By: Keeba Smith
Hurricane Matthew formed September 28, 2016 and dissipated October 10, 2016. It was the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007. It was also the second major hurricane of the five named hurricanes of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season. It brought widespread destruction and catastrophic loss of life during its journey across the Western Atlantic. Matthew tore through Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, the Lucayan Archipelago, the southern United States, and the Canadian Maritimes. Hurricane Matthew caused a total of 603 deaths, including 546 in Haiti, 47 in the United States, 4 in Cuba, 4 in the Dominican Republic, 1 in Colombia and 1 in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It was the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Stan in 2005, which killed 1,668 in Central America. Matthew caused $15 billion in estimated damages in the United States alone. It was the most destructive United States Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
In preparation of Hurricane Matthew, governors of Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia (13 counties) declared a state of emergency. The governor of South Carolina ordered a mandatory evacuation of residents that lived within a hundred miles of the coast. Following South Carolina’s suit, the governor of North Carolina also issued a mandatory evacuation. Georgia’s governor later issued a mandatory evacuation for all areas of the state east of Interstate 95. Florida’s governor urged over 1.5 million people to evacuate after President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency for Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
In Florida, Port Canaveral was closed by the Coast Guard for the first time since 2004 causing eight cruise ships and four cargo ships to redirected. Kennedy Space Center prepared for Matthew by disconnecting electrical power to non-essential facilities. Walt Disney World Resort was closed for the fourth time in its 45-year history. LSU versus Florida Southeastern Conference football matchup in Gainesville, FL was cancelled. Charlotte Motor Speedway postponed its NASCAR Driver for the Cure 300 races and the Bank of America 500 race.
The storm killed 47 people in the United States – including 26 in North Carolina, 12 in Florida, 3 in Georgia, 4 in South Carolina, and 2 in Virginia. Florida received $2.7 billion in damages when over 100 million people were left without power across the state. Flooding was reported in areas of Jacksonville cause by the St. Johns River. Georgia received less than $90 million leaving over 250,000 customers without power. Matthew caused the major damage and destruction in both Carolinas. In South Carolina at least 600,00 individuals lost power and a significant flooding was reported in Charleston after the seawall was breached. It cost roughly $249.6 million in damages. North Carolina reported the most number of US deaths (26). Record river crest and over 10 inches of rain caused massive flooding to many areas. Over 100,000 structures were flooded across the state leaving roughly $1.6 billion in damages. Virginia and the Northeast received heavy rain, high winds and minor flooding which resulted in roughly $58.14 million dollars in damages.
INITIAL ENVIRONMENTAL/ HEALTH AFFECT
High-water flooding events on the scale of Hurricane Matthew can cause changes in water quality that affect human health and the environment and result in high constituent water-quality loads by flushing large quantities of nutrients, sediment, pesticides, and bacteria into downstream waters and estuaries. Excessive nutrients in rivers, streams, and coastal areas can cause algal blooms that result in hypoxic conditions and threaten valuable commercial and recreational fisheries.
Limited contact with flood water are recommended because of the high levels of raw sewage or other hazardous substances. Children should be protected from chemicals and diseases in flood water. Behavior such as crawling or placing objects in their mouths can increase a child’s risk of exposure and sickness.
Mold can cause serious health problems. The key to mold control is moisture control. It is important to remove standing water and dry indoor areas. Remove and discard anything that has been wet for more than 24-48 hours. When cleaning mold, it is important to dress properly by wearing gloves, an N-95 respirator and goggles. Be aware of hidden mold which may be hidden in places such as the back side of dry wall, wallpaper or paneling, the top side of ceiling tiles, the underside of carpets and pads.
LONGTERM ENVIRONMENTAL/ HEALTH AFFECT
The Pitt Review sited that 70% of people who had been flooded and moved out of their homes reported health problems, both physical and mental. They had common issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, but also with a range of conditions, including dermatitis, worsening asthma, arthritis and chest infection. Children suffered emotional health problems. Debt related problems were common which led to depression caused by hardship in temporary accommodation, negotiating with insurance companies and mortgage companies while homes are being rebuilt.
In addition to impacting individuals, homes, and communities, hurricanes have a profound effect on the environment. Hurricanes generate strong winds that can completely defoliate forest canopies and cause dramatic structural changes in wooded ecosystems. Animals can either be killed by hurricanes or impacted indirectly through changes in habitat and food availability.
Haiti suffered the worse from Hurricane Matthew. Progress is slow and steady. Habitat for Humanities launched a “WASH” program that work to reduce the spread of diseases and improve access to clean water. They also help to create jobs which will boost the local economy.
Hurricane Matthew left total destruction in its path. Many residents are still trying to recover. Good preparation saved the US from having a bigger death toll, but the amount of the destruction and damage was astronomical.