In the April 2019 Board of Directors meeting minutes, USA Swimming stated that it will offer grants of up to $5,000 to swim teams affected by hurricanes and wildfires in 2018.
Grants are to be used for replacing or repairing material losses, though if swim team members have been displaced for extended periods of time, the grants may also be used to cover those families’ team dues. Per the BOD minutes:
“USA Swimming will be offering grant assistance (up to $5,000) to clubs affected by the hurricanes and wildfires in 2018. Similar assistance was offered after the hurricanes and wildfires in 2017. To be eligible to apply for a disaster relief grant, teams must have suffered material losses from one of the recent hurricanes or wildfires. To be able to use grants to provide swim team dues relief, teams must have team members and families that have suffered the loss of their homes for an extended period.”
Increasing wildfires in the western United States have displaced people from their homes, taken lives, and, more trivially, displaced swim teams from meets and competitions. High profile instances of swim teams affected by wildfires include the cancellation of the Texas-Stanford dual meet due to the “Camp Fire” wildfire in California last fall, as well as the relocation of the Fresno State vs. Pacific dual meet from Stockton to Fresno due to air quality concerns from California wildfires.
In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey devastated the Gulf Coast and Houston especially, swimmers and teams showed their support for one another by opening their pools and homes to those who were affected by the storm. Notable examples include equipment donations organized independently by 2016 Olympian Cammile Adams, as well as by the women’s swimming & diving team at Rice University in Houston. The Fitter & Faster Swim Tour, with the help of Adams and fellow Olympians Allison Schmitt and Elizabeth Beisel, also organized a special “race an Olympian” event in which all proceeds were donated to Hurricane Harvey disaster relief.
Houston’s Kingwood High School was particularly devastated by Harvey, but with assistance from Rice and other fundraising efforts, re-opened one year later. Additionally, in 2017 USA Swimming waived its 120-day waiting period for swimmers transferring from one team to another for one calendar year in response to hurricane devastation in the southern U.S., stating that “USA Swimming recognizes that member athletes have been displaced from not only their homes but their swim clubs,” and that “enabling displaced athletes to be included as part of a team is also part of the recovery process.” For a more in-depth look at how teams have helped out other swimmers and teams in need, check out this 2017 video report on Blue Tide Aquatics, which hosted displaced swimmers from Kingwood High School following Hurricane Harvey.
There were 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes in the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, which resulted in over $50 billion in damages. The Congressional Research Service estimates that in 2018, 58,083 wildfires burned 8.8 million acres nationwide, costing 19 firefighters their lives, and burning 25,790 structures. Estimates of the economic impact have varied, but most estimates run in the hundreds-of-billions of dollars.
Data shows that both hurricanes and wildfires are growing both more frequent, and more severe, in the last 10 years.