10 Times The Salvation Army Helped During Natural Disasters |Salvation Army Disaster Relief

 Every individual is faced with tragedy and sadness at some point in their life. There are just some things that no one can control. Maybe it’s financial struggles like losing a job or being unable to make ends meet. Some issues could be personal like losing a loved one or being diagnosed with an illness. Either way, It takes resilience, faith, and hard work to get through difficult situations. These types of situations burden individuals and families all over the world. But some challenges are bigger than any one individual or family. Some challenges need a community. 

When natural disasters intrude on populated land they induce much pain, destruction, and financial instability throughout cities and towns. People are left stranded, with empty stomachs, and their homes reduced to piles of debris. Countless suffer injuries and for some, maybe even death. During these times of tolling emotional and physical trauma, aid must be given.

10 Times The Salvation Army helped communities when natural disasters hit.


1. Hurricane Katrina | Late August 2005

With a category 5 Hurricane surging towards the Gulf of Mexico southern states like Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi were vulnerable to life-threatening conditions. Communities in Louisiana were the most impacted by the storm due to poor engineering and unreliable levees. Levees are dams that are supposed to block water from getting onto land. When the forceful winds of Katrina hit, the levees could not hold the water, which led to an invasion of flooding in Louisiana. Making contact as a category 3 hurricane, Katrina ruined 300,000 homes and left 770,000 people displaced as 80% of New Orleans went underwater. Katrina killed 1,833 people and caused $125 billion dollars in damage. The economy was also affected long term because the southern states suffered setbacks in their tourism, oil and manufacturing industries. This makes Katrina the most costly storm in U.S history. 

Hurricane Katrina summoned The Salvation Army’s biggest disaster relief effort to date. In order to feed individuals that were displaced from their homes action needed to be taken. The Salvation Army sent 178 mobile feeding units in addition to 11 field kitchens to be set up in the most affected areas. Victims of the storm were happy to have hot meals, sandwiches, snacks, and drinks. The Salvation Army continued its efforts by distributing cleaning supplies and food packages to the most impacted areas. Fulfilling the demand for assistance, after Katrina hit, was one of The Salvation Army’s greatest challenges. 

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2. Black Saturday BushFire | February 2009

The Black Saturday BushFire in Victoria, Australia is often considered the largest natural disaster in Australia’s history. Wildfires are a common threat in Australia because of its normally dry environment along with increased heat and humidity during specific times of the year. But In February of 2009 some individuals decided to intentionally knock down power lines to cause a fire. This crime is known as arson and is the cause of 13% of wildfires every year in Australia. During the time of the Black Saturday BushFire Victoria was experiencing a major heatwave which exacerbated the problem. The wildfire was able to spread 2,790 miles, burning 2,029 homes and killing 173 people. The Black Saturday BushFire damage cost was more than $1 billion.

The Salvation Army was an active presence during the relief efforts in Australia. When the Black Saturday BushFire ensued, many victims were affected along with the brave firefighters who arrived at the scene. The Salvation Army was able to assist these individuals by providing food, water, clothing, and first aid kits. During this effort The Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center in the town of Kilmore was burned to the ground. Fortunately, everybody was safely evacuated from the building.

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3. Earthquake in Haiti | January 2010

Haiti was (and still is) the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. With a failing economy and unreliable infrastructure the last thing Haiti needed was a 7.0 magnitude earthquake to hit the island. Haiti had already endured a 2008 hurricane season that caused flooding, mudslides, and the death of 793 people. Recovering for those hurricanes was a long process but it did not compare to the destruction and despair that the 2010 earthquake caused. When the buildings of Haiti crumbled to the ground, many people were trapped by the incoming rubble. At least 220,000 people died. The survivors were left with serious injuries, open wounds, deprived stomachs, and dead loved ones. A lot of people were forced to live on the streets, while many depended on makeshift tents for shelter. Many Hatians lived day to day with no proper shelter, in a place where food and healthy drinking water were scarce. Many Haitians including kids were facing starvation and dehydration on a daily basis. Kids in Haiti were also without proper education for a long period of time because 4,000 schools were either damaged or destroyed. This horrific earthquake caused $13.34 billion in damage. 

How The Salvation Army Helped. 

