Hurricane Irene is likely to prove one of the 10 costliest catastrophes in US history according to early estimates, which are ranging between $7 billion and $10 billion. Analysts also say that much of the damage might not be covered by insurance because it was caused not by winds but by flooding, which is excluded from many standard policies. The storm has played havoc with an unusually wide area, causing large-scale flooding in upstate New York and Vermont, flooding cotton and tobacco crops in North Carolina, temporarily halting shellfish harvesting in Chesapeake Bay, keeping commuters from travelling to work in the New York metropolitan area, and deterring tourists from Atlantic beaches in the peak of summer.
In addition to making demands on state and federal treasuries, this is likely to call for a major philanthropic response. Just before the storm broke, a survey of giving by the American Red Cross suggested that many people would turn to social networks to communicate, and expected aid agencies to do the same. Details of the response by individual givers are yet to emerge, but the institutional response is getting underway. A 2 September news item in Philanthropy News Digest reported that corporations and foundations had pledged $1.75 million to Hurricane Irene relief efforts. The CEO of home improvement chain Lowe’s, one of the donor corporations that has pledged $1 million, described 2011 as ‘a record-setting year for disasters across the country’. If the damage estimates are accurate, there is still plenty of scope for public and private assistance.
New York Times, 30 August 2011
Chronicle of Philanthropy, 1 September 2011
Philanthropy News Digest, 2 September 2011