What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, July 8

Hurricane Beryl's destruction in Carriacou, Grenada, July 7, 2024. (Photo credit: Ministry of Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs & Local Government via Facebook)

Editor’s note: The “What we’re watching” blog posts are currently on a summer schedule. A new post will be published on a biweekly basis. The next blog will be published on July 22.

We know all too well that disaster can strike anytime, anywhere in the world. Some disasters make headlines; others do not. Here at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), we monitor the status of disasters worldwide and compile a list of the ones we’re tracking weekly, along with relevant disaster-related media coverage.

Here’s what we’re watching for the week of July 8, 2024.

New or Emerging Disasters

Hurricane Beryl – Multiple Countries: Beryl became a tropical storm on Friday, June 28, before rapidly intensifying into a Category 4 hurricane by June 30, and Category 5 on July 1. It weakened as it crossed the Caribbean, dropping down to a tropical storm before and after hitting the U.S. It has affected multiple countries including Venezuela, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica, Mexico and the U.S.

Beryl made its final landfall near Matagorda, Texas around 4:00 a.m. CDT on July 8 as a Category 1 storm. Beryl weakened faster than expected after making landfall but still brought intense rain, significant flooding and the risk of tornadoes to communities across Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. The coastal impact and rain will reach Louisiana, while the storm itself will travel northeast toward Mississippi and Ohio.

On July 6, Texas’ Acting Governor Dan Patrick added 81 counties to the state’s disaster declaration, bringing the total number of counties to 121, almost half of the counties in the state. In Houston, some communities received their entire July rainfall amounts in the first two hours after Beryl’s landfall. More than 2.7 million customers were without power in Texas on July 8.

On its path to the U.S., Beryl wreaked havoc across Mexico, the Caribbean and Venezuela.

Beryl hit Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula as a Category 2 hurricane on July 5 and left as a tropical storm. There was heavy rain and minor wind damage in the tourist destinations of Cancún and Tulum.

When Beryl passed Jamaica’s southern coast on July 4, it was downgraded to a Category 3 storm, bringing winds of 145 mph and heavy rain. There was significant electrical and telecommunications infrastructure damage.

As Beryl passed through the Caribbean islands of Grenada it caused extensive damage. Beryl made landfall as a strong Category 4 on Carriacou mid-morning on July 1, with winds of 150 mph (Category 5 starts at 157 mph). The majority of the businesses and homes on the islands of Carriacou (population 6,000) and Petite Martinique (population 900) have been destroyed. In addition, the islands have lost hospitals, marinas (and boats), airports and almost all vegetation, including protective mangrove swamps. Communications and electricity are out, and water infrastructure is being assessed.

Carriacou has a population divided between many wealthier people who own second homes on the island and the service industry people who support those homeowners. It is the latter population that will need the most philanthropic support. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell told CNN, that Carriacou “had experienced a ‘traumatic’ event and will have months of challenges ahead as entire buildings were destroyed with their roofs blown off, with more storms to come.

At least 11 people have died across the Caribbean.

For more, see our 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season disaster profile.

Tropical Storm Chris – Mexico: Tropical Storm Chris was a short-lived system in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico that formed as a tropical depression on June 30, became a tropical storm that evening and dissipated the next morning.

Chris made landfall just before midnight on June 30, in Veracruz, Mexico, near Lechuguillas, about 85 miles southeast of Tuxpan, with wind speeds of about 40 mph. Chris was expected to bring rain of 8-12 inches to eastern Mexico, with the potential for floods and mudslides.

Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach said, “On average, the 3rd Atlantic named storm forms on August 3rd.”

For more, see our 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season disaster profile.

Floods/Landslide – Indonesia: Heavy rains and a landslide on July 7 are responsible for at least 12 deaths in Sulawesi, although 48 others are missing. At least 100 people were digging for gold in the remote area of Bone Bolango in Gorontalo province when the mudslide occurred. Only 44 people escaped. Heavy rains on July 6 and 7, led to 10 feet flooding in five villages after an embankment was breached. Almost 300 homes were flooded and 1,000 people evacuated.

Severe Weather – Cape Town, South Africa: Although a week of anticipated severe weather is just starting, South African officials say that gale-force winds have already destroyed almost 1,000 homes located in informal settlements near Cape Town. About 4,000 people have been displaced. The area is expected to be hit by multiple cold fronts, which are likely to bring heavy rains, mudslides, flooding and severe winds.

Wildfires – California: More than 21 wildfires are raging in California right now. The biggest of the fires is the Lake Fire in Santa Barbara County, which was at 20,320 acres as of July 8, with just 8% containment. The fire was discovered on July 5 and quickly grew to 5,000 acres on July 6 in part because of 90+ degree temperatures and below 10% humidity.

The next biggest fire has been burning for a few weeks. The Basin Fire in Fresno County has 60% containment and has burned 14,027 acres as of July 8. Slightly less than 9,000 customers are without power as of 2:00 p.m. CDT on July 8.

