Utter the name Katrina, and the recognition is instant… the storm that howled through Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama, and poured wave after wave of water into the urban bowl of New Orleans will leave physical and emotional scars long after the city — and its residents’ lives — are put back together again.
And Rita, too… so close on the heels of her sister storm, she was the strongest category 5 storm to ever threaten the Gulf of Mexico… though, thankfully, her effects were not so severe as we’d worried.
But what about Stan? Who? Stan, the deadliest hurricane you (probably) never heard of. Stan was a wobbly category 1 storm — a kitten, compared to Katrina and Rita — that nonetheless has wreaked havoc in the mountains of southern Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Torrential rains of up to 20 inches triggered mudslides that buried entire villages, and washed away bridges and roads.
The regions hardest hit by Stan are the highlands and lower slopes of SololÃƒÂ¡, regions around Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan… the same coffee-centered communities that I visited last January. The village of Panabaj is gone… most of its residents buried, and thus they will remain, interred in the mudslides. San Juan La Laguna is forever altered by wide avenues of mudflows. Finca Dos Marias — high in the cloudforest of San Marcos — is cut-off from the rest of the world. Roads leading to the farm were treacherous at the best of times; now they’re impassable, where they still exist.
Things aren’t much better in the southern border regions of Mexico: Chiapas, and Oaxaca… where rains and flooding and mudslides have scoured away essential infrastructure.
Those digging their way out of the aftermath of Stan need our help. These are mostly coffee-growing communities that have just suffered not only tragic loss of life, but livelihood as well, as anywhere between 50% and 80% of their crop has been lost and it may be impossible to harvest or process what remains.
Please give what you can.