Despite the fact that many are expressing humor about weathermen and politicians’ “over reaction” to the storm, in many areas no one is laughing. Few regions can absorb nearly nine inches of rain without serious flash flooding. Some communities are experiencing a real disaster. Because, although the storm may have passed, its impact is still being widely felt and will continue to torment communities for some time to come as water seeks a way to the sea.
Hurricane Irene was indeed a large storm, but it did not develop into a mega-hurricane as some had predicted. New York City escaped the horrifying impact many anticipated. But New Yorkers should be thankful for that and not too smug. Had Irene maintained its strength, the dimensions of the problems sixteen million urban dwellers faced would have been beyond comprehension. A surge a mere few feet higher would have paralyzed the city for a long time.
For years experts predicted a major disaster would befall New Orleans. Then, as each storm approached then turned away, residents became complacent. Eventually they refused to evacuate and many even neglected to satisfy basic survival needs.
Then Hurricane Katrina struck. The much maligned experts were proved right after all. It was worse than anyone could have imagined. Nearly an entire city went under water with the concomitant loss of life and incredible property damage. Those who failed to prepare became victims.
That having been said, perhaps those residents along the Northern Atlantic Coast should be a little less smug about what did not happen. They dodged a bullet this time, as we had for many years. But the fact remains, and they should keep it in mind, that New York City remains the #`1 most vulnerable city to a major hurricane.
Imagine if you can a category #3 hurricane with its raging winds, heavy rains, and high storm surge striking Manhattan Island and surrounding areas, all coastal communities. Imagine if you can trying to supply sixteen million people with water and food who are living without electricity in high-rise apartments with windows that do not open.
Some may laugh at Hurricane Irene and the warnings that preceded its arrival, but it is wise to keep in mind that many here along the Gulf Coast did the same prior to Katrina. They came to regret their negligence and shortsightedness. 1,600 died in a predominately suburban population of just over a million. Imagine if you can the same horror visited on an urban population of sixteen million!
Everyone is thankful that the east coast avoided the worst case scenario. However, take it from those who have experienced the power of nature…it can happen and it likely will happen at some future time. They had best learn the lessons and prepare.
by Ron Chapman