As of July 8, there have been 3,411 wildfires in the state burning almost 170,000 acres. There have been 128 structures lost, 42 damaged and 86 destroyed.

A sign of hope occurred when 13 young people who were reported missing in the heart of the Royal Fire were found safe on July 8. While a small fire, the Royal Fire is burning in steep terrain in an area of the Tahoe National Forest that hasn’t had a fire in more than 150 years. It grew from just 55 acres on July 7 to 169 acres the next morning.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Dengue fever – Worldwide: This year, a record 10 million people have been affected by dengue in the Americas.  The region reported twice as many cases in the first half of this year as were reported in all of 2023. Scientists blame the heat which has “accelerated the life cycles and expanded the ranges of the mosquitoes that carry dengue.”

Puerto Rico had more cases up to May 2024 than all of last year and declared a public health emergency. Public health officials report that dengue has been seen elsewhere in the U.S. including Florida, North Carolina and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which declared an emergency in December 2023, says that dengue fever is extremely neglected, in part because it is hard to detect with many people remaining asymptomatic. The CDC issued a Health Alert Network Health Advisory because of the increased cases of the virus on June 26, 2024.

Flooding – Midwest: Even as the remnants of Hurricane Beryl threaten to bring more rain to the Midwest, the loss of another dam, this time the Manawa Dam in Wisconsin, highlights the lack of maintenance and the risk of aging infrastructure in the Midwest, and across the U.S.

Dam failures, or partial failures like the Rapidan Dam in Minnesota in June, may increase due to the age of much of the country’s water infrastructure. The average age of a dam in the U.S. is 60 years, although the Rapidan Dam is over 100 years old. As climate change increases the severity of storms and the amount of rainfall, a lack of maintenance on the aging infrastructure is likely to lead to more breaches and collapses.

The impact of the Midwest floods continues even after the water has receded. Farmers, in particular, have been hard hit. Although rain was desperately needed because of extended drought, the amount of rain and the speed at which it fell flooded crop land.

At the height of the floods, Politico said, “more than 150 wastewater treatment plants in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota were forced to discharge raw sewage into nearby rivers and creeks.” The flooded crop lands, and manure storage basins, can contribute to what some health officials are calling a “fecal soup” as fields covered with manure are washed into waterways and reservoirs.

Debris Flows – New Mexico: Heavy rain led to flash flooding and debris flows in the burn scars of the South Fork and Salt wildfires. After two weeks of wildfires, the June 29-30 flooding saw water filled with ash and soot come out of the mountains and into Ruidoso. There was damage to homes and businesses. Post-fire flooding and debris flows are often more dangerous than the fire itself. The New York Times explains: “Three factors increase the likelihood and danger of a post-fire flooding and debris flow: how severely the soil is burned, how intense the rainfall is and the steepness of the landscape.” 

Flooding – India: Extensive flooding has continued in India, with eight more people dying over the July 5-7 weekend in Assam. The death toll from the monsoon rains, including floods, landslides and storms, is 78. At least 2.3 million people have been affected across 30 districts. Nearly 169,000 acres of croplands have flooded, and 1.5 million animals have also been affected by the seasonal monsoons. There are 630 camps providing shelters to nearly 54,000 people who have lost their homes or had to evacuate due to flooding.

The Chief Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, said that structural improvements in the state have made a difference with only four embankment breaches in 2024, compared to 400 twenty years ago.

Heat – Global: The European Climate Service, Copernicus, said: “The global temperature in June was record warm for the 13th straight month and it marked the 12th straight month that the world was 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than pre-industrial times.” 

Multiple countries continue to experience extreme heat, which is considered temperatures beyond the normal heat experienced typically on that specific day. In recent weeks, this includes Croatia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, India, Bangladesh, the UK and the United States.

The Climate Reality Project says, “Last year was the warmest on record, and already in 2024, each month so far has been the hottest January, February, March, April, May, and June, respectively, ever recorded.”


The province of British Columbia, Canada, saw 22 new temperature records set on July 7. The warmest temperature reached almost 104˚F, in the town of Lytton, breaking the previous record set in 1953.


As several areas of the U.S. continue to reel from heat, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released new research that shows the dramatic increase in heat waves in major cities across the United States, growing from two heat waves per year during the 1960s to six per year in the current and last decade. The length of the heat wave has grown from three days to four.

In the EPA study, 46 out of 50 communities saw a “statistically significant increase in heat wave frequency between the 1960s and 2020s. Heat wave duration has increased significantly in 28 of these locations, the length of the heat wave season in 46, and intensity in 20.”

Heat waves’ impacts are influenced by historical marginalization, with people living in red-lined communities, primarily people of color, impacted more than people in other neighborhoods, In fact, “mortality records from cities across the country have shown that heat kills along socioeconomic and racial lines.” 

Temperatures in Death Valley, California, known as one of the world’s hottest spots, hit 129˚ on July 7, tying the 2007 record.

