disaster relief

In Orange, Texas, just across the Sabine River from Louisiana, a line of cars hundreds deep snakes along a highway shoulder and into a parking lot. A local supermarket has set up an aid distribution center in the hot sun and humidity. Families are packed in their cars, waiting to get the basics: ice, water, a hot meal.

Hurricane Laura is the first major test of whether the Gulf Coast is prepared to handle two disasters at once. Coronavirus case numbers in Southwest Louisiana were already spiking at an alarming rate. Then a Category 4 hurricane came ashore.

Floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters can devastate a town in just a few hours. But the impact on residents can linger for years in the form of anxiety, depression or other mental health problems. 

A year ago today, 19 tornadoes touched down in Ohio, destroying homes and businesses in rural and urban areas alike. The largest of those tornados passed through the City of Dayton and several neighboring communities. WYSO’s Jason Reynolds has been talking with people in some of the hardest-hit communities to see where they are today.

Tom Chang in the dining room at Tiger + Lily.
Nick Evans / WOSU

Downtown Columbus isn’t exactly a ghost town, but it feels empty—hollowed out. Bars are closed, as are most retail storefronts, but a few restaurants are trying to hang on with takeout and delivery.

President Trump touched down Friday in Tennessee, where residents are still sorting through wreckage and seeking to rebuild after a series of deadly tornadoes blew through the state earlier this week.

Early Tuesday morning, a tornado ripped through Nashville and greater middle Tennessee, causing extensive destruction to homes and businesses and claiming the lives of 24 people across four counties. While not the only neighborhood to sustain widespread damage, East Nashville was hit particularly hard, delivering a harsh blow to the city's vibrant music and arts communities.

When a tornado tore through Old North Dayton on Memorial Day, one of the buildings destroyed was the neighborhood's last affordable, full-service grocery store.

Eight months later, that family shop is still working to reopen, so the neighborhood association and a local ministry are offering residents free rides to the nearest supermarket. WYSO News Reporter Jason Reynolds went shopping with them.

Updated at 5:27 p.m. ET

The Trump administration is releasing its hold on billions of dollars of aid to Puerto Rico after a months-long delay. But it is still unclear exactly when those funds will reach the hurricane-ravaged island.

The tranche of money, more than $8 billion, is allocated through a Department of Housing and Urban Development disaster recovery fund. It was supposed to be released months ago to help the island rebuild in the wake of devastating Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET

Thousands of people in Puerto Rico still don't have permanent shelter three days after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake walloped the Caribbean island, killing one man and injuring nine people. Millions still don't have electricity.

The quake has displaced an estimated 2,000 people, according to the humanitarian organization Direct Relief.

Seven months since the Memorial Day tornadoes left a path of devastation across the Miami Valley, some residents in Old North Dayton are struggling to return to normal and many homes that suffered damage in the storm remain covered with tarps or sit in disrepair.

After the Memorial Day tornado outbreak, many Old North Dayton residents donated to their neighborhood association instead of giving to regional or national groups such as the Red Cross or the Dayton Foundation.

It’s been almost seven months since an outbreak of tornadoes caused tens of millions of dollars in damage, displacing hundreds of people across the Miami Valley. 

Since then, an army of government agencies, volunteers and advocates have been working to help restore hard-hit communities and assist survivors.

One December event organized by two partnering churches was designed to provide a boost to storm-affected families ahead of the holidays.

People across the Miami Valley are continuing to clean up from the Memorial Day tornadoes. Among the strongest of the outbreak’s 15 twisters was an EF4 tornado that carved a path of destruction just north of downtown Dayton.

It hit Montgomery County’s Harrison Township especially hard, leaving almost 2,000 properties damaged. Now, six months after the storm, signs of recovery are visible in the small community. But for many Northridge residents, full recovery remains a far-off dream.

Sounds of construction fill the air in Northridge.

Nearly six months after the Memorial Day tornadoes, hundreds of people who sought federal disaster assistance continue to wait for final word on their applications. 

According to the latest Federal Emergency Management Agency data, 336 people across the 11-county disaster zone who applied for assistance are still working their way through the appeals process.

FEMA has already paid out more than $4.6 million in Individual Assistance grants. 

Relief and recovery efforts in the Bahamas are hampered by the sheer devastation of Hurricane Dorian. Entire communities are gone and roadways disappeared, making it difficult for responders to even know where to look or go.

Greene County officials are continuing to contend with massive quantities of organic debris left behind by an EF3 tornado that touched down in the area on Memorial Day.

Nearly 150,000 cubic yards of debris has been removed from Greene County properties since the storm hit -- that's enough to fill about five Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Greene County Administrator Brandon Huddleson says the debris is being stored at two sites: the county’s environmental services center and Cemex Reserve, a public park that contains wetland areas.

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