We were extraordinarily lucky that Hurricane Irene didn’t live up to its potential.
The track of the storm was accurate.
Had it hit the northeast as a category 2 or heaven forbid category 3 hurricane the damage would have been truly catastrophic. New York would be in a whole 'nother world of hurt. Instead it lashed the city that never sleeps as a tropical storm.
Not that one should take tropical storms lightly.
Our area in NEPA has seen what a nasty tropical storm can do. When Agnes struck it left our Valley in shambles.
Irene was no slouch either.
Vast swaths of the east coast had extensive power outages. In NEPA, some folks are only now able to make snow angels on their shower floors now that the hot water is back on. (Note to Michelle: scrub that shower stall first. Feet were there, and in my house the missus calls the EPA whenever I take my shoes off).
I never had that sense of imminent catastrophe with Irene that I had with Katrina. I remember writing folks on my mailing list ahead of that storm to urge them to donate to the Red Cross. You only had to look at a map to see that hell was about to be unleashed on New Orleans.
With Irene there was a sense early on that it was losing strength. But the storm was huge and hit hard despite its weakened state.
I still take some exception to treating a potential catastrophe as a media event with days of build-up. People in the path of a storm for the first time feel like the end of their world approaches. When it doesn’t, I have to wonder how they’ll react next time.
And there will be a next time, maybe in our lifetimes, maybe not. But a major hurricane will eventually hit the northeast with full fury. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen.
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And on that note, oddly enough, I switch to stimulus. I believe we missed a tremendous once-in-a-generation opportunity to use a stimulus wisely.
What we did was throw money up in the air and hope it landed someplace useful.
What we should have done was announce a mammoth initiative to protect New York and other major at-risk cities from hurricanes. Vastly upgrading seawalls to protect from once-in-a-hundred-year storms would have required manpower, heavy equipment, raw materials …the ripple effect across the nation would have been significant. Factories would have had to ramp up production and the factories that supply them would have had to ramp up production as well.
Instead we filled potholes and hung up expensive signs at taxpayer expense telling Americans how ...um ...their tax dollars are being spent.
In the end, Irene will fade from memory. Nothing will be done to protect New York City from the truly devastating storm that will surely come next month, next year, or next century. Just like nothing was done to protect New Orleans after Camille struck the Gulf Coast in 1969. Camille was a warning shot, but it spared the Big Easy and faded from memory.
And then came Katrina.
We missed an opportunity. What was that old commercial? You can pay me now, or pay me later.
We’ll just pay later …it’s the American way.
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And what are my thoughts on the insanity of holding disaster relief hostage to spending cuts? I posted this on Facebook before going to bed last night:
"...The Preamble of the Constitution notes promoting the general Welfare as necessary for a more perfect Union. Providing disaster relief to Americans promotes the general Welfare. Holding disaster relief hostage to spending cuts elsewhere undermines it. That's as plain as I can say it. Help our citizens first and with all possible speed. Haggle later. Why does this even need to be said?"
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I must end on an up-note: My son is having a pig roast Sunday. I expect some damages to my waistline.
I do so without guilt. You don’t roast a pig every day!
I've had better days...
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