The word “unprecedented” has been frequently used to describe the wrath of Hurricane Harvey.

The National Weather Service had to add a color to its precipitation maps to accurately reflect rainfall totals. A Nebraska native who lives outside Houston told the Journal Star she’d recorded 57.1 inches – nearly 5 feet – of rain since the hurricane made landfall. The Washington Post reports that up to 30 percent of Harris County, the nation’s third-most-populous county with 4.6 million people, is underwater.

For many on Texas’ Gulf Coast, the situation is dire, and the death toll is climbing. Countless residents have lost everything to Hurricane Harvey, and the subsequent cleanup and rebuilding will take several years.

Though a collection of Lincoln firefighters and Nebraska National Guard members are on the front lines for rescue operations, most Nebraskans can only watch news coverage. The devastation has left many people speechless – but we are still able to help, as we should when any of our fellow Americans are struck by such a disaster.

Without leaving home, residents of southeast Nebraska can contribute to help their fellow Americans struggling with damage from storms and flooding.

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, for instance, is administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation and is being promoted by peer organizations across the country, including the Lincoln Community Foundation. Crowdfunding efforts, such as the online fundraising page by Houston Texans football player J.J. Watt with more than $7 million in donations, have collected millions of dollars in gifts.

Local food banks, blood banks and animal shelters have probably never needed donations more. Even from hundreds or thousands of miles away, Nebraskans can contribute. The well-known national organizations – American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, etc. – are also out in full force.

Unfortunately, natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey provide an opportunity for unscrupulous individuals to attempt to enrich themselves at the expense of those truly in need of assistance. Before donating to relief efforts, use channels such as the Internal Revenue Service or Charity Navigator to be sure that the nonprofit agencies are valid and not scams.

The destruction from the storm and the subsequent flooding will be felt in Houston and adjacent areas for a long time. On Thursday, CNN cited estimates that placed Harvey’s damage at $75 billion – before the full extent of its aftermath can even be surveyed.

A strong hurricane and unprecedented rainfall in an area ill-suited for such a storm have created a need that must be met. Generosity is vital to helping our fellow Americans overcome and rebuild this disaster – and Nebraskans must answer the call for assistance.

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