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August and September 2020 saw an unprecedented spike in natural disasters. As much of the western continental United States was ablaze, a series of powerful hurricanes devastated the south east, heavily impacting Louisiana and its Gulf Coast neighbors.
As of October, more than 4 million acres have been burned by wildfire in California alone—and the fire season is not over yet. NPR has reported that according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the state has previously never surpassed 2 million acres in a single fire season in as long as the data has been recorded.
On the other side of the country, Atlantic hurricanes are also setting records. For each year, the World Meteorological Organization creates a list of 21 potential storm names, corresponding to each letter of the alphabet (except for Q, U, X, Y, or Z). For only the second time since records began, the number of hurricanes has exceeded theses naming protocols, now resulting in storms named Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, respectively.
Episcopal schools have been in the paths of many of these disasters, but thankfully none are reporting significant losses. Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School found itself directly underneath Hurricane Laura as it made landfall in Lake Charles, LA, but damage was mostly confined to a damaged and flooded gym, and the loss of trees around campus. “Our school, compared to others, sustained minimal damage,” writes The Rev. Frances “Boo” Kay, Bishop Noland’s principal. As Hurricane Sally bore down on Pensacola, FL, thankfully Episcopal Day School was spared the brunt of the damage. “We fared extremely well. Both church and school are on top of the clean up” wrote Robert Stephens, Head of School.
In the northwest, smoke from the fires has resulted in poor air quality, forcing some schools to return to fully virtual learning. “It’s positively biblical out here,” writes The Rev. Lex Breckinridge, Rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Medina, WA. “Fires and plagues, now snakes are being driven into towns as their habitat is being consumed. Frogs and locusts can’t be too far behind!”
As schools and communities try to make sense of the widespread destruction, NAES has tried to compile articles from Dioceses and other Episcopal entities. Here is a collection of statements and resources that will be relevant to Episcopal schools.
Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana
Hurricane Laura Assistance
The Rt. Rev. Morris K. Thompson, Jr.
Bishop of Louisiana
Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast
An Update on Hurricane Sally
The Rt. Rev. J. Russell Kendrick
Bishop of the Central Gulf Coast
West Coast Fires
How to Help
- Episcopal Relief and Development
Episcopal Relief and Development works directly with dioceses to provide direct relief to communities impacted by disasters.
- The Mercury News
The San Jose Mercury-News has published a list of agencies with descriptions of the type of work they are doing.
- Diocese of El Camino Real
The Bishop’s COVID-19 fund has been expanded to help wildfire victims.
Statements & Resources
The Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real
Wildfire message from Bishop Lucinda
The Right Rev. Lucinda Beth Ashby
Bishop of El Camino Real
Fire, Weather & Avalance Center
U.S. Wildfire Map