Less than a week after hurricane winds and rain pummeled Houston, Texas, organizations across the country and all the way in Forsyth County are working to provide victims relief from the storm, which made landfall late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane and has since lingered just off the coast, taunting the city with more rain.
Hurricane Harvey, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, is expected to drop at least two dozen more inches of rain through Friday, prompting concern for the already historic flood drenching the city.
How to help
Local companies have already pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars, but financial aid is always needed in such disasters, which can incur billions of dollars’ worth of damages.
- Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund
- Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt’s You Caring fundraiser
- Check with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster for a list of trusted disaster-relief organizations in Texas
- The Red Cross or at other local blood drives always accept donations
- Visit the Houston Humane Society or the San Antonio Humane Society
- San Antonio’s Texas Diaper Bank is asking for diapers and wipes to be dropped off or mailed
Many are making comparisons to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and left nearly 2,000 dead, and while Houston has only confirmed a handful of deaths, Forsyth locals are doing what they can to help with Katrina’s aftermath in mind.
“We work through Samaritan’s Purse, a domestic and international relief organization, and are in the process of hearing from them what [Houston] residents need,” said Brian Haas, a pastor at Mountain Lake Church, which has campuses in north Forsyth and Dawsonville. “We headed up a team that went to Louisiana last year when the Baton Rouge [floods] happened and brought flood relief buckets.
“In the upcoming weeks, we’ll probably take several trips to [Texas] to see where we’re needed, but Houston is probably the main focus point.”
Haas said flood buckets — 5-gallon Lowe’s or Home Depot buckets that contain cleaning supplies — have been welcomed by flood victims in the past.
“Every resident and homeowner we handed the [buckets] to was appreciative,” Haas said. “Of course, we’ll take all sorts of donations, but those are what people really can use.”
According to The Associated Press, as of Monday, Houston’s 911 system had received and processed 75,000 calls since Harvey flooded many parts of the city, including nearly 20,000 calls from 10 p.m. Sunday to mid-afternoon Monday. 911 calls for the area usually average about 9,000 or 10,000 per day.
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is on-scene, the agency told the federal government its response to Harvey is “quickly drawing down” its disaster fund reserves, which are just more than $3 billion.
In total, Katrina inflicted more than $100 billion in damage, which is why officials say prolonged aid efforts from organizations states away are just as important as an immediate response.
“The American Red Cross has sent six volunteers and one staff [member] who are in Texas, with others likely on the way,” said Laura Allen, executive director of Northeast Georgia’s Red Cross. “We’re thankful for the dedication of volunteers who are willing to help those in need, and [those] who would like to volunteer with the Red Cross can visit redcross.org.”
Allen added while locals may want to provide food or clothing, those items often do more harm than good because it “takes time and money to store, sort, clean and distribute donated items, which diverts limited time and resources away from helping those most affected.”
Financial donations are most useful if volunteering is not an option.
Haas said Mountain Lake Church also has volunteer opportunities outside of Red Cross, though on a smaller scale.
“We will be sending a team to Texas — it’s looking like the week of Sept. 18,” he said. “We’re not the only people doing something and we’re just a local community church, but sometimes that community goes beyond Georgia. Sometimes local community means going to Baton Rouge or South Carolina or Texas.”