What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, November 14

Damage caused by Hurricane Nicole in Volusia County, Florida on Nov. 10, 2022. (Source: Volusia Sheriff’s Office via Facebook).

We know all too well that disaster can strike at any time, in any place in the world. Some disasters make headlines; others do not. Here at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, we keep an eye on 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 Nov. 14, 2022.

New or Emerging Disasters

Hurricane – Florida: Nicole made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on the east coast of Florida on North Hutchinson Island just south of Vero Beach in the early morning hours of Nov. 10. Nicole’s sustained winds were 75 miles per hour. It is rare for a hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. mainland in November. There have been just three mainland U.S. hurricane landfalls in the month of November, and Nicole is the first in 37 years.

Five deaths are attributed to Nicole, according to the Florida District Medical Examiners, including four in Orange County and one in Duval County. In Volusia County, more than four dozen coastal buildings were declared unsafe by inspectors. Volusia County communities of Daytona Beach Shores and Wilbur-by-the-Sea were among the worst affected areas. Orlando recorded more than three times the monthly average of rain within 24 hours of the hurricane’s landfall. Hurricane Ian, the Category 4 storm that hit the state in September, caused erosion that made some coastal structures more vulnerable to the effects of Nicole.

For more, see our 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season disaster profile.

Flu – United States: The U.S. crossed the epidemic threshold for the flu at an earlier point in the season than typically seen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that so far this season influenza has claimed 1,300 lives in the U.S. and has tallied 2.8 million illnesses and 23,000 hospitalizations. The country is seeing the highest levels of hospitalization at this time in the season in more than a decade. However, flu vaccine coverage is currently lagging, which remains the best way to protect against the flu. The surge in flu cases comes at a time when the country is also battling a rise in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) rates and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Ebola – Uganda: On Sept. 20, Uganda declared an Ebola disease outbreak caused by the Sudan ebolavirus species, following confirmation of a case in Mubende district in the central part of the country. As of Nov. 12, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Uganda’s Ministry of Health reported 139 cases, 55 deaths and 69 recoveries. An Ebola case has been confirmed in Jinja in eastern Uganda, the first time the outbreak has spread to a new region from the central part of the country. There is no proven vaccine for the Sudan strain of Ebola, unlike the more common Zaire strain. Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports has ordered schools across the country to finish the school year early to prevent further spread of Ebola among schoolchildren.

Ebolavirus disease (EVD) is a rare but often fatal illness. The WHO says the average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. According to the WHO, “good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, infection prevention and control practices, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe and dignified burials and social mobilization.”

Flooding – Australia: Seventeen emergency orders are in place in New South Wales (NSW), including urging people to evacuate or move to higher ground due to major flooding of the Murray River. Significant inflows into the Wyangla Dam on the Lachlan River caused spills at a record rate and 100 rooftop rescues took place at Eugowra in Central West NSW. Flash flooding hit Victoria after a sudden downpour brought nearly two inches (50 millimeters) of rain to Mount Martha and Mornington over the space of a few hours. On Saturday, Nov. 12,  storms, including 423,000 lightning strikes, caused the biggest blackout in South Australia since 2016.

Tornadoes – U.S. Southern Plains: On Nov. 4 and 5, more than two dozen tornadoes caused damage across northeastern Texas, southeastern Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas. The tornado killed at least two people and led to widespread power outages and structural damage. The town of Idabel, Oklahoma, in McCurtain County, was among the worst affected areas. The National Weather Service (NWS) upgraded the tornado that hit Idabel to an EF-4, the first EF-4 to hit Oklahoma since 2016. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt declared a disaster emergency on Nov. 5 for Bryan, Choctaw, LeFlore and McCurtain counties. The NWS North Little Rock office confirmed 14 tornadoes in Arkansas including one in Saline County that produced EF-2 levels of damage.

For more, see our Tornado Outbreak – U.S. Southern Plains disaster profile.

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

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies – Somalia

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.

A three-decade-long civil war and political instability combined with one of the worst droughts on record and food price shocks are pushing Somalia toward famine.

The Horn of Africa, a large peninsula and geopolitical region in east Africa, has endured four consecutive failed rainy seasons due to a severe drought. The World Meteorological Organization forecasts a fifth consecutive failed rainy season because of drier-than-average conditions expected for October to December 2022, worsening the crisis that already affects millions of people.

Somalia’s current drought has surpassed the 2010 to 2011 and 2016 to 2017 droughts in terms of duration and severity. Since November 2021, when the government of Somalia declared a drought emergency, the number of drought-affected people in Somalia has more than tripled to 7.8 million. At least 6.7 million people in Somalia face acute food insecurity through December 2022.

Famine is expected in parts of Somalia’s Bay region between October and December 2022 unless humanitarian assistance reaches affected people. United Nations experts have finished collecting data on the drought situation in Somalia and will publish their results in mid-November, which could lead authorities to make a formal famine declaration.

In 2011, delayed action by the international community led to 260,000 deaths in the famine in Somalia. It is critical that funders act quickly now to support emergency, recovery and resilience programming to save lives and strengthen affected communities. While short-term relief is needed to save lives in Somalia, protecting people’s livelihoods and restoring their dignity are also required to help avoid future famines.

What We’re Reading

  • Can an island feed Itself? – The New York Times: “Before Maria, Puerto Ricans were already about three times as likely to experience food insecurity as people on the U.S. mainland. After the hurricane, hunger became even more acute. After years of destructive weather that have disrupted Puerto Rico’s food supplies, new visions of local agriculture are taking root.”
  • Data shows 23 million Americans live in places most at risk of extreme heat – The Brookings Institution: “Any one of these three risk factors—temperature, energy costs, and residents’ age and income—can put people in harm’s way and place an economic and environmental strain on a metro area. However, the places most at risk (and most in need of support) are those where all three occur at the same time.”
  • Ian’s deadly impact on seniors exposes need for new preparation strategies – WJCT News: According to Lori Peek, director of the Natural Hazards Center and a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, “It’s not age alone that renders elderly people vulnerable in disasters, it’s the intersection of age with other social forces” that affects people who are poor and represent racial and ethnic minorities. Also, older adults and their caregivers need to be included in disaster planning. Peek is a member of CDP’s Advisory Council.
  • Nearly a third of southern Sierra forests killed by drought and wildfire in last decade – Los Angeles Times: The losses could have a myriad of effects in California because forests play an important role in the state’s water supply and help with carbon sequestration. The state allocated more than $2 billion in over the last two years for wildfire response and forest resilience projects. But researchers warn that climate change is a “threat multiplier” driving big, and often irreversible, disturbances over time.
  • A humanitarian lens on COP27: Loss and damage, debt relief, and climate justice – The New Humanitarian: “The sizeable humanitarian presence at COP27 reflects broader shifts in how emergency aid grapples with climate change. Over several years, it has morphed from a distant risk factor, to a pressing driver of crises, to a clear disruptor for a system facing a future of extreme heat, limited funding, and unending emergencies.”

Scientists have sequenced the oldest plant genome on record, and it comes from watermelon seeds enjoyed by Stone Age sheep herders in the Sahara.