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4. Hurricane Sandy | October 2012

Hurricane Sandy was a category 3 hurricane that transformed into the biggest tropical storm that has ever come out of the Atlantic. Reaching 900 miles in diameter Sandy was felt by many. In The Caribbean, Haiti and Cuba endured Sandy when she was a category 2 hurricane. Haiti was hit the worst as roads, schools, hospitals, and many homes suffered severe damage. Cuba saw extensive flooding as 200,000 homes were destroyed and Santiago de Cuba, a major city was badly affected. Jamaica and the Bahamas faced category 1 conditions as they were burdened by flooding, wind, and power outages. A total of 80 people died in the Caribbean (60 in Haiti, 11 in Cuba, 2 in the Bahamas, 1 in Jamaica). Sandy was weakened after she ripped through the Caribbean, but shortly regained strength as she approached the United States. 24 states in the US were introduced to a variety of ruthless conditions. When an unexpected cold front from another storm collided with Sandy, rainfall turned into snow. States like West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee received blizzard conditions that left over a foot of snow. However, states in the northeast like New Jersey and New York received a brutal onslaught of hurricane conditions. It was a full moon when Sandy hit the Jersey Shore. The full moon caused sea tides to rise by 20% which gave Sandy a powerful storm surge heading into New Jersey and New York. In New Jersey streets were flooded, electrical lines went down, and the Ocean City boardwalk was torn apart. Chaos erupted in New York as electrical fires combined with rain, wind, and flooding caused devastation to many homes.  At this point, Sandy was considered a Superstorm because she initiated a variety of environments along with widespread damage, but did not take the form of a Hurricane. During the storm, over 8 million people lost power and a majority of gas stations closed. The Stock Market was also closed for 2 consecutive days. Sandy caused at least 149 deaths in the United States and caused around $70 billion in total damages.

The people in the Caribbean had to endure yet another natural disaster which meant The Salvation Army was faced with another challenge. The Salvation Army personnel that were already assisting Haiti after the 2010 earthquake rationalized their resources in order to help the victims of Sandy. In Jamaica, widespread damage affected everyone on the island. During the eye of the storm, The Salvation Army moved many homeless people into shelters. The homeless along with evacuees were given food and emotional care. In Cuba, The Salvation Army distributed food, water, and supplies to others in need. They also worked to set up temporary shelters for the people that lost their homes. 

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In the US, The Salvation Army assisted victims all across the east coast. In New York, The Salvation Army and The Red Cross provided food and supplies to eight shelters. The Salvation Army also arranged food and shelter support at two of their own locations, one in Albany and the other in Long Island. In New Jersey, The Salvation Army mobile feeding units were serving hot meals, snacks, and drinks at shelters throughout various counties. Sadly, one of these mobile canteens along with a volunteer vehicle flooded in rising waters at a shelter in Union Beach. The volunteers still continued to serve meals at that shelter. Even with the loss of those vehicles, The Salvation Army New Jersey division still continued to use mobile canteens to feed people that were in need. The Salvation Army also had mobile feeding units in Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia. To facilitate the distribution of food and supplies in places that received a lot of snow, The Salvation Army set up feeding programs to make sure everyone had access to those resources. In Pennsylvania and Connecticut meals were being distributed to different shelters in affected communities.

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How The Salvation Army helped in New York and New Jersey after Sandy.

The Salvation Army Hurricane Sandy Response from TheDirector on Vimeo.

5. Hurricane Harvey | August 2017 

As Hurricane Harvey barreled through the southeast of the United States, the people of Texas braced for impact. During the first 24 hours, the storm generated 2 feet of rainfall. This led to major flooding in Texas. One-third of Houston was completely underwater and thousands of people had to be moved into shelters. 93 people died during hurricane Harvey. The harsh winds and flooding of the storm claimed 62 casualties while 26 others died due to unsafe conditions. The storm caused much structural damage to major cities like Houston and Dallas which hurt the economy. According to the National Hurricane Center, the Category 4 Hurricane caused $125 billion in damage.

The Salvation Army was a part of the largest disaster relief efforts in history when Hurricane Harvey hit. Many trained disaster workers from all over the US and Canada came down to help out. The Salvation Army also sent 71 mobile feeding units to feed the many victims in Texas. 11 of the mobile feeding units were deployed in Houston serving 1,000 meals a day along with snacks and beverages to many victims. Florida’s division contributed by sending two shower units to The George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Thousands of people were able to take showers because of The Salvation Army. For those who still needed shelter, The Salvation Army provided it, with the six locations that were already established in the Houston area. In the Corpus Christi area feeding efforts continued. In Dallas, The Salvation Army provided meals to people who were sheltered at The Dallas Convention Center.

