What you’re not hearing about Hurricane Matthew

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While some New College students worried that their fall break would be ruined by Hurricane Matthew’s terrible timing as it made its way up the East Coast, others worried for the safety of their family and friends who would be effected in other countries. Matthew was a record breaking storm that did major damage in many countries. However, American media is not famous for its coverage of current events in other countries, and this storm was handled no differently.

 Instead of discussing the hurricane’s impact on other countries, American media favored images of boarded up windows and empty grocery store shelves. Some sources even tried to dilute the over-saturation of serious storm coverage by adding politics into the mix.

The Drudge Report stirred up controversy by stating that it might be over-hyped by liberal media in an attempt to prove climate change real. Other sources attempted to create meme’s of the storm, and some news anchors didn’t make it hard for media to do this.

“This storm will kill you, it will kill your children, it will kill your pets and everyone you know,” Fox News anchor “Shep” Smith said in a video that would become viral and inspire multiple memes.

Despite the jokes, Matthew was a serious storm that shattered records for storms of this type. The Washington Post called Matthew one of the highest Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) generators in the last 50 years. 

Matthew ended a nine-year streak without a category five hurricane in the Atlantic Basin – the last hurricane of this strength was Hurricane Felix in 2007. It was also named the longest lived hurricane of this strength in this area and the longest lived hurricane ever after September.  And it had the third fastest intensification in a 24-hour period, falling only behind Hurricane Felix, once again, and Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Because of this intensity and lengthened period of activity, Matthew left a long trail of destruction in its wake. But, areas outside of the United States were hardly, if at all, covered by American media and most people do not know the extent of the damage in other countries. 

The Lesser Antilles

Matthew passed through the Lesser Antilles, island countries located North of South America and South of Puerto Rico, on Sept. 28. In preparation for the storm, island countries off the coast of South America prepared by closing schools, cancelling flights in and out of the area, closing down businesses and government operations, even opening shelters for people seeking refuge from the storm’s effects.  

While passing over Barbados that day, Matthew was determined to be a tropical storm. Sustained winds of up to 39 Miles Per Hour (mph) were reported.  Officials across the area issued tropical storm watches, that later turned to warnings in anticipation of Matthew on Sept. 28.

On the Island of St. Lucia six shelters opened and 133 residents took refuge in them according to the St. Lucia Times.  The hurricane passed over the island on Sept. 29 and the shelters closed the next day. There were no reported deaths due to the storm on the island. However, flooding and a major loss of agriculture with an up to 85 percent loss of agriculture in some areas. Loss of power was also an issue with loss reported with up to 70 percent of users.

In response to the storm the National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) was fully activated by the government in St. Lucia. The St. Lucia Red Cross distributed nonfood items to over three hundred people and crews were sent out to examine the damage.

According to on the Island of St. Vincent one person died as a result of Hurricane Matthew. They were attempting to alleviate flooding by removing a boulder from their gutter according to The Jamaica Observer.

In Martinique a wind gust of 89 mph was reported in St. Pierre. Throughout the island 55,000 people were left without power and 4,000 without water. Three people sustained minor injuries that were blamed on the hurricane.

The Électricité de France requested additional crews from Guadalupe and French Guinea to help restore power to those who lost it during the storm. Schools in the area were able to reopen on Sept. 30.

South America 

Among other records broken by Matthew, it was the lowest reaching storm of this intensity, beating out the previous record holder, Ivan in 2004. This means that Matthew was able to cause destruction in parts of South America in a way that was completely unique from what has ever been seen in these areas due to a hurricane.

As Matthew moved across the area to become a category four storm while passing over warm waters in the area and residents were urged to take it as a serious threat.  In preparation of the storm, tropical storm watches were declared on Sept. 28 for ArubaBonaireCuraçao, and the northern coast of Colombia from the Colombia–Venezuela border to Riohacha. In Columbia, the watch was later upgraded to a warning. Officials closed beaches and opened shelters across the area.

Residents in the ABC islands were advised to board up their homes and stock up on supplies which led to long lines causing images similar to those that over-saturated the media in the United States.

Because of the storm, Curaçao’s government postponed their 2016 general election until Oct. 5. In Aruba, the first Kingdom Tournament – which was originally scheduled from Oct. 3 to Oct. 6 – was cancelled due to unforeseen effects of the storm. Residents in this area were advised by the government to stay indoors.

It tore through an area that had had very little recorded rainfall for the last four years. According to The Washington Post at least 18 houses were damaged in the floods in La Gujira. Later, one person would die as a result of the hurricane due to flash flooding in Uribia. This flooding prevented many Columbian citizens from voting in an important peace referendum with the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. It was reported that up to 70 percent of urban areas experienced some form of flooding, which included polling areas.

