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Hurricanes pound communities in Texas, Florida

The 2017 hurricane season is not over yet

%E2%80%9CCaptured+by+the+GOES-16+satellite+on+August+25%2C+2017+at+23%3A00+UTC%2C+this+image+shows+Hurricane+Harvey+as+it+reaches+peak+intensity+of+Category+4+with+maximum+sustained+winds+of+130+mph.%E2%80%9D+%28NOAA+National+Environmental+Satellite%2C+Data%2C+and+Information+Service%29
“Captured by the GOES-16 satellite on August 25, 2017 at 23:00 UTC, this image shows Hurricane Harvey as it reaches peak intensity of Category 4 with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph.” (NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service)

“Captured by the GOES-16 satellite on August 25, 2017 at 23:00 UTC, this image shows Hurricane Harvey as it reaches peak intensity of Category 4 with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph.” (NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service)

“Captured by the GOES-16 satellite on August 25, 2017 at 23:00 UTC, this image shows Hurricane Harvey as it reaches peak intensity of Category 4 with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph.” (NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service)

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Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria. Now household names, these hurricanes have left severe damage in their paths and have battered countless communities.

Hurricane Harvey, which began about 365 miles east of Barbados, an island in the Caribbean, is a prime example of different categories of storms. Emerging as a “Potential Tropical Cyclone” (less a Tropical Depression, or TD) on August 17, the storm maintained a low classification for many days, before quickly gaining speed and transitioning from a Category 1 storm to a Category 4 in around 30 hours.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. (The Weather Company)

A screenshot of a graphic representing the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. (The Weather Company)

Making initial landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas, the hurricane gave other areas, such as Houston, over two feet of rain—enough that the National Weather Service had to add a new color of precipitation to their forecast maps. But rebuilding and cleaning up much of southeast Texas after Harvey is almost an even more daunting task than predicting the weather.

Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has publicly stated that the restoration of homes, businesses, and infrastructure will likely take several years.

“FEMA is going to be there for years,” Mr. Long told CNN a few weeks back.

The immediate future impact however, is much more uncertain.

The Robert M. Beren Academy, a Modern Orthodox, K-12 Jewish day school located in Houston, has seen the effects of Hurricane Harvey firsthand.

Gavriella Roisman, the school’s former Director of Admissions and Retention, and current Flood Relief Coordinator, said that “the immediate issue is finding housing for everybody.”

Roisman mentioned that in the Houston Jewish community, there are at least 1,000 reported Jewish households affected by flooding, in addition to eight of the major Jewish organizations there. As for Beren Academy, she said about a quarter of the student body, which numbers around 300, is in flood impacted homes that are either partially or totally uninhabitable. About 30 percent of the faculty is also affected. Overall, she said, “there’s a lot of traumatic stress.”

After ensuring that people have housing, though, Roisman made it clear that the school’s second biggest concern is keeping students in a Jewish school.

“We don’t want families to have to choose between a new apartment and keeping their kids in a Jewish school,” she continued. “Financial support is the most meaningful for families [and schools].”

Despite the situation, she expressed hope that students would learn from the experience and end up contributing to future communities they are a part of.

“The entire Jewish community has rallied behind us. We’re overwhelmed by the generosity of every Jewish community in the country. This natural disaster has [brought] out the best parts of humanity,” Roisman told The RamPage.

The Emery/Weiner School, a Jewish middle and high school also in the Houston area, could not be reached for comment by press time. However, according to the school’s Facebook page, they did not sustain significant damage and, during the school’s closure, mobilized students and faculty to volunteer in their area.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Gulf, communities across Western and Southern Florida are just beginning to recover from Hurricane Irma. While the storm hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, both in the Caribbean, as a Category 5 hurricane, it had significantly weakened by the time it hit the Sunshine State as a Category 3 storm on September 10. Still, it broke records as the most powerful hurricane to reach the U.S. since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, prompting FEMA to prepare room for over 100,000 people in emergency shelters.

In the immediate period after Irma had coasted up Florida and was approaching Georgia and Alabama, there were an estimated 6.5 million customers without power across Florida, adding up to as many as fifteen million people. In Georgia, there were around 1.5 million customers without power, including many Weber students and faculty. An estimated 371,000 households still lack electricity in Florida, according to Reuters.

The David Posnack Day School, a K-12 Jewish day school outside of Miami, issued a statement on their website that the school would remain closed due to only having partial power and a lack of air conditioning. The Posnack School reopened on September 18.

“We are all grateful that the storm was not worse than experienced, but that does not make the challenges following the storm any easier on our students,” the statement read.

The school could not be reached for comment.

Moving forward, in both Texas and Florida, recovery will take time. In Texas, it will require an estimated $200 million in order for the city and state to get rid of approximately eight million cubic yards of debris, according to The Wall Street Journal. But immediate cleanup is important. Per WIRED magazine, if people “put [storm debris] into unlined landfills…it can contaminate groundwater.” This is on top of the risk posed by the toxic substances contained in the numerous flooded oil and chemical facilities scattered throughout southeast Texas. Still, many residents in both states continue to have trouble.

As Jose and Maria prepare to embrace the eastern seaboard, FEMA has made clear that they are ready.  At one point, Maria strengthened from a Category 1 hurricane to Category 5 in one day.

“Despite everything that’s going on, this is what we train for,” Mr. Long, the FEMA administrator, told The New York Times.

The National Hurricane Center, part of the National Weather Service and NOAA, says the Atlantic hurricane season ends November 30.

For up-to-date information on weather and hurricanes, visit weather.gov or nhc.noaa.gov. For weather preparedness and emergency response, visit ready.gov or fema.gov.

UPDATE: Hurricane Maria recently weakened to a Category 1 storm. Additionally, Hurricane Jose has dissipated.

UPDATED 11/5/17 to reflect adherence to the AP Stylebook.

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