A Sign of the Times

Hurricane Irene changed, as hurricanes do, into Tropical Storm Irene.  It started in the Leeward Islands, passed through the Eastern part of the United States and ended up in Canada, moving at speeds from eighty miles an hour to fifty miles a hour. Get used to hurricanes and storms becoming more frequent; they are a sign of the times.

The winds brought floods, sheet rain and destruction. At the last count there were at least forty lives lost, and that was after a well publicised advance evacuation notice and estimates of more than $7billion insured damage done, as well as much damage which was uninsured. It is too early to know the final damage as the floods have not yet abated and weakened infrastructure may be found to be unsafe.

Some would argue that the coming of the storm was hyped up, and that in the end it did not prove to be the Armageddon that some predicted it would be. I cannot criticise the fact that the storm was well publicised. That publicity certainly saved both life and property. The media are always hungry for a story to fill the papers and airtime. They often do give too much publicity to events and pretend that a small problem is or will be a massive crisis.

In the case of Irene they claimed it would be worst than it proved, but in doing so frightened many authorities into taking serious precautions. Some of the precautions, such as closingNew York City’s public transportation, were in the event fortunately over precautionary, but the precautions that were taken across in Eastern seaboard did save life and property.

The scale of the devastation varied. In Vermont the flooding caused by the storm was the worst since 1927.New York State has lost some important infrastructure but New York City escaped the worst of the weather. As a natural disaster far more damage was done by Hurricane Katrina six years ago. What has made Irene exceptional was that someNew Englandstates experienced their worst storm weather ever or for many years. Across the border Irene was less virulent but nevertheless still bad enough to bring floods and cause fatalities.

In the USA the damage from these disasters is put right with money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency – FEMA. FEMA is still paying for the reconstruction needed after Hurricane Katrina and is spending heavily after the recent unexpectedly virulent tornadoes that have affected Alabama and Missouri.  It is down to its last $800 million, which is a sign of the climate times and the economic times.

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