Even before the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane season officially started on June 1st, a record was broken.
Hurricane Agatha, the first storm of the season, became the strongest May hurricane to ever make landfall in the eastern Pacific basin on Monday afternoon as a Category 2 storm. The storm killed at least 11 people, and an additional 20 remain missing in southern Mexico. Only two hurricanes in 2013 and in 1971 have made landfall in Mexico during the month of May.
Now having rapidly weakened, its remnants will cause life-threatening flash floods and be absorbed by a low-level cyclonic gyre over southeastern Mexico. That means there is potential to reach tropical storm strength, and if this happens, the first named storm of hurricane season will emerge and be called Alex.
Forecasters at NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Climate Prediction Center, are predicting a 65% chance of an above-normal hurricane activity season, which will last through November 30th and likely be the seventh consecutive year of an above-average hurricane season. Several climate factors including warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, the ongoing La Niña, climate change impacts, and more, all contribute to the increased activity.
As the season begins, numerous communities are still rebuilding their lives not only from last year’s hurricane season, but from hurricanes years prior, which for those unaffected remain a forgotten memory now. Almost two years after Hurricane Sally, experts say residents in Pensacola, Florida haven’t bounced back. Local response efforts have been hampered by the pandemic, in addition to supply line backlogs across the U.S. causing contracted projects to be two years behind schedule. Historically speaking, the Florida Gulf Coast will be key to watch right now in June, since it’s especially susceptible to tropical systems early on in the season.
Similarly, for communities impacted by last year’s Hurricane Ida in Louisiana where Airlink is continuing to support the long-term recovery efforts of our nonprofit partners, Bayou residents have a ‘long way to go’ to rebuild. Bayou Community Foundation (BCF) Executive Director, Jennifer Armand said last month, “The damage is extensive, and we still have a lot of people who are hurting, and they don’t know where to go or who to turn to.” Despite it being 9 months since Ida, ‘some areas look like they were hit yesterday. It’s impossible to drive more than a few hundred feet without seeing piles of debris or a storm-battered building with its roof blown off.’
For other parts of the state ravaged by Ida, especially those with black and low-income residents, there is ongoing worry that federal funding won’t reach community members to rebuild, as is the case for homeowners in Ironton, Louisiana. Time and time again in disaster planning, it has been shown that money is shifted away from the areas and people most in need.
Already before Ida made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on September 4th, 2021, Airlink provided its first flights for volunteers from Operation BBQ to set up mass feeding stations for those impacted. In total, Airlink provided flights for 472 responders (and counting) on behalf of nine of our nonprofit partners with airlift support from United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.
Airlink’s Hurricane Ida response provided $154K total in transportation relief for NGOs, in addition to the following:
- 247K people provided with hot meals
- 24K people provided with fuel and other supplies
- 200,000+ families provided with cash assistance
- 2,000+ with shelter/ debris clearance assistance
Airlink is fortunate to partner with NGOs equipped with extensive experience responding to the aftermath of destructive hurricanes such as Project HOPE, Team Rubicon, Operation BBQ Relief, Fuel Relief Fund, and more. Each provide and specialize in varying services that are critical for covering every aspect of recovery including: home repair services, muck and gut, debris clearance, mass feeding, medical assistance, search and rescue, and emotional and spiritual care. NECHMA, is one organization in particular that is pushing forward its Hurricane Ida program in 2022, and Airlink is proud to help make transport possible for its staff and volunteers from across the country.
Next to providing logistical support and solutions for the delivery of aid and first responders during hurricane season, Airlink serves as a coordinating body to bring together humanitarian and aviation partners for information and knowledge gathering to deepen response capabilities. Already in February, Airlink held a regional call to provide a space for international coordinating agencies to share plans and priorities, while making recommendations to the NGO community in preparation for hurricane season. Informative briefings were presented by the Pan Am Health Organization, U.S. Southern Command, and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), all helping inform planning operations for participating partners.
How can you help? One of the most important things to remember when it comes to hurricane preparedness is that ‘cash is king.’ Unfortunately, 60 percent of the goods that arrive during emergencies are not needed or appropriate for the recovery or the region. When the next hurricane takes place, there is a high likelihood that sending physical goods without official coordination from humanitarian aid organizations to do so effectively will clog up local resources, not match high-priority needs, and will cause extra work for responders to oversee distributions. Cash donations in particular help nonprofits launch and scale up more planned, predictable, and efficient programs to assist communities they have identified as having the greatest need on the ground.
Alongside cash donations, you can donate your airline miles too. Your unused miles will go a long way towards ensuring Airlink can provide flights to response personnel traveling to hurricane hit areas and elsewhere around the world.