has sent CWS Kits and/or Blankets in the wake of disasters in 10 states. We’ve approved $5,000 grants to 25 long-term recovery groups in 12 states. We’ve conducted on-the-ground trainings in nine states, one of which served participants from three states. Dec. 10-12, we’ll hold three workshops in a tenth state, Colorado. On Dec. 10, we will offer our ninth disaster response webinar this year.

Here’s one example of how CWS works. In Illinois, CWS filled requests for more than 2,500 CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets immediately following the spring floods. In early October, we conducted three “Recovery Tools and Training” workshops for local disaster recovery groups. And we were back in touch with these groups in mid-November when tornadoes and other high wind events ripped into 15 Illinois counties, many of them still recovering from the spring floods. Initial assistance this time around included 200 CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets, requested by the American Red Cross Chicago Region for Coal City, Diamond and Gifford.

We rely on local congregations to keep us stocked with CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets, Baby Care Kits, School Kits, Hygiene Kits and Blankets, so that we can respond quickly to current and future disasters. It feels like we are always running low on this or that kind of kit! Right now, for example, we especially need CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets andBaby Care Kits.

Typically, appeals for funds for large-scale disasters meet their goals, but we are far short of our goal to meet recovery needs following this year’s many U.S. regional disasters – whose survivors are no less worthy of help as any other.

Read more here, and please contribute to Appeal #627-Y, U.S. Storms, Floods, Tornadoes and Wildfires. Contributions may be sent to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. Donations may also be made online.

Susanne Gilmore is a Church World Service Emergency Response Specialist, based in Manhattan, Kansas.