Constant Hurricane Risk in the Crisfield, Maryland and How the Community Deals with It


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I chose my hometown of Crisfield, Maryland, as a population that is at risk to disastrous hurricanes. Crisfield is considered a population at risk because, we are a low-lying town, on the water, in the poorest county. I am not zoning in on one specific population in this case because when you live in Crisfield it does not matter where, we are all at equal risk of losing everything just for the fact that we live here. On October 29, 2012 hurricane sandy hit my small town with so much force we are still recovering to this day. It did not matter what race, gender, ethnicity, age, personal belief, religion, immigration status, or sex you were. It affected everyone in this town, and in doing so, everyone in this town stepped up to help each other when we were left behind by the government and officials that should have helped sooner. Being the poorest county, we often must fight harder to receive the things we need. Most often we don’t even get recognized on the news for something as simple as the weather, but if there is a murder or gang violence we will be headline news. Crisfield has for a long time been casted aside as a bunch of no good, uneducated, bottom of the barrel type people, it just simply isn’t true. This town is a hard-working close nit community that came together after sandy and still comes together before anyone else chooses to help.

Crisfield is the southernmost city in Maryland, once known for its plentifully oysters, and still to this day considered the crab capital of the world. However, because of overfishing and regulations Crisfield’s seafood contributions have become less and less as the years go by. Many household’s soul income depended on the water, some still do. The depo, that was once surrounded by seafood houses and shanty’s, has now become a small vacation town with condos and gift shops (Lazarick). Not only has Crisfield started to suffer financially, but we are also suffering ecologically. Crisfield is surrounded by water on three sides, flooding is a normality dealt with daily. Like I stated earlier it is a small town populated by only 2,659 people with a median household income of $28,053 and poverty at 41% (Crisfield). Almost all the homes and neighborhoods are in flood prone areas. With a devastating storm like Sandy, and many storms before, we needed government funding to help the city take precautions against the extra flooding that comes with superstorms. According to the Mayor of Crisfield, during that time, he put in for a special tidal gate grant from the government. “Tide gates are structures placed in storm drainage pipes to stop water from flowing in but to allow it to flow out, preventing some flooding (Lazarick)” but the funding for this project was not approved until a week before Sandy. The mayor states he put in for the gates a full two years ahead of the storm. If this was a major city at risk of losing it all it wouldn’t take two years to help them preserve their town. Because we are small, poor, and often forgotten it is no wonder we didn’t have the proper precautions we needed ahead of time.

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It is no secret that sea levels are rising. Holland Islands that once was the home for 300 residents is gone (2013), Smith Island and Tangier are projected to be underwater in the next 30 to 50 years (Lazarick), and Crisfield is soon to follow. The needs of this town fall completely on lack of finances. Everything we need to protect ourselves must go through grant money that gets held up for years in the approval process. Sadly, “when researchers interviewed local officials all along the shoreline for a 2010 study, they found “no explicit plan for the fate of most low-lying coast lands as sea level rises. ” (2013)”. B. Community Problem, Challenge, or Risks related to Basic Human Needs: During hurricane sandy, Crisfield experienced flooding like never before. Places that never flooded suddenly experienced a 5-foot serge of water. Businesses and homes were condemned, and with such a slow response from the state and federal government most people in this small town were left to deal with the aftermath of the storm alone (Effects of Hurricane Sandy). Hurricanes bring flooding, winds, power outages, and destruction in their wake.

For a small lower income town, it was devastating to have water up to your windows, mold, debris, and rot into your homes. “While President Barack Obama did declare a state of emergency in Maryland, residents in Crisfield were originally denied individual relief. Hearings took place on Capitol Hill and it was eventually changed” (Melser). This directly effected people having access to their basic needs, one of the most important being shelter. Many businesses that provided the basics like food and fuel did not open for days, and vehicles were ruined in the storm, so leaving town for necessities was not immediately possible. Poor response from government officials to poor communities is not unique to Crisfield’s experience after hurricane sandy. According to The Las Angeles Sentinel, “New Orleans’ Black residents – who mostly lived in the city’s poor, low-lying areas, which suffered massive flooding – were disproportionately affected by the flooding and the seemingly non-existent rescue and recovery plans of the local, state and federal government” (Morial). Although my town is a much smaller area, it was completely devastated by flooding, and we were left to pick up the pieces ourselves. It took the state and federal government much time to approve funding for homes to get rebuilt.

The people on the front lines in my community were the churches and volunteers who came in and rescued stranded victims, rebuilt homes, cleaned away debris, and provided food, clothing, and shelter. Before the storm Crisfield was not prepared for a five-foot storm surge. During the storm community members sat in their homes while it sunk into the bay, and after the storm we had to rely on each other to pick up the pieces. Crisfield was the one of the hardest hit community’s after hurricane sandy, yet during this paper I could only find journal articles about New York City. Being a small, poor, invisible city makes it hard to get the resources and help we need when faced with natural disaster. Our basic human needs become nonexistent when up next to larger more developed cities with more people.

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