Hurricane Harvey is still causing pain in Texas in Louisiana, and already Florida is bracing for Hurricane Irma — a category 5 storm so strong it's showing up on equipment designed to detect earthquakes.
The lessons from Harvey are still unfolding, but here are six things we already know:
1. It’s smart to prepare early. Some questioned the lack of evacuations as Harvey approached, but Florida officials already are asking some flood-prone residents to evacuate and telling everyone to have three days of food, water and other supplies on hand.
2. Get flood insurance. Many of Harvey’s victims didn’t have flood insurance and didn’t officially live in flood plains. That proves almost no one in a coastal state is safe from catastrophic hurricane damage. Buy insurance if it's available (here's what you need to know about the specifics.)
3. Don’t rush to blame the states that are hurting. Yes, climate change is serious. And yes, we need to talk about solutions. But it doesn’t help to blame disasters on those who have lost all they own. Have a heart. Your message will go farther that way.
4. Send cash – not stuff – to relief efforts. If you want to help those affected by disaster, it’s far better to donate money to reputable relief organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army (and here's how to do it). It saves shipping costs and ensures victims get exactly what they need.
5. Don’t fixate on what doesn’t matter. People were dying, hundreds of thousands of people were hurting, and the largest news stories from Harvey were the stilettos Melania Trump wore to Houston and whether televangelist Joel Osteen lied about his church being flooded. Don’t get sucked into the trivial again.
6. Keep giving. Harvey brought out the best in people and proved what it means to be an American – ready and eager to help. If you’ve given to relief efforts, thank you. Irma will likely require the same generosity. Dig deep, and don’t forget Houston. Both disaster areas will need our ongoing support.
Joanna Allhands is the digital opinions editor at The Arizona Republic, where this column first appeared. Follow her on Twitter: @joannaallhands.
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