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Solidarity is key to Hurricane Irma relief

As Floridians struggle to regain a sense of normalcy after Hurricane Irma, we must remember that we are a part of a hurting community.

Following Hurricane Irma, it is clear all of us in Florida want the same thing: a return to the comfort of normalcy. However, business as usual will not be restored instantly. It will be an ongoing process that will only be hindered if we allow ourselves to be consumed by the frustrations brought on by Irma.

Although much of Florida – and certainly the Tampa Bay area – avoided the worst-case scenarios forecasted by meteorologists, the hurricane still took a significant physical and social toll on our state, which has rendered habitual tasks unusually challenging, if not impossible.

Florida Power and Light reports power outages have affected approximately 4.4 million of its customers – this figure includes not just homes but also organizations, public services, businesses, etc. The company estimates some of those affected, especially on the west coast, may not have electricity until Sept. 22.

In the face of such widespread and prolonged power outages, the simple luxuries that litter our everyday lives – being at home, buying groceries, paying for prescriptions, calling your loved ones to let them know you’re safe, keeping up with the news, going to work, getting coffee – can all become burdensome undertakings.

Even the mere act of getting from place to place has been charged with anxiety and uncertainty due to traffic lights and gas stations being out of service.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office estimates 100 traffic lights have been compromised by the lack of power in their county, while Pinellas County officials report approximately 300 out-of-service traffic lights in their jurisdiction.

These transportation woes are further compounded by gasoline shortages, which are as high as 60 percent in cities like Miami, according to GasBuddy, a crowdsourcing app that tracks gas availability and prices.

It is not in spite of, but because of these hardships, that we must all be more cooperative, compassionate and understanding toward our neighbors as we collectively vie for the restoration of our normal lives.

So in the days and weeks to come, follow the orders of the Florida Highway Patrol and treat broken traffic lights as stop signs to ensure everyone’s safety.

Don’t take more of any high-demand, low-supply good—such as nonperishable food—than what you truly think you will use.

Don’t allow your frustration with the power outages to translate into anger toward energy company employees; your household is only one of millions left without electricity following Irma.

If you were lucky enough to be mostly spared by the ravages of Irma and are able, volunteer at local shelters and offer your shower to friends who don’t have running water.

Donate clothes, money or food to relief organizations aiding not just local communities but the Caribbean islands that bore a disproportionate amount of Hurricane Irma’s devastation.

Finding ways to exercise solidarity is not difficult in times of widespread distress, and doing so helps ease the turbulence we all so desperately want to escape.


Renee Perez is a junior majoring in political science and economics.