As Hurricane Matthew tore through the Caribbean, I was so sure that this would finally put climate change at the top of the Presidential debate conversation. That itself is a sad commentary: it’s the hottest year ever, several states have recently experienced catastrophic flooding, and California remains in deep, deep drought. But surely one of the strongest storms ever in the East Caribbean, heading through Haiti, and primed to smash the Southeast coast of the US – this couldn’t be ignored.
But as too often happens, the media and the politicians found something else to focus on. Over 900 lives were lost due to Matthew, most in Haiti, where a public heath disaster is unfolding now. (Donate to Haiti relief here) At least 20 were in the US, where the storm set surge records and set off ongoing flooding in the Carolinas. As it approached, we emailed climate activists in the path of the storm to ask them what it was like to deal with a possible disaster while our leaders so steadfastly avoid taking the steps we need to confront this crisis.
Some of the answers we got are below. I wanted to share them because I think it’s important for politicians and the media to hear directly from the people they’re ignoring when they ignore the climate crisis. We’re also hosting a Climate Check Forum Monday October 17th at 6 PM Eastern to bring out the real climate debate that is needed in this critical time.
Here are some stories from the storm.
Hurricane Matthew has ripped my apartment apart. My car got crashed into a tree because of the 90mph winds, then that tree fell on my apartment’s steps, and crushed one of my legs. I don’t have insurance to pay for that car and I certainly don’t have the money to get surgery done to my leg. I’m stuck in the hospital with a stitched cheek, dislocated leg, ripped lip and a cracked neck. Not fun. We couldn’t even evacuate because of them closing the road to get to the main highway. – Yuki
Glenn wrote this as the storm approached:
We are hunkered down in the Historic District of Wilmington. We came downstairs when the tornado warning came on. We are in pounding rain and heavy wind. Branches have fallen. We have hours of severe weather to go. Lights have been flickering, so some people are loosing power. Flooding is expected in low lying areas, which includes much of the region. – Glenn, 11:20 am Saturday October 8th
From Marian in Georgia:
We live in Skidaway Island, which is a barrier island off the coast of Savannah GA. We had a mandatory evacuation as of 8:00 AM Thursday morning. I spent 4 1/2 hours on the phone Wednesday to get the last available room in Atlanta. Our home is surrounded by 150 ft pine trees, and is at an elevation of 17.5 ft. The storm surge was 12.5 ft added to a 6.5 ft high tide. I didn’t know if my house flooded. Sustained winds of 50 mph were reported, with maximum gusts up to 80 mph. Three hundred thousand homes in Chatham county were without electricity.
First responders will be the only people let onto the island today, and only after the winds have died considerably. The 2 bridges to our island had to be inspected also, before people are allowed back.
We had planned to return home Sunday morning, but my husband suggested that we spend Sunday night also in Atlanta. He also suggested that we try to find a hotel near home, in case our house is not livable, but all the nearby hotels were already booked for Monday and Tuesday night. The nearest hotel we could find is about 45 minutes from my home.
In the end we had well over 17 inches of rain, and over 700 trees in my community toppled between the rain and winds. A few of my friends had trees smash through their houses. It’s very important for people to know that this is the climate we are to expect if we don’t change to renewables quickly! – Marian
Lisa describes what it’s like to leave a place you love and not know what it will look like when you return:
Driving away from the place I love and call home gave me a sickening feeling. I have 2 parakeets and a goldfish I had to take with me, and it was stressful thinking about my home and things I loved being destroyed. I took what I could in my car, but many of the things I had to leave were sentimental and irreplaceable. I put them in a closet hoping they would be safe there.
it is a horrible feeling leaving things that are a part of your life and family history behind thinking they might be lost forever. Thankfully, there was only tree debris and a soggy yard to come home to, but many others did not end up so lucky. – Lisa