Hurricane Laura, one of the strongest storms on record to hit the United States, devastated areas of the Louisiana and Texas coasts when it made landfall on Thursday. Many fled their homes to escape the path of the storm, which has killed at least four people and left hundreds of thousands without power.
“Right now, just looking around, it looks like a bomb went off,” said Lt. Thomas Marion, the commanding officer for the Salvation Army based in southwest Louisiana. Most local businesses were “fiercely damaged,” and he saw many homes that were crushed by trees.
“A lot of people did heed the evacuation orders and left,” he said, “which is a good thing because there could’ve been a lot more casualties.”
As residents of Louisiana and Texas start to rebuild, here is how you can help.
Before you give …
The full impact of Hurricane Laura is still being assessed, so donating money is the easiest and most efficient way to help right now. Organizations distribute money according to the community’s most urgent needs, which can change quickly.
But before giving money, do some research to make sure the organization is reputable. You can use sites like Charity Navigator or Guidestar, which grade nonprofits on their effectiveness and financial wellness. Or search the Internal Revenue Service’s database to see if an organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. If you suspect an organization or individual is committing fraud, you can report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud.
The Cajun Navy, a nonprofit, citizen-led disaster response team, is working to rescue those who are stranded and get them critical supplies. Its most urgent needs are for cleaning materials, rubber boots, insect spray, bleach, wipes, gloves, masks and disinfectant. You may also make a monetary donation.
SBP was founded in 2006 by a couple in St. Bernard Parish who were frustrated by the slow response after Hurricane Katrina. Its model is focused on streamlining the recovery process, which includes quickly rebuilding homes and restoring local businesses, and supporting policies that aid long-term recovery. SBP (originally named St. Bernard Project) is asking for local volunteers and donations, which will go to supplies for home rebuilding, and P.P.E. for their team members and other needs.
The Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana is collecting donations to be distributed to local organizations supporting relief efforts. The money goes first toward fulfilling survivors’ basic needs, including food, shelter and medicine, and then to helping long-term recovery.
The Houston Food Bank has dozens of trucks packed with food prepared to dispatch once conditions allow. What it needs most are volunteers to help sort, clean and pack the food. The demand for food assistance from the organization has increased by nearly 180 percent since the pandemic, a spokeswoman said, and they anticipate demand rising even more as a result of this disaster. The best way to help the organization meet that demand is to donate money. Every $1 you donate provides three meals.
In Texas, Austin Disaster Relief is seeking donations to assist in getting evacuees settled temporarily into Austin hotels. It is also distributing basic supplies like toiletries, hygiene kits and clothing.
The Salvation Army has set up more than 15 mobile feeding stations to aid first-responders and survivors across Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas, and had more than 40 ready in all. You can donate on its website to help provide food and other supplies.
The Red Cross has hundreds of volunteers in Louisiana and Texas providing medical services and aiding in relief efforts. Donations can be made on its website, or text the code LAURA to 90999 to donate $10. To protect survivors living in shelters from the spread of the coronavirus, the Red Cross will not accept donations of food, clothes or other supplies.
Americares Foundation has set up a dedicated relief fund to support its deliveries of medicine, personal protective equipment, or P.P.E., and medical supplies to disaster areas.
All Hands and Hearts is an emergency response organization that deploys volunteers to disaster sites to help with cleaning, rebuilding homes and creating a long-term recovery plan. You can donate to its Hurricane Laura Relief fund or sign up to volunteer.
The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is trying to rebuild its blood supply after being forced to close a couple of centers that fell in the storm’s path. If you are in the Gulf Coast region, you can sign up to donate blood in one of 17 centers.