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Right Opinion

Helping the Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Rebecca Hagelin · Aug. 29, 2017

After Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans and lower Mississippi regions, Congress passed what was known as the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005, which temporarily altered the tax codes for people whose homes and livelihoods were affected by the storm and flooding. 

It also enabled citizens across the country to maximize our financial donations by making all contributions to bona fide charities like the Red Cross, which was providing real help to the victims, 100% tax deductible. Congress and President Trump must move quickly to enact and sign the same type of provision now, which will encourage more Americans across the country to immediately give of our resources to help the people of Texas. 

If you can help the victims of Harvey, please do so through donations of time and/or funds to the Red Cross. You can do so at or by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW. For those who prefer to give to smaller organizations providing on-the-ground assistance, please consider making a donation to It has been providing real help in real time to Texas hurricane victims around the clock and is in need of financial resources to keep providing clothing, food and other assistance to families who have lost everything. 

If you’ve never been through a flood you probably have no idea just how horrific it is. I’ll never forget the pungent stench of the flood I survived in 1994 while on a trip to north Florida when the banks of the Chattahoochee River overflowed into the streets and neighborhoods of Gadsden County. It was a nightmare. 

The images from Texas this week of people’s homes filled with water are sad, but they do not begin to reveal just how horrific the devastation is and the enormous effort required for clean up and restoration.

Flood waters are filled with sewage and dangerous bacteria. Think feces, mud, rotting vegetation and the bodies of decaying wildlife that fell victim to the storm swirling around you. Consider what it’s like to have the worst smelly ditch water you’ve ever seen flowing into your home. Just as people are displaced, so too are snakes, bugs, rats and other critters that fill the woods and waters. Sheetrock crumbles into the mixture, along with dangerous chemicals, gasoline, nails and broken glass. The images of people wading through their living rooms and streets are people wading through this dangerous brew of slop and sewage.

It’s critical that anyone exposed to the water has up to date tetanus and other shots, and that they disinfect their entire bodies as quickly as possible. Wounds and scratches need to be carefully cleaned, and in many cases, a regime of antibiotics should be started right away. But most people in the midst of such trauma aren’t aware of these important measures — they are trying to process what is happening to them. That’s why it is critical that trained volunteers from organizations like the Red Cross move speedily into areas and help with a thousand different problems associated with natural disasters that most people never consider. 

The stench, silt and muddy slime left behind as houses begin to drain and dry out can be unbearable — especially in the humid and sweltering heat that is South Texas in the summertime. Cleanup efforts in one home alone can be daunting. Never mind an entire community.

Even as you read this, ever more people are being displaced and losing everything through increased flooding. Moms, dads and little children are experiencing a nightmare in real time, and they need our prayers and our help. And they will need our continued prayers, assistance and financial contributions for months to come. The Red Cross does a tremendous job helping those in need, from opening clinics, to providing temporary housing and dry clothes. Please, donate to or to the Red Cross now — just give what you can. Before you reach for that cup of coffee, or return to “business as usual,” take the time to make a donation of any amount.

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