In The Wake Of Historic Natural Disasters, We Need To Prioritize Helping Longterm

Aug 3, 2022 at 2:14 pm
Flooding in Eastern Kentucky.
Flooding in Eastern Kentucky. Photo Courtesy of the Governor's Communication Office.

The footage from the Eastern Kentucky flooding has been absolutely jarring, as historic water levels quickly submerged multiple communities, leading to heartbreaking damage and a rising death toll.

As of Tuesday at noon, there were 37 confirmed fatalities in five counties, with searches for missing people still underway.

From a distance, it’s always hard to know exactly how to help during disasters that happen fast and morph rapidly. We see our neighbors viscerally suffering, but sometimes we’re unsure of where to begin the process of contributing or volunteering.

Right now, for the average person, that likely starts with donations. Gov. Andy Beshear has established the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund, a centralized, state-run web donation portal where 100% of the money goes to those affected. There are also many more donation outlets, such as the fund set up by the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky. The day this issue hits stands, on Wednesday, Aug. 3, the city of Louisville is holding a donation drive from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. to pack SOS trucks that will be parked in front of Metro Hall (527 W. Jefferson St.) with general hygiene products to send to Eastern Kentucky (the list for which you can find on the city’s website). Small Louisville businesses are also hosting drives, like Headliners Music Hall, which is giving a pair of tickets to anyone who donates a gift card from 2-6 p.m. through Friday, Aug. 5, at the venue’s box office. These giving opportunities will continue to pop up around town via social media. Water, cleaning supplies and hygiene products seem to be currently the most needed things. Give what you can.

But, maybe the most important thing that we can do is not let this disaster fade from memory after the breaking news cools down. In a few weeks, there will be fewer devastating updates, less catastrophic images and not as heavy of a spotlight on the still-developing situation, but it will take those communities affected years to rebuild. The same goes for the areas of Western Kentucky that were torn apart by tornadoes last December.

There aren’t quick, patch-up fixes that will swiftly bring everything back to normal. They’re going to be grueling, time-consuming rebuilds that will be ongoing for a very long time. If we want to help as individuals, we should make a continued effort to be involved: Donate now, check in to see what they need in a month, a year, two years, etc. Often, when natural disasters strike, and the danger level is still high, or rescue operations are still in play, officials tell people from outside the region not to randomly drive in, so roads don’t get jammed up. Everyone wants to help in the moment, and that’s natural. But, in a month, the need for volunteers might be extremely high. Let’s stay tuned in and give them what they need.

In terms of the natural disasters themselves, we can’t become numb to them, like it’s part of some apocalyptic new normal that we shrug off like America sadly continues to do when a mass shooting occurs. These disasters will almost certainly ramp up, but we have to stay vigilant and helpful. Of course, we’ll have to have a lot of tough conversations about climate change.

For only being two years into the decade, it’s been a tough ’20s for the Commonwealth: COVID, the police killing of Breonna Taylor, the tornadoes, the floods, rapid inflation that accelerated the housing market and raised rent to financially crushing prices. An age of radical volunteerism is needed. The organizations to get involved with are out there, we just need to open up our time and wallets. We have to remember everyone who’s suffering.

This is a note to myself, as much as it is to anyone else.

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