While earthquakes and tornadoes are rare in most of the commonwealth, hurricane season is a regular fixture on our calendars in Virginia. The season typically runs from June to November with heightened activity August to October. This is the second of a blog series centered on Danville, Virginia’s experience recovering from Hurricane Michael in 2018 and beyond.
After the storm passes and it is safe to return downtown, start assessing and documenting the damage. Danville’s Main Street organization, the River District Association (RDA) immediately began to survey property destruction and take photos.
While doing this, RDA also talked with businesses and property owners about practical, immediate needs to begin connecting people with resources and vice versa. RDA Executive Director, Diana Schwartz, reminds leaders, “Open your ears. People desperately need someone to talk to that gets it, and it is imperative that they know you are listening and that you care deeply.” Showing the community positive compassion, strength and commitment to coming back stronger in the face of difficulty helps build momentum.
The City of Danville, the Industrial Development Authority, River District Association and FEMA worked together on post-disaster assistance/recovery, including $2 million in FEMA post-disaster assistance and recovery. But it isn’t just funding that businesses need for disaster recovery. In-kind assistance with waste removal, tree removal, physical clean up, cleaning supplies and tools, as well as meals for workers make a big difference. There were many stories in Danville of people lifting each other up, and the flood gave the community the opportunity to pull together during recovery.
Schwartz suggests other ideas to support recovery include:
- Working with local government to expedite obtaining permits for repairs, signage, temporary parking, etc.
- Pulling together local marketing experts to develop and disseminate messaging around any changes regarding business location, hours, support, etc.
- Helping businesses find a partner or pop-up to work in while their physical space undergoes rehabilitation.
Schwartz notes that Hurricane Michael, “allowed us to understand the gaps that we needed to traverse and close to be better prepared for emergencies in the future. I think this experience, in some ways, positioned us to be immediately responsive to the COVID-19 crisis and put some of our communications and response tools into action.”
For information about preparing in advance, check out part one of this blog series.