While the force of Hurricane Harvey was quite visible, an almost unseen digital force helped behind the scenes with rescue and recovery efforts. Heavy rainfall from the remains of Harvey flooded several counties in East Texas, displacing approximately 30,000 Texans, according to a statement from FEMA, and thousands waited to be rescued in late August.
Official rescue efforts weren’t enough to get to everyone who needed help. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long called on the public to visit the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster website, www.nvoad.org, to see how they could help.
Other Texans opted to help by using their personal boats to help rescue those stranded. Those too far away to help, donated money, food, clothing and other necessities.
The locations for donations, calls for help from victims and assistance for the rescue efforts made their way around social media via concerned users and official sources.
The popular grocery store chain H-E-B also made its presence known on social media and in the areas affected as it shared photos of its cavalcade of trucks heading to assist affected areas. The trucks were equipped with kitchens to prepare food for those in need.
However, people on social media believed not everyone was doing enough to help the cause.
Rawstory.com broke a story on Aug. 28 about Joel Osteen, a Christian televangelist and pastor of Lakewood Church, a megachurch in Houston, one of the cities most affected by the flooding.
The site reported that Twitter and Facebook users were criticizing Osteen after tweeting out a call for prayers and attempting to raise money for the displaced while keeping his church, which seats 16,800, closed to the public.
The church opened its doors later that day only after widespread sentiment that Osteen and his church weren’t doing enough to give back, went viral.
A source from within the church sent out an image to writer Charles Clymer, who posted the image revealing the church had bought air mattresses and were setting them up in preparation to open its doors.
“We will continue to be a distribution center to those in need,” Osteen said in response to the criticism. “We are prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm.”