However, government officials tried to stay positive about the effects of the storm. “Families that evacuated are returning to their homes,” La Guajira Governor Jorge Velez told Associated Press.

“The dikes and wells filled up, the earth is moist, and this benefits agriculture in an area where it hasn’t rained for five years, benefiting the community.”

The Caribbean

Yet another record was broken by Matthew in Jamaica, according to Florida State University (FSU). FSU researchers did a study to determine how many hurricanes have hit Jamaica since 1851 which is when reliable hurricane records trace back to. They found that between 1886 and 1995 only 12 hurricanes made landfall on Jamaica and none were as strong as Matthew. Matthew was also one of only two storms that had ever approached from the South – the other storm being Hurricane Sandy, which was only a category two storm when it passed through.

However, many Jamaicans remember the destruction that Hurricane Ivan left in its wake in 2004 and many rushed to stores to prepare, even in the little amount of time that they had. The scene was again similar to that of the United States, but in a much more rushed fashion. Matthew passed over the region beginning on Monday Oct. 1 and despite the preparations two fishermen were reported dead due to the storm.

 People in the Bahamas were forced to re-live Hurricane Joaquin, a category four hurricane that occurred nearly a year ago and devastated the islands when Matthew impacted them. Matthew began its passage through the chain of islands on Oct. 2 and spent most of its time at peak strength here. A 10 to 15-foot storm surge was projected for potentially the entire chain of islands.

Many people reported power outages, but crews immediately got to work trying to clear debris and get electricity back. Luckily, the eye of the storm passed to the south leaving many residents with less damages than originally expected.

In the Dominican Republic, officials were forced to evacuate up to 800 people and 18,000 people were sheltered with friends. During the storm, a weather station there measured nearly nine inches of rain to have fallen on the country when Matthew made impact and officials reported that storm force winds of 60 kilometers per hour (kph) could last for hours. The storm is blamed for four deaths in the area.

In order to help victims of Matthew in the Caribbean and surrounding areas, T-Mobile made it free to text from the United States to the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos. They will also waived roaming fees on calls and texts for customers in Bahamas, Bermuda, Haiti, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos through Oct. 7.

Cuba

In preparation for the storm more than one million Cubans were evacuated from their homes, according to a state run news channel Cubavision. The channel ran storm advisories on a loop warning people to get out of unsafe areas. Cuban authorities worked hard to evacuate up to 1.3 million people and volunteer civil defense members went door to door to help warn residents.

Luckily for the island country however, the storm shifted from its original target of Santiago de Cuba the Island’s second biggest city to the of Eastern coast which is much more sparsely populated.

The state media of Cuba reported no immediate signs of serious damage according to Associated Press. However, the Los Angeles Times reported extensive damage to the island’s northeastern coast and The Telegraph reported that the town of Baracoa was destroyed. 

However, the Cuban government refuses to accept US aid and USAID – the US government’s international development department, has not flown any aid into Cuba, and have not been asked to despite the fact that they are helping out in other affected nations. While other organizations are trying to help they have to jump through hoops to do so. Since there is no wholesale market in Cuba, and buying goods in large quantities would leave less for the rest of the population, relief organizations are sent money to buy goods little by little making the situation less than ideal.

Haiti

Haiti was easily hardest hit by Matthew, and most commonly covered by American Media. The Washington Post called Matthew the “largest humanitarian event” in Haiti since the devastating earthquake of January 2010.

Matthew plowed through the country and destroyed agriculture and roads in the southeast part of the country, with predictions that it could drop as much as 40 inches of rain in some places and a warning of storm surges as large as ten feet. With a faulty infrastructure due to the earthquake in 2010, the government was determined to learn from their mistakes.

In wake of the storm the government insisted that all aid go through them. They want communities to stay where they are so that they can rebuild and become self-supporting when the aid stops.

However, due to a Cholera outbreak, the death toll due to the storm has been climbing rapidly and the country remains deserving of its spot in the American media spotlight.

How to help

Unfortunately, there is no official Facebook filter that users can use to spread awareness for this issue, however there are ways that we can help. Keeping in mind that money is the most helpful resource that you can give here are a few examples of places that you can donate to and things that you can do to help:

  • Haiti Communitere is an organization that is helping in areas around Port-Au-Prince in Haiti.
  • The Haitian Health Foundation is a reputable organization working in the area to improve the health of women, children and families in the area
  • SOIL works with communities in Haiti on ecological sanitation which is extremely important based on the recent Cholera outbreak and they have sent a team to help in affected areas.
  • Spreading awareness for little known organizations can help them get more donations over well-known organizations that often to less to help.
  • In wake of the storm it is also important to buy locally in affected countries to avoid creating a second man made crisis. 

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