People can and will rise above partisanship when the need is greatest. Emergency aid is on its way to the Bahamas following the horror of Hurricane Dorian. People are donating money, supplies, whatever they can.

Leaders can rise above partisanship, too. We saw that after Democratic state Rep. Shervin Jones, a Bahamian-American, asked President Donald Trump’s administration to waive visa requirements for residents of the Bahamas seeking refuge after Dorian.

Republican U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott quickly endorsed the request. Good on them.

If that means more people moving into Florida soon, we’ll all scoot a little closer together and make room for as long as it takes. It’s what decent human beings do in a crisis.

But the frequency and severity of these storms raise an uncomfortable question. Can aid workers, volunteers, and even the government keep up with nature’s wrath? Workers sometimes can’t complete repairs at one disaster site before another storm hits somewhere else.

Business Insider reported in July that FEMA’s disaster workforce was already stretched to the brink.

In several places along Florida’s east coast, residents are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. That storm delivered a ferocious punch nearly three years ago.

The same goes for victims of Hurricane Irma in 2017. And we know about the plight of residents in the Panhandle to rebuild after Hurricane Michael last year.

Now we can pile the apocalyptic wrath of Dorian on top of that, but where do relief workers start? To me, that’s the next big crisis that states like Florida will face as catastrophic hurricanes just keep coming.

Dorian is still at work, too, pushing up the east coast.

Of course, anyone with a heart bleeds for people in the Bahamas. It is a humanitarian crisis, just as it was in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria delivered a lethal blow in 2017.

But we were just as shaken when Michael roared ashore in North Florida. The images were horrifying, and the human toll was unimaginable.

Volunteers and professionals mobilize when disaster looms, and they move as quickly as possible to render assistance. On a level like we see now in the Bahamas, though, only so much can be done.

The scope of the damage is incredible, and repairs or rebuilds would take years, even if that were the only place that needed help.

It isn’t.

It’s not just about home repairs, either. Displaced people need food, jobs, clothing, a safe place to stay. Kids need to attend school. Some need counseling. They are scared, confused, and trying to piece it together.

People do the best they can to help, as they will this time.

But what if Dorian had wobbled a few miles to the west and parked over South Florida? That would have been a catastrophe that even exceeded Hurricane Michael. Could aid have kept up?

Except, now, well, the unimaginable has become a routine part of living in coastal areas.

The storms are getting larger and deadlier. We are trained to believe we can always restore normal for those victims of a disaster.

What if the day comes, though, when we can’t?


Recommended for you

Load comments