Thursday, November 1, 2012

Not Just a Once-in-a-Lifetime Storm

I'm expecting to see efforts to deal with damage and return to normalcy, but not enough focus on major structural changes needed to prepare for and prevent this kind of destruction. This storm has been discussed and described as an anomaly, a one-of-a-kind Frankenstorm. But as students of disaster history, we know this is not the case. Connecticut and the rest of the tristate area have experienced hurricanes before (Diane in 1955, Floyd in 1999, and even Irene in 2011) and will likely experience them again--maybe next year or the year after. By looking at this storm as something unusual and unprecedented, we risk failing to use it as an opportunity to prevent this kind of damage. I am sure the flooding and downed power lines will be dealt with and the boardwalks and seaside towns on the Jersey shore will be rebuilt, but will politicians or people in general demand changes that might make the next hurricane we face less of a disaster? Will the Northeast realize that preparedness can be structural, instead of just manifesting itself in people stocking up on bottled water and batteries in the hours leading up to the next storm? Some important voices--like those of Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York--are resisting this dangerous logic. Hopefully their mindset of structural preparedness will create real change.

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