In addition to the disasters listed above, we actively monitor the following disasters or humanitarian emergencies. For more information, see the relevant disaster profiles, which are updated regularly.

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies Colombia

Many places worldwide are experiencing emergencies caused by conflict, climate change, drought, famine, economic challenges and other conditions that combine to create a complex humanitarian emergency (CHE). CDP maintains complete profiles on several CHEs, and what CDP considers Level 1 CHEs are profiled in this weekly blog post and tracked.

In Colombia, the combination of violence, armed conflict, mixed migration, economic downturn, disaster and ecosystem degradation impacts the lives and livelihoods of millions.

Part of President Gustavo Petro’s efforts to end 60 years of unrest in the country is the Total Peace strategy, which fosters dialogues and ceasefires with some non-state armed groups. While progress in the signing of ceasefires is being made, lasting peace is elusive.

In this context, forced displacement is persistent and humanitarian impacts are significant. According to the Colombia Humanitarian NGO Forum, in 2023, armed conflict forced the displacement of at least 293,192 people.

Nearly 57% of displaced persons were forced to leave their homes more than once within the same year and this rate increases to 64.1% for Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, which are more likely to experience displacement multiple times.

In 2023, the World Food Programme said about 30% of the country’s population was food insecure. Exacerbating the humanitarian situation is the high level of disaster risk in the country. In recent months Colombia has endured floods, severe weather and drought due to high vulnerability and exposure to natural hazards.

Join us this Thursday, July 11

Webinar: #NoNaturalDisasters: Changing the narrative on disasters for philanthropy

What We’re Reading

  • States could help disabled people survive climate change—By involving them – Mother Jones: There are now 403 Centers for Independent Living (CILs) across the U.S. First started in 1972, these centers help build independence for people with disabilities to live at home, rather than in an institution. They are also an important partner for mainstream disaster response organizations to connect to before (and during/after) disasters to help save lives. Partnering with organizations supporting people with disabilities is important to CDP. Our domestic team recently made a $250,000 grant to the Kelea Foundation in Hawaii to ensure equitable recovery from Maui’s wildfires for older adults, persons with disabilities and access and functional needs, and persons with complex medical cases. Learn more.
  • UN Agencies provide $6.2 million in anticipatory cash and assistance to vulnerable communities ahead of anticipated flooding in Bangladesh – United Nations Bangladesh: “Anticipatory Action is a proactive approach to disaster management that enables the implementation and financing of actions before an extreme weather event occurs, helping families to safeguard their homes and income and ensure food security before and after the crisis.”
  • No one knows exactly how many people are dying from extreme heat – Bloomberg: Currently, there is no clear method for tracking heat deaths. The most common tool is called an “excess mortality study,” which looks at how many deaths occur on average on a specific day (or period) and then compares it to the same day/period when there was significant extreme heat. This is likely to be a significant undercount, which reduces the understanding of heat’s real impact.
  • One of Europe’s hottest places has lost its only lake – The Independent: “A severe drought in Sicily has nearly dried up the island’s only natural lake. Lake Pergusa, part of a natural reserve close to the central Sicilian town of Enna, has shrunk dramatically because of a lethal mix of hot weather and low rains, scientists said.”
  • Wildfire smoke linked to thousands of premature deaths every year in California alone – The Conversation: “When wildfires rage, the immediate threat is obvious – but smoke from the fires actually kills far more people than the flames. As fires become more frequent, that smoke is leading to a public health crisis.”
  • A Ludlow couple’s flood story became national news. A year later, it has a happy ending. – VTDigger: “Bex Prasse and Craig Kovalsky didn’t expect the New York Times to spotlight their 2023 storm travails. Then again, not much else about their move to Vermont has gone according to plan.” See what the couple are up to now.
  • This summer’s weather forecast is bad news for the US after an exceptionally disastrous start to the year – CNN: After a stormy start to the year, there are concerns that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may face a $1.3 billion shortfall by August. Summer is usually the season with the most billion-dollar disasters and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted an above-average hurricane season.
  • Risk communication and community engagement readiness and response toolkit: dengue fever – World Health Organization: “This toolkit is a comprehensive set of practical tools and resources designed to support country-level risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) practitioners, decision-makers, and partners to plan and implement readiness and response activities for dengue fever outbreaks.”
  • Welcome to the Age of Fire: California wildfires explained – Jefferson Public Radio: “After two mild wildfire seasons, California is bracing for whatever 2024 brings.”

Since we’re currently publishing this post every two weeks, you get two inspiring stories to carry you through.

  • There are a lot of studies about how communities pull together after a disaster, but monkeys? Turns out, a group of Macaques learned to get along after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. When the storm took out most of the trees on the small island the monkeys lived on, the shade was sparse, and the sun was hot. The Macaques monkeys, known to be very “quarrelsome” developed loose social networks and banded together to share the small amounts of available shade.
  • Our friends at AP, have created a glossary of weather terms. Now you can tell the difference between a polar vortex and an atmospheric river. Or the one I still get confused about: watches and warnings.
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