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6. Hurricane Irma | September 2017

Hurricane Irma was the most powerful hurricane to ever come out of the Atlantic. The Category 5 storm hit the Caribbean Islands before making contact with Florida. Islands like Puerto Rico were affected and experienced power outages for long periods of time. Some Islands like Barbuda, the Turks and Caicos, and the east Bahamas were left totally decimated as 185 mph winds and unforgiving rain wreaked havoc. The north border of Cuba was also impacted by Irma as Cuba’s capital, Havana became flooded. Irma was weakened to a category 3 by the time she passed the Caribbean Islands. Unfortunately for Florida, Irma regained strength and was a category 4 as she made contact. Marco Island and The Keys endured up to 140 mph winds and 15 inches of rainfall which caused structural damage and flooding. Miami saw flooding too but avoided the center of the storm. Naples faced significant flooding as category 4 Irma weakened to a category 2. By the time Irma hit Tampa, she was a category 1. Georgia was left with tropical storm conditions. Hurricane Irma claimed a total of 129 lives and caused $50 billion in damage.

The Salvation Army took part in relief efforts for the Caribbean. Efforts started with The US Virgin Islands. The Salvation Army’s USA Eastern Territory teamed up with The Reformed Church to fulfill the needs of people in the St Thomas area. Together they fed 1,500 local residents. The Reformed Church was provided with food and supply boxes to distribute to other individuals in the community. St John and St Croix also received support, when The Salvation Army teamed up with UPS to deliver food, water, and other commodities. The Salvation Army then helped Puerto Rico recover, and plan for the incoming Hurricane Maria. The Salvation Army helped The British Virgin Islands as well. In Castres, the capital of St Lucia The Salvation Army sent a trained staff to aid the National Emergency Management Organization. Since the supply chains in The British Virgin Islands were disturbed by Irma, The Salvation Army also shipped 100 medical kits to Tortola. The Salvation Army’s Caribbean Territory contributed by assisting feeding efforts in the Turks and Caicos Islands. In St Maarten, The Salvation Army housed 35 individuals along with distributing water, food and hygiene kits. The Salvation Army’s location in Antigua took in evacuees, including people from heavily impacted areas like Barbuda. The Caribbean Territorial Headquarters of The Salvation Army met with other agencies to figure out how to best assist the other islands that were severely damaged.

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In Florida, The Salvation Army took another big role in the disaster relief efforts. 61 mobile feeding units were active in Florida along with trained volunteers from all over America and Canada. The Salvation Army also had 3 field kitchens, and other support vehicles like sleeping units, refrigerated trucks, and generators. This was the largest disaster response in the history of The Salvation Army’s Florida division. In Naples, a field kitchen went to work alongside 16 of the mobile feeding units. Almost 40,000 hot meals were served in the Naples area. Another field kitchen located in Fort Myers served 33,000 hot meals to that community. 1,300 meals were also transported to the areas that needed it most. Places like Miami and Sebring received food boxes, clean up supplies, and vouchers for clothes. In the Florida Keys, The Salvation Army met with local officials to serve the community needs. The Salvation Army made sure to provide long term support to individuals and families as they returned to their normal lives.

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7. Hurricane Maria | Late September 2017

Puerto Rico avoided the full impact of Hurricane Irma but the island was in for much worse with the next storm of the 2017 hurricane season. The ensuing Hurricane Maria pounded Puerto Rico and Dominica causing lasting effects on infrastructure, electrical power, and employment. Along with all the buildings that were destroyed, Maria damaged most of the roads leaving only 8% open to the public for an entire month. To exacerbate the problem the island’s power grid was cut off leaving everyone in Puerto Rico without electricity and cellular communication. Puerto Ricans had no lights, no air conditioning, and nowhere to refrigerate their food. With spoiled food, and water that was contaminated by sewage systems many people became sick. These poor living conditions combined with the lack of income in Puerto Rico forced many people to move to the mainland. Not only did the people of Puerto have to deal with these vast struggles, but they also grieved many deaths caused by this powerful storm. The total damage cost of Hurricane Maria was $95 billion.

The Salvation Army was active in Puerto Rico when Maria hit.

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 In Puerto Rico The Salvation Army delivered a total of 78,000 meals during the 2017 hurricane season. The Salvation Army also served hot meals and gave cleaning supplies to over 22,500 people.

