Social media vs. a hurricane

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on August 25, and by the thirtieth it was all but dissipated. In that span however, Texas was hit with what FEMA director Brock Long called “probably the worst disaster [in Texas history].” Most of the areas affected were hit with over 40 inches of rainfall and the early estimates of damages land anywhere between 10-160 billion dollars. Houston was the biggest city to be hit, with unprecedented levels of flooding all but crippling the city and displacing many Americans.

As with the case with many of these natural disasters, humanity showed its true colors. Videos began to emerge of normal citizens banding together to become heroes and their own first responders. It wasn’t just the people on the ground that began to help however, as social media exploded with public figures using their reach and influence to make a difference. Comedian Kevin Hart started a donation page and social media challenge that at the time of this writing has raised a little over 1.3 million dollars for Harvey relief. The truly incredible example comes from the Houston Texan football star JJ Watt, who started a donation page with an original goal of 200,000 dollars that he would match out of his own salary. The donation page as of September 1 is at $14,093,476. This large sum has come from a mix of common people sparing a few dollars out of their paycheck as well as large sums from celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres and Drake. However, that wasn’t the end of the power of social media during the trying time.

Soon after the initial rain passed and the flooding began in Houston, rescue efforts began in full force. People from surrounding cities and states traveled to Houston with whatever form of boat or floating mechanism they had to help get people to dry land. Houston resident and New York Times best-selling author Shea Serrano became a very vocal voice for this recovery effort, using his sizable twitter following to pass on news and updates even while he was many miles away from home. People would tweet him where they were stuck or if they knew of a problem and he would send it out to his followers hoping someone would see and it was nearby to help, and it oftentimes worked. He upped the ante on August 31 however, when he decided to call for his fan base, dubbed the FOH (F**k Outta Here) Army, to send in donations for Harvey relief. Though he did not have the same level of “celebrity” or follower count as Watt or Hart, he and his “army” managed to raise $127,000 in a few hours.

If you are interested and able to donate, here are a few places you can reach out to:

American Red Cross

Save the Children

GoFundMe Hurricane Harvey

World Relief

Feeding America

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