Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's Never Happened Before So It's Not Going to Happen

Well, Irene is gone, but most certainly not forgotten. One of the wonders of the Internet for me is the ability to watch TV online from other places. I spent some time last evening doing that with TV in Virgina, Washington, DC, Pennsylvania/New Jersey, and New York City. To see the incredible number of rain records set; to hear them talk about record river levels in some places; to watch reporters try to stand up and do a stand-up in the wind- it was quite an evening.

I remember a decade or so ago a "gale of November," a lot like that which sank the Edmund Fitzgerald, went through the Upper Midwest. For several days we had gale force winds constantly blowing us around. Which means they weren't even half of Irene's sustained winds. I remember standing and trying to fill my gas tank while bracing against the car. I had difficulty walking across the parking lot to go in and pay. Sustained winds of up to 40 mph.

I thought then about the power of wind in a hurricane. Even a Category 1 with winds from 75 - 90 miles an hour would be exponentially greater than the ones we had in the November gale. Add all that rain, mix in the storm surge and blowing debris and you have quite a mess on your hands.

Fortunately not all of the pieces stayed together in Irene. Some of the areas began to clear out a little more quickly. The winds died a little. Storm surge wasn't quite as high. But there are MILLIONS of people without electricity. There are millions of people in flooded areas. It is a disaster.

But it did happen. Not like some of the people I saw being interviewed last night said.

Well, we've lived here for 30 years and it has never happened before. It won't happen now.
In some of those places, no, it didn't. But the toll is still to be told. Just because where you were wasn't as bad as forecast, you can't wait until it's on top of you to get out of the way. You wouldn't do that hoping an onrushing truck barreling down the hill will stop in time. Why do it with the amazing power of a hurricane?

Monday Morning Emergency Management "Experts" will be sure to tell us what went wrong. I am glad that so much went right- even the weakening of the storm "just enough" to avert an even greater catastrophe.

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