Monday, August 29, 2011

Thoughts On Irene

Michelle Bachmann's right, in one regard: Hurricane Irene is a wake up call, but for reasons other than the ones she cites.
We pretty much got lucky (and I don't mean to minimize the impact on anyone who suffered a loss this weekend.) The storm did not gather strength off the DelMarVa as was originally projected, and even heading into North Carolina, dry air started to infiltrate the storm, which while it didn't weaken the winds, helped keep the rainfall totals in check a little. Basically, the back end of the storm was lopped off.
But the storm also should have lost strength faster than it did over cold water, and that's something scientists and meterologists will have to study closely.
My personal, uninformed opinion is that this storm was too big for its own good. Had there been a smaller, tighted windfield that could have kept the rotation intact longer once it reached Cat 4, it would have wreaked significant destruction all along the seaboard as more than a Cat 1 hurricane.
And there's the other mystery of this hurricane. It lost strength over water faster than when it was half on, half off the coastline. Usually, the friction from land will compensate for the intensifying out at sea, both tearing the storm apart while weakening it. As with the fact that it didn't maintain strength as a high Cat storm, I suspect the enormity of the windfield picking up energy off the ocean had much to do with it.
Too, Irene lingered off the southern coast, but once it passed the Outer Banks, it seemed to put on jets and rocket up the coast, which probably saved a lot of homes in Jersey and Long Island. Had it lingered longer, who knows what the flooding would have been like?
To our nation's credit, the events of 9-11 and particularly Katrina forced us to take a long, close look at disaster preparedness, and the plans implemented this weekend were a tribute to the effectiveness of those plans. It certainly helped that governors and mayors all in the storm's path spoke with one voice about the intensity and danger of this storm.
As much as I hate to acknowledge this, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, the state with the longest coastline affected by the storm, deserves singling out as an effective (if bullying) voice to the people in harm's way. His words moved a million people inland, and no one seemed to really mind.
Unlike New York where Bloomberg's cadging was seen as unnecessary and chiding. People have short memories, forgetting that the city did practically nothing ahead of the Christmas blizzard and was taken to serious task for that.
We dodged a bullet. This time.