Eastern United States Devastated By Hurricane Irene – No Break from Onslaught of Natural Disasters:
Hurricane Irene devastated Eastern United States within a week after the Earthquake tremors and caused the worst flooding in recent history all the way from North Carolina to Vermont.
Category 1 Hurricane Irene poured heavy rain with 115 mph wind speed when it made landfall in North Carolina (6 dead and thousands in shelters, half a million people without power). Turning into tropical storm with heavy rain and flooding Irene continued its 700 miles wide path all the way through New England. Irene poured 20 inches rain in North Carolina and 13 inches in New England.
Irene’s aftermath included (source – The Weather Channel):
• Airports closed and transit shutdown in New York and Boston
• 11,000 flights canceled affecting one million travelers
• Bridges and subway shut down in NY
• Bridges washed away and roads broken in many states causing many communities trapped without outside help
• Historic covered bridge of 1870 in Vermont washed away (worst flooding in Vermont after 1927 due to hilly terrain washing away more than 200 bridges and many roads)
• Trees falling on power transmission lines cutting off power to millions
• Power breakdown affected all DC metro area and surrounding region.
• Heavy flooding in a dozen states along the path of Irene in the coming days
• River overflow in all these states; rising sea water flooding coastal areas in New York and NJ
• Estimated human loss of 40 and 5 million people without power as of August 30
Ironically, there was no rain in Atlanta which is under dry spell for many months. Worst flooding was in Vermont after 1927 with 100-year flood occurred second time within a few years. This shows the inherent limitation of the flood insurance rate map (FIRM) developed by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
All this flood water overflowing rivers, devastating communities, buildings, and transportation infrastructure, and finally simply going to waste to the ocean. (See Guest Post 2 and Dr. Uddin’s note). This is just another indication of severe limitation of the approach of federal funding to government agencies because none is charged to protect nation’s lifeline infrastructure against natural disasters.
Question 1: Is there office in the U.S. executive branch looking at overall priorities for infrastructure funding to protect from natural disasters?
Question 2: Have the federal agencies and the U.S. Congress learned the important lesson to protect key lifeline infrastructure from hurricane and flood disasters instead of simply funding reconstruction when there are catastrophic failures?
(Photos: courtesy of Hely S. Gonzalez, Florida)