Hurricane Season

Untoward brilliance from the Washington Post

Well, no kidding? Seems to me that it always does, always has, and always will. Why? Because the poor have fewer assets, not to mention less ability to run away.

But the remarkable thing about Harvey (apart from the way it stopped over Houston and unloaded however many trillions of gallons of water it did) was that for such a huge storm, and one so severe, was simply how low the death count was, especially in America’s fourth largest city. Steven Hayward has some good thoughts.

One of the remarkable things about this extraordinary catastrophe is how low the death toll has been—less than a dozen. A flood of this magnitude in the developing world usually kills tens of thousands. The 1900 Galveston hurricane killed over 6,000 people; adjusted for population change in the region, that would probably be something like 100,000 today.

It is not individual wealth that has made the difference, though as with all things individuals with more assets are always able to survive and recover from disasters better. It is the collective wealth—both social and material—of our society that has kept the death toll from Harvey at an astonishing minimum. (Our social capital may be more important than assets in the bank at moments like these, as we’ve seen with the remarkable scenes of spontaneous self-help going on in Houston.)

One other remarkable thing. I spoke yesterday with a former high ranking public official from Texas who points out the following: While 10 million people live in the coastal areas hit by the brunt of the storm, only 300,000 lost electricity. The resiliency of the Texas grid has been remarkable. Partly that is the result of Texas deregulating its electricity market much more seriously than any other state, and investing well over $10 billion over the last 15 years to upgrade its transmission infrastructure.

That last paragraph caught my eye, which won’t surprise you, given my background. The 6 P’s come to mind (prior planning prevents p*ss poor performance) as always, and nobody does it better than people spending their own money, like the power companies in Texas. But you know I think I heard last night that more people have already lost their electricity in Peurto Rico with its sole provider PREPO, which is involved in the island’s financial mess, which led to the 2015 passage of PROMESA. I don’t know enough to have a valid opinion but suspect a goodly portion of the Authority is politically (and not conservative) driven. It just, on first acquaintance, smells like that to me.

One of the reasons the storms aren’t so deadly anymore is the amount of money the US has spent and still does, on forecasting. We’ve gotten a huge return on our tax dollars in this area and still do. It’s remarkable really, I’ve been watching the UK’s Sky News this week, and their coverage of Irma, while extensive, always returns to American expertise. Of course, that is natural, Britain gets few hurricanes, and we get quite a few, and it’s easy enough for us to provide warnings to the few British possessions left in the area, not to mention that I’ll bet Cuba (whatever the politics) does as well. As it should be, in protecting ourselves we also protect others.

But Steve is right, the material wealth of Houstonians mattered, but not as much as their willingness, regardless of any other factors to help one another out. Maybe its a function of people who are confident that they will find another meal, or maybe it’s one of America’s heritages, might even have to do with America being more Christian than most places anymore, likely all of those things and more, but it is one of the things that makes America so resilient, that things that almost destroy other societies while a challenge here, there is almost never any doubt that the town, city, state, whatever will be back stronger than ever.

And believing it, it becomes so. In the end, it is a matter of confidence and a hallmark of America. Our heritage comes from many sources, but one of them is that old Irish proverb…

The first duty of the strong is to protect the week.

We saw it in Houston in the last fortnight, and we’ll see it expand with Irma, into the Carribean and perhaps Florida. Not only do we take care of our own, we take care of pretty much anybody who runs afoul of things beyond man’s control.

If you are anywhere close to Irma, keep your head up and your butt down, or better yet, get out of her way.

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About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

6 Responses to Hurricane Season

  1. the unit says:

    “…get out of her way.” That’s that.
    I feel so out of place right now. I’m usually in the wrong place at the wrong time,…or bad place when it happens. Was for Camille and Katrina, and Ivan and Opal and Fredrick and and and…I forget some other names. 🙂 Katrina was the worst, standing on the balls of my feet the water was up to my nose and sloshing the furniture around me like like a washing machine agitator. At least I now live 133 feet above sea level. Very glad to be out of place.
    I guess my following generational kin are going to take my place. Nephew was in Houston for Harvey and son was scheduled to start new job in Miami next week. Fortunately son is still in Nashville, TN.
    I’m very sorry for those in Irma’s way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      I hear you, no experience with tornadoes, but every time I hear about tornadoes, I reach for my tool bag, and then I realize it’s not my problem anymore – but it was the most rewarding work I ever did. 🙂

      Glad to hear that, I’ve been thinking about you, that should be enough, I’d think, but nail everything down real good, the wind sounds rather incredible.

      I am as well, and still another coming along right behind. The Caribbean sounds a mess already.

      Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        You mean they accepted your assistance? I remember some Alabama power workers went to N.J. help out after Sandy and the union wouldn’t let them work. I think finally something was worked out though where they did help people…and get their “reward” you speak of. 🙂
        P.S. after one guy was beaten up pretty bad.

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          I remember that, I wrote about it, I think. Yep, most of the REAs worked together for storm damage, and that’s who we contracted with anyway. Damned union goons, and it was rarely the guys breaking their butts in the field.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. the unit says:

    So far I’m to the west of the cone.
    For anyone following Irma, Mark Sudduth out of North Carolina does about the best job of explaining what to expect from her. I think this link will take one to his site.
    http://hurricanetrack.com/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on boudicabpi2015.

    Like

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