Hurricane Harvey, the first major hurricane to hit the United States in more than ten years, greatly impacted the residents on the east coast of Texas and areas in Louisiana; destroying homes, cutting out power, flooding access roads and forcing residents to flee to save their lives. Then Irma followed making landfall in Naples, Florida. It was the first time in history that two Category 4 storms hit the US mainland in the same year and within weeks of each other. Fortunately, our providers in Florida safely managed and withstood the impact of Irma as the hurricane weakened to a Category 2 shortly after landfall as it made its way up the gulf coast of Florida.
[Photo of a Scioto home in Texas, under water]
Scioto has over 200 homes in the coastal plains of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida and it was a blessing that there were no reported deaths and only 43 homes thus far were reported with damaged roofs, fencing, and fallen trees. In Texas, eight of the 43 homes had damaging flooding (including three homes that look like the picture above).
It was necessary to move quickly, review the impact areas and contact our providers to check on their safety, address their immediate needs and offer to provide temporary housing, replacement properties, and to coordinate all insurance claims and repairs. During a disaster like this, the focus needs to be on the safety of the people. Many of our providers were not only concerned for the people they support but also for their employees and their families.
Scioto coordinated with its Risk Management partner to offer our providers someone they could work with to review insurance information and identify local brokers to locate temporary housing. They also helped identify companies that specialize in disaster relief to assess the damage and coordinate needed repairs in the aftermath. Scioto contacted the local area realtors to quickly identify properties for Scioto to purchase and/or rent to assist with displaced individuals with disabilities and for employees that had lost their homes. The Provider Associations in Texas, Florida, and National ANCOR, were also contacted to coordinate efforts and to offer Scioto’s assistance and capabilities.
Scioto worked with approximately ten providers in Texas and Florida that were impacted by Harvey. In some cases, these providers opened their own personal homes to assist the people in need. One provider had their work center and business offices completely flooded for a total loss. Another provider evacuated 24 IDD individuals, and their 21 employees with their family members and pets. Yet another one had to evacuate their Texas program and moved to Louisiana for relief.
I was very fearful for the potential loss of life and other tragic results. We are fortunate to hear from our providers that there have been no reported deaths. Having been a provider for over 15 years in the I/DD industry I recognize the work that providers needed to do to evacuate individuals and employees - it was nothing less than heroic.
There are two more months to go in hurricane season, and activity in the Atlantic is still brewing. As I write this, another Category 5 hurricane (Maria) has left Puerto Rico as devastated as the rest of us, if not more so.
As we assess the devastation that Harvey and Irma have left we will now have to pick up the pieces to clean up, rebuild, and attempt to recover from these catastrophic events. Scioto will continue to coordinate with the local efforts in the affected areas and offer our immediate services. Our near and long term support will require tremendous community efforts to provide care and support to the individuals with disabilities in these affected areas to maintain their health and independence.
Our relationships and partnerships with the provider associations both locally and with national ANCOR are very valuable. These long-term relationships are especially important during a disaster when we all need to pull together to support each other and the people we serve. I am very proud of our long-term partners, their individuals and employee’s courage, and the manner we have all worked together to withstand what has thus far been an extraordinary year.