The final toll of Hurricane Irma is nowhere near clear yet, but preliminary estimates painted a dire picture for residents of the American southeast. Federal, state, and local government officials stressed a need to prepare for the worst in the state of Florida, after seeing the storm wreak all kinds of havoc in the Caribbean.
The damage done by Hurricane Harvey provided something of a warning shot for Florida residents, who saw what can happen when citizens pass on evacuating during a devastating natural disaster. That doesn't mean the circumstances were any less dire: over 1.5 million homes in Florida were without power by Sunday, and nearly 120,000 people were placed in emergency shelters in an effort to remain safe.
Though there's a lot of time and devastation still to come, getting out ahead of the damage is important in relief efforts. Some prominent figures have already stepped up to lend a hand in repair efforts, including former Spurs star Tim Duncan. The usually silent big man penned a heartfelt piece for The Players' Tribune, promising to match donations that go toward helping the U.S. Virgin Islands heal post-Irma.
“Coach [Gregg Popovich] has always been a ‘say less, do more’ kind of person, and I’ve always admired that in him and tried my best to follow his example,” said Duncan. "But Pop also knows when it’s time to talk, so in that spirit I want to take a moment to tell you why my home is so special, and why it needs your help so urgently right now."
Florida, the Virgin Islands, and many surrounding areas will need your help in the months to come. If you're interested in making a difference, here are a few ways you can lend a hand to the recovery effort.
- If you're an able-bodied person who lives in Florida, you can volunteer at one of the many emergency shelters set up for Irma. You can sign up to volunteer online through Volunteer Florida, a state-run organization, or call 1-800-FL-Help-1
- The American Red Cross is accepting money for food and shelter, as well as "emotional support" for the victims of Hurricane Irma
- GlobalGiving is accepting money that they will distribute to local groups/charities on the ground that have been vetted ahead of time, in addition to other larger charities
- The Salvation Army is asking for charitable donations so they can provide thousands of meals to people throughout the state
- Monetary donations in some form may, in fact, be the best way to help if you can't be there in person. USAID's Center for International Disaster Information explains that while food, clothing, and other items may be helpful, they require transportation and pre-planned delivery to be effective. This can be expensive and logistically difficult, wasting precious time during a time of serious need.
- By the same token, make sure your money is going toward reputable charities during this chaotic time. One way to do that is by checking with the Better Business Bureau, or to use the Federal Trade Commission's tips for identifying the right charity to donate to
- Nurses who live in Florida are specifically being asked to help out at special-needs shelters. The state is looking for 1,000 volunteer nurses to help here
- AirBNB is allowing hosts in the affected region offer up their home for free for evacuees during the storm
- GoFundMe is allowing users to crowdfund relief funds on their own and has also set up the Direct Impact Fund, set up by the company to help maximize the impact of donations.