2017: Category 4 Hurricane Harvey made a late-August landfall in southeast Texas beginning a devastating hurricane season that included two Category 5 cyclones, historic rainfall, and large responses and rebuild efforts from Samaritan’s Purse.
As southeast Texas communities braced or evacuated in advance of Hurricane Harvey’s lashing winds, devastating rain, and storm surge, Samaritan’s Purse positioned for a massive response in August 2017. The Category 4 storm killed more than 100 residents of Texas, battered coastal communities, and flooded Houston and its surrounding communities with more than 50 inches of rain.
Hurricane Harvey was the first of three major hurricanes to hit the U.S. and its territories within just three weeks, marking a historic and devastating 2017 hurricane season. Samaritan’s Purse responded in Jesus’ Name to each storm and brought the eternal hope of Christ to hurting families.
Samaritan’s Purse transported staff and relief supplies on five of our U.S.-based disaster relief tractor trailer units as we prepared to deploy volunteers from areas in and around Houston and along the Texas coast.
Over the course of several months, more than 10,000 volunteers helped nearly 3,000 Texans dig out and mud out in Santa Fe, Houston, Pearland, Rockport, and Victoria before we transitioned to a rebuild effort that has been underway for nearly three years.
During our Texas rebuilds we have helped hundreds of families return to homes that we repaired substantially or replaced entirely. During this project we also assisted churches in fixing extensive flood and wind damage, an effort some say is the only reason their doors stayed open.
“Some of the people in this church would have given up hope completely,” said Edward Buford, pastor of Sonrise Community Church in Houston. “We thank God for Samaritan’s Purse coming and fixing this building because we really needed help. It’s unbelievable.”
Even as multiple disaster relief teams were spread throughout the Lone Star State, powerful and deadly Hurricane Irma was strengthening and targeting Caribbean Islands.
On September 6, Category 5 Irma carved up the Leeward Islands, including St. Martin, Antigua, and Barbuda, before later ripping through the Turks and Caicos, all while packing 185 mph sustained winds. At that time, it was the strongest storm ever observed in the Atlantic, and it struck with lethal, devastating force.
Though Puerto Rico escaped a direct hit from Irma’s outer bands, the island received heavy winds and rain, and power outages for 1 million people. Irma also struck Florida, making landfall as a Category 4 on September 10 in the Florida Keys and cutting a path of destruction up Florida’s west coast.
Samaritan’s Purse responded in the days following Irma’s landfall, deploying two additional U.S. Disaster Relief units to two Florida locations where volunteers removed trees and debris, patched damaged roofs, and cleaned out flooded homes.
Our DC-8 aircraft airlifted many tons of relief—including water purification, food, blankets, shelter materials, and hygiene kits—to hard-hit islands that were once again bracing for the potential destructive power of Hurricane Maria.
When Category 5 Hurricane Maria arrived in the Caribbean less than two weeks later, it trailed across Dominica ripping a blistering path that destroyed nearly every structure on the island. The storm weakened to a Category 4 before turning toward Puerto Rico where it leveled homes and destroyed infrastructure. The hurricane killed more than 60 people on each of those islands and a total of 146 throughout the Caribbean and coastal U.S.
Our DC-8 cargo aircraft flew dozens of relief flights to the U.S. territory, transporting tons of emergency supplies. These included 75,000 tarps, 2,500 generator kits, 12,000 solar lamps, 24,000 Sawyer water filters, 1.4 million aqua tablets to purify water, tens of thousands of buckets and jerry cars to transport water, 6,400 Bibles, and 34,000 grocery boxes in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. We also mounted a medical response, seeing more than 3,100 patients.
Over the course of our hurricane responses in the Caribbean, our DC-8 cargo jet made 44 round trips from North Carolina to the islands, airlifting more than 1,000 tons of emergency relief supplies and key staff. With the conclusion of the emergency response phase, we shipped additional supplies on barges, with thousands of tons of aid shipped by air and sea.
Rebuilds in the Caribbean
In the months after hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged the Caribbean, Samaritan’s Purse responded to both immediate and longer-term needs, including a massive rebuild effort in partnership with local churches.
At the time one of the largest projects of its kind that we’ve ever undertaken, we deployed teams to St. Martin, Barbuda, Dominica, and Puerto Rico, to repair or rebuild up to 3,000 houses and more than 100 churches.