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  1. Opinion

Editorial: Don't forget Hurricane Michael's victims

Hurricane Michael was a major disaster but big donors haven't treated it as one.
Homes were replaced by debris and destruction caused by Category 4 Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, where it made landfall on Wednesday, October 10, 2018.
Homes were replaced by debris and destruction caused by Category 4 Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, where it made landfall on Wednesday, October 10, 2018.
Published Jan. 31, 2019

Myriad factors determine the full impact of a hurricane and how quickly a community can dig out and rebuild. For the Panhandle towns where Hurricane Michael made landfall on Oct. 10 last year, 155 mph winds and widespread flooding delivered the first blow. But since then — and perhaps worse — a paltry financial outpouring has prolonged the misery and delayed the recovery. Why? As Emily L. Mahoney of the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau reported, the Panhandle's low profile meant the media attention came and went, so the disaster never drew the major corporate donations that other storms did. Hurricane Irma, which caused less property damage than Michael, prompted $100 million in corporate donations through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Hurricane Michael: $27 million. That's a harsh reality — just like the conditions in which thousands of Floridians still find themselves living more than three months after the storm struck. Tarps on roofs. Families still in shelters. People taking refuge in their cars.

The country and the state may have largely moved on from Hurricane Michael, but the Panhandle can't without a lot more support. Florida's big companies should give places like Bay County another look to see how they can help. Elected leaders should keep recovery efforts on the front burner. And ordinary citizens should not forget that fellow Floridians still need our help.

How to help:

The best way to help is with a cash donation, not canned foods or other supplies.

• Bay County Long Term Disaster Recovery Organization is a new local group still working to establish its status as a 501(c)3. Send donations to the United Way of Northwest Florida, and make a note that it should be directed to the BCLTDRO. Donations directly to the United Way of Northwest Florida can be mailed to PO Box 586, Panama City, FL 32402 (please write "Hurricane Relief" in the memo line.) Or donate online to the United Way Hurricane Michael Recovery Fund.

• The Salvation Army has ongoing recovery efforts in the region. Donate by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769); by mail: The Salvation Army, PO Box 1959, Atlanta, GA, 30301 (Designate "2018 Hurricanes — Michael" on all checks.); online: www.HelpSalvationArmy.org; or by text: Text STORM to 51555 to receive a donation link.

• Rebuild 850 is a new bipartisan initiative dedicated to helping the region recover, led by Republican former Florida House Speakers Allan Bense and Will Weatherford and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who ran for governor last year. Visit www.rebuild850.org to donate or volunteer.

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