Hurricane Irene thankfully did not cause as much damage as originally feared. In fact, people initially thought that it would be the worst storm of the century. But, there was a sigh of relief because the hurricane turned into a tropical storm that lacked the destructive force of a hurricane. It is true that the tropical storm was also disruptive leaving five million homes and businesses without power at some point during its movement. More than two dozen people are feared dead. About 9,000 flights were canceled. Forecasters and authorities had given a warning that the storm would “become a big-city nightmare”. But, it did not turn out to be so but it still had the ability to surprise the people. What could have been catastrophic has been averted, thanks to the timely warnings and the proactive steps taken by authorities and many other organizations.
It is time authorities learn a lesson
But, there should have been better anticipation and enhanced preparations in place. Had there been more suitable and appropriate contingency plans, the commuting nightmare faced by people of Vermont and also by the New Yorkers could have been avoided. The transit system that was shut down much ahead of the storm could be resolved only very slowly because flood waters threatened the transport system. The effects of the storm were quite severe because rains fell inland. Surprisingly, along the coasts, the effects were not as destructive as expected. Fear could be seen on the faces of residents of Pennsylvania and New Jersey because water level was rising in rivers and creeks. One could see raging torrents with tree limbs, cars and parts of bridges in Vermont and upstate New York. Authorities fear that it will take days for complete restoration of electricity.
Darkness and a bigger worry
In New York city alone, about 50,000 power customers experienced complete darkness. But, there was a bigger worry for the New Yorkers. They were very much worried about reaching their workplaces the next working day because the transit system that was shut many hours before the hurricane struck, was very slow in resuming services. The New York Airport and almost all the airports of the North East had huge backlogs of hundreds of thousands of passengers.
Irene turning into a Tropical Storm
There were winds higher than 177 kilometers per hour at a certain point of time when the hurricane was heading towards the US. But, the hurricane turned into a tropical storm and when it hit New York, the winds were blowing at a lesser speed of 105 kilometers per hour. When it was reaching Canada, it lost all the typical characteristics of a tropical storm and the speed of the wind was only 80 kilometers per hour.
Magnitude of Losses
The deaths that occurred in the US were mostly caused when trees crashed on the roofs of houses or on vehicles. Initial estimates done by Kinetic Analysis Corp. show the total losses due to this hurricane as $7 billion. This includes insured losses of $2 to 3 billion.
Preparedness is the key
Even before the hurricane touched the US, states like Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and New York thought it fit to declare a state of emergency. People were also preparing themselves to face the situation. They bought all the required supplies including water, food items, medical supplies, flash lights, etc. Even the sale of generators touched an all-time high.
How Irene moved
According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Irene made it to New York City by making a landfall near Little Egg Inlet, north of Atlantic City. There were floods all around the five boroughs and the storm water surged above the sea walls in many places around the city. More than a dozen homes were filled with water in Staten Island and the authorities struggled hard to rescue the residents stranded in such buildings.
It was Cape Lookout of North Carolina that was struck first and the storm moved farther north near Virginia and Maryland. Then it hit the land again in New Jersey to move northward again. Authorities were really surprised because the hurricane moved more quickly than expected. Perhaps, that is why the damage was less than what was anticipated. But, the fact remains that the floods caused in places like Vermount are the worst in 80 years. Vermount is a mountainous, land-locked place in the New England state and tropical storms are very rare here. Though the hurricane was reduced to a tropical storm when it reached Vermount, it dumped 7 inches of rains in this place. The governor of the state is perhaps justified in calling this catastrophic flooding as the worst natural disaster since 1927.
Lessons from Hurricane Irene
There is a huge lesson to be learned from hurricane Irene. People should be well-prepared to face such situations. There is no point in waiting till the last minute for acquiring the required supplies. If you are proactive, you can avoid undue stress. Apart from storing the essential supplies, important documents must be shifted to a safe place. You should also have duplicate copies of these documents. If necessary, you should shift to a safer place well ahead of time. You can not take chances with disasters because you can not predict their impact.