Harvey relief effort unites Americans

There is no question that the United States faces deep divisions when it comes to policy issues. In many ways, it has always been thus. Americans often disagree on the nature of the problems and the priorities, never mind the solutions.

Our elected leaders are supposed to sort out these differences, using compromise and deal making to form coherent policy. It seems like a very long time before that worked well.

But if there is a silver lining in the aftermath of the devastating flooding that hit the Houston area, it is that Americans proved again that despite their differences they pull together to help fellow Americans in need.

At bake sales and fire station collection points, via fundraising events held by private businesses and campaigns pushed by celebrities, citizens here in southeastern Connecticut and across this country have donated generously with the goal of trying to ease the suffering they’ve witnessed in news coverage of the Houston disaster.

There has been no accounting of how many charitable donations in cash and material donations have been generated so far — it’s too much money generated from too many diverse sources to do that — but if the effort seen in our little slice of the country is any indication, the support will prove impressive.

It will have to be. AccuWeather, the private weather consulting business, has estimated total losses will reach $190 billion, about 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. If that estimates proves close to accurate, Harvey will become the nation’s most costly weather disaster. The estimate is about equal to the combined recovery costs of Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy.

Consider that after much wrangling, Congress ultimately approved a $50 billion relief package for the Sandy relief effort. The amount approved for the Harvey recovery could dwarf that. Whatever the total, the private donations will be needed to close a funding gap.

Meanwhile, the nation faces the threat of another hurricane disaster. Hurricane Irma is churning through the Caribbean. Sustained winds were clocked Tuesday at an astonishing 180 mph, well past the maximum Category 5 standard. Odds are high that Irma could make landfall in Florida and potentially, in the days following, spread flooding and wind damage along the Eastern Seaboard.

It has been more than a century since two Category 4 or above cyclones hit the mainland in one hurricane season. If it happens, the nation’s ability to respond to disaster will be sorely tested.

 

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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