In St Thomas The Salvation Army served 21,500 hot meals, while delivering water, food, and supply boxes to the most affected areas.

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8. Hurricane Florence | August 2018

Hurricane Florence was only a category 1 when she hit the Carolinas and Virginia but the storm still had major impacts. Florence was a very slow-moving storm that rained down on communities for a long period of time. Flooding was the main problem for people in these communities. Rising waters along with strong winds ruined homes and invaded the streets killing 30 people. This relentless water was even more of an issue when it became polluted. Toxic chemicals from raw sewage, coal ashes, and pig manure filled the stormwater contaminating the drinking water in the process. These toxic chemicals along with floating plastic material were also released into the ocean. Florence killed a total of 52 people and caused $24 billion in damage.   

When Florence hit, The Salvation Army did what it normally does during disaster relief efforts. In the Carolinas and Virginia The Salvation Army had 52 active mobile feeding units. A total of 10,566 snacks, 23,194 drinks, and 25,699 meals were served to the victims of hurricane Florence. The Salvation Army also utilized their locations in North and South Carolina to provide shelter, food, and spiritual care.

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9. Hurricane Dorian | August 2019

Hurricane Dorian started her reign over the Caribbean by making landfall on the Virgin Islands. Dorian gradually gained strength moving through the Virgin Islands leaving many places without power, as 82 mph winds blew junk onto the streets. The storm continued to accumulate power making her way to the Bahamas. Aboca and the Grand Bahamas received the worst of the storm. Many of the people in these communities were Haitians who migrated to the Bahamas. A total of 70 people were found dead and over 200 people were recorded missing but there could have been more undocumented people that were never reported. The survivors were left with nothing, everything around them was destroyed. Dorian produced category 5 conditions when she hit the Bahamas. 185 mph winds, heavy rainfall, and large scale flooding devastated homes, businesses, schools, and infrastructure in various communities. Around 13,000 houses were destroyed and many places were submerged by water. The fishing industry in the Bahamas was also severely affected. At least 80% of the vessel fleet from Marsh Harbour to The Grand Bahamas was incapable of being used according to a local fisherman. The remains from the destroyed vessels and other debris made the waters hard to navigate, this created an additional problem for the fishing industry. Tourism, another major industry in The Bahamas, suffered as well as many ideal destinations received damage. After Dorian left the Bahamas she moved to the South Eastern Coast of the US giving many states tropical storm conditions. The coast of North Carolina received the most impact in the US as category 1 conditions caused flooding, damage, and the death of 3 people. Making her way up north, Dorian hit Canada as a category 2 hurricane leaving 500,000 people without power. Hurricane Dorian caused up to $3 billion in total damage.  

The Salvation Army presence in the Bahamas When Dorian Hit.

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Along the coast of the United States, The Salvation Army distributed food, drinks, and snacks. 50 Mobile Feeding Units throughout the east coast were ready to respond when Dorian hit.

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10. Earthquakes in Puerto Rico | Late December 2019 

Still recovering from the 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Puerto Rico was hit with a string of Earthquakes from late December 2019 that lasted into 2020. Puerto Rico felt the most damage when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the island along with many aftershocks, one with a 5.9 magnitude. During this span; homes, schools, infrastructure, and tourist attractions were left in ruins. This series of earthquakes forced people to be displaced from their homes and left countless without electricity. The strongest earthquake in 102 years knocked the power out for 3 million people and caused at least $110 million in damage. At least 1 person died from this series of earthquakes. Puerto Rico is still trying to recover from this natural disaster.

The Salvation Army already had many local camps set up before the earthquakes hit  because of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. These local camps along with mobile feeding units gave out hot food, drinks, clothes, and hygiene kits. A trained team of 124 Salvation Army volunteers and officers worked with government officials to provide aid to the places that were most impacted. The Salvation Army also had five disaster operation locations that were open to the public in Puerto Rico. These locations gave individuals and families a place to stay while their emotional and physical needs were met.   

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The Salvation Army is always there to give support when people need it most. There are a lot of great volunteers and employees that go out of their way to help when disasters happen. Writing this post made me realize how much The Salvation Army does for others during desperate times. They are uniquely positioned to provide assistance because of their many locations around the world and because of their ability to mobilize effectively. Thank you to everyone who supports The Salvation Army Disaster Relief Efforts.


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