Hurricane Michael Relief Donations Fall Staggeringly Short

Image by David Herring/Shutterstock

The storm has passed, but the aftermath lingers. Hauntingly and so very real. It seems the world has moved on. But we cannot. We are reminded daily. The damage left scars on our once beautiful cities and landscape. It’s unmistakable and so very heartbreaking. While those outside the devastation can close a blind eye to all the destruction, we cannot.

The Tampa Bay Times posted an article that brings into stark and upsetting reality how little is being done outside the storm-ravaged areas to assist with recovery and rebuilding. The road ahead is a long one for residents in the afflicted areas. We cannot do this alone.

“Hurricane Michael was a major disaster, but big donors haven’t treated it as one,” the article states.

According to Emily L. Mahoney in a Times/Herald Tallahassee article, “The Panhandle’s low profile meant the media attention came and went, so the disaster never drew the major corporate donations that other storms did. That’s a harsh reality — just like the conditions in which thousands of Floridians still find themselves living more than three months after the storm struck. Tarps on roofs. Families still in shelters. People taking refuge in their cars.”

According to the Times/Herald analysis of contributions to three prominent national charities, donations to Hurricane Michael recovery fall far below donations for recent landmark hurricanes to hit the South such as Florence, Irma, and Harvey.

The level of damage left behind by Hurricane Michael, who barrelled into the Florida Panhandle on October 10, 2018, with 155-mph sustained winds, is catastrophic.

According to Mahoney, “Those who felt the full force of Michael were in Florida’s Panhandle, where state officials estimate property damage at nearly $5 billion. That’s more than Irma. Yet somehow, at least nationally, Hurricane Michael is not even a topic of conversation.”

In the Eye of the Storm: Stories of Survival and Hope from the Florida Panhandle is a collection of stories edited by Jennifer N. Fenwick, a life-long Panhandle resident who rode out the Category 4 (almost 5) storm with her family in Panama City, Florida. She was inspired by the stories, poetry, and images following the storm to compile this inspirational collection.

“I joined a FaceBook group called The Art of Michael, shortly after the storm. The words and images were so devastating, but at the same time so very poignant and real. It became a place to share. A place to grieve. And a place to heal.”

As the weeks went by, Fenwick realized that, as an author, she could do something positive for her community and for the area. She began reaching out to the individuals posting on the page, which led her to additional contacts and even more stories. Stories from survivors, from volunteers, from ordinary people who rode out the storm and who are making the best of the awful conditions they now find themselves living in.

“It’s been a collaborative effort. I shed many tears in the writing, but it was also cathartic. The resilience and strength of the people in this region is so worthy of recognition. I am so proud of the result.”

All royalties earned from the book, which was released on Amazon as both an eBook and hard copy on January 24, 2019, are being donated to the United Way of Northwest Florida Hurricane Michael Relief and Disaster Fund. 100% of Hurricane Michael donations are applied to LOCAL relief efforts in the Northwest Florida area.

“It was a natural extension of the project to use it to raise funds to assist our community in recovering and rebuilding,” said Fenwick, “We’re all in this together. Every little bit helps.”

Hurricane Michael made landfall on Oct. 10 last year, 161-mph winds and widespread flooding delivered the first blow. But since then — and perhaps worse — a paltry financial outpouring has prolonged the misery and delayed the recovery. Why? 

The Tampa Bay Times, October 29, 2019
Available now on AMAZON. Cover image by Cindy K. Sickles.