The photos coming out of Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey are utterly devastating. Homes and businesses completely ruined. People stranded with limited supplies. Flood waters tainted with sewer and dangerous chemicals. Farms drowned out. It is absolutely heartbreaking. As the flood waters slowly recede, we can start assessing how much damage has been caused.
Of course, we have also seen the best of Americans during this trying time. Countless photos of the rescue efforts floated around social media — people of all shapes, sizes, and colors helped one another. Prayers were offered up. We saw abandoned pets rescued. Cattle were herded through the streets. People just showed up and offered to help.
Donations have also poured in from across the country. It seems like every store, football game, and social media websites are collecting money to aid in the relief efforts. Big companies have been donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to help those in Texas; Wal-Mart has donated $20 million, Verizon donated $10 million, and Wells Fargo forked over $500,000. J.J. Watts, an NFL player for the Houston Texans has raised over $27 million. Even President Trump has donated $1 million from his personal accounts.
As expected, every media channel covered the ongoing tragedy around the clock. For most, it is still the headline.
The only thing that has really changed the national focus is the impending landfall of Hurricane Irma. A state of emergency has been called in anticipation of the storm hitting Florida. Residents are being told to evacuate. To be fair, the attention is warranted considering that Irma may be one of the worst storms to hit the United States, like, ever.
But while the hurricanes have been hogging all of the attention, there is another natural disaster occurring in the United States that almost no one is even talking about. In Montana, Oregon, and Washington wildfires have been raging since July. In Montana, a statewide fire disaster was declared last week. Over 600,000 acres have been charred. Over 2,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. Livestock has perished. The smoke from the fires is causing health concerns and is so thick in areas that planes cannot fly over. Worst of all, the hurricanes are actually drawing resources away from fighting these fires.
But we have barely heard a peep from the national news media. There is no 24-hour news coverage. There are no celebrities raising money. No big corporations donating millions of dollars. We don’t see the heroic photos of people helping each other from daring rescues. No one talks about the people that have lost their homes. No one talks about the burned livestock.
Heck, if it hadn’t been for Facebook and friends from near there, I wouldn’t have even known about it.
I recognize there are differences between the hurricanes and wildfires that favor the former for news coverage. The hurricanes happened relatively quickly; the wildfires have been raging for several weeks. Storms are more exciting and intriguing; fires are slow and laborious. The imagery coming out of Texas is compelling; the photos from Montana look (literally) like a version of Hell.
Despite a lack of news coverage, those devastated by wildfires in Montana, Oregon, and Washington need support just like those in Texas and Florida. I certainly do not mean to minimize or take away from the damage caused by Harvey. Unfortunately, it looks like Florida will soon suffer a similar fate from Irma. Even still, while we are donating our time, money, resources, thoughts, and prayers, we should not forget about those in Montana, Oregon, and Washington.
Americans have shown over the last week that we are pretty awesome at coming together and helping each other. Let’s find a way to include our friends in other states as well.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.