Expect the Unexpected

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy Rep. Kat Cammack press office: Cedar Key hurricane damage.

There was a time when the phrase “talk about the weather” was synonymous with small talk. 

These days, weather comes up in conversations with a different urgency, dominating headlines and making its way to the front of our minds. With recent weather events that have been unusual or catastrophic—the wildfires in Hawaii, a hurricane in California, among others—it can feel overwhelming to again be reeling from the aftermath of another hurricane, even if it wasn’t a direct strike.

We’re still recovering from Hurricane Ian, the damage of which still impacts our community in ways both visible and invisible. Idalia’s presence has precipitated media images of rooftops peeking out of floodwaters that provide fresh triggers. Far from a benign way to fill gaps of silence, the weather, as a topic, has gripped us in new and frightening ways. 

When disasters strike there are ways to help. In the days leading up to Hurricane Ian, together with The Patterson Foundation, we activated the Suncoast Disaster Recovery Fund. Designed to address long-term issues that arise out of disasters, the fund has provided funding directed to various needs that have been exacerbated by Hurricane Ian. With a focus on mental health and wellness, supporting vulnerable populations and children, and critical home repair, the Suncoast Disaster Recovery Fund is a vital community resource that has helped rebuild in ways that prioritize equity. We will continue to raise funds and distribute them throughout our service area—Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto, and Charlotte counties. When challenges exist, local organizations are great places to invest. 

There are plenty of options for people to support relief efforts for Idalia’s extensive damage. Victims will require all the necessities that are vital for getting back to normal, and helping in this way is an important gesture. In those areas hit hardest by Idalia, ways to help can involve investing in their local organizations providing services for people most affected, particularly for those populations already facing insecurities that Idalia has only exacerbated. Those organizations with their boots on the ground understand the unique needs of their communities—this is a lesson Ian taught us.

The Community Foundation of North Florida  is in the process of activating a long-term recovery fund for those areas impacted by Idalia that will focus on reducing the gaps of opportunity that Idalia has only worsened. The United Way of the Big Bend has activated a disaster relief fund that addresses both short-term storm-related needs as well as long-term recovery. Second Harvest of the Big Bend is providing food to mitigate hunger and food insecurity made more acute by Idalia. 

As weather events become increasingly common and disastrous, it is paramount that we remain resilient, ready, and aware of the ways that trauma may affect ourselves and our neighbors. The new reality of longer storm seasons and more formidable storms means that we as a community will continue to endure healing processes punctuated by new triggers. 

There is some solace in knowing that we can rely on a community resource meant to help us weather the storm, whether it’s the one in our rearview or one that will likely approach soon. I’m grateful that our community has understood the importance of a resource like the Suncoast Disaster Recovery Fund and the many ways it can serve the new reality of living with a constant reminder that weather is now a fraught topic, and hope that this sentiment will help drive decisions as kindhearted people look to help our hurricane ravaged neighbors to the north.   

Roxie Jerde is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Photo courtesy Rep. Kat Cammack press office: Cedar Key hurricane damage.

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