Editorial Sept 19-25 2018: Hurricanes Once A Year Now

Exactly a year ago the Echo reported on page one about efforts underway by the Ancient Order of Hibernians to aid fellow Hibernians affected by Hurricane Irma in Florida and Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Hurricanes are an annual event so twelve months on there should be no surprise at the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

As was the case with Irma and Harvey, and now with Florence, there has been an impressive response on the part of first responders around the nation.

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By way of an example is the Urban Search and Rescue New York Task Force 1 which has been deployed to North Carolina

The US&R NY TF-1 team, according to a release, is managed by the New York City Emergency Management Department and is made up of specially trained personnel from FDNY and NYPD.

It is given the call to action by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The task force specializes in urban search and rescue, disaster recovery, emergency triage and medicine.

The eighty-three member team, along with six canines, departed from New York City Emergency Management’s Brooklyn facility last week to North Carolina.

The team, again according to the release, is deploying with various equipment and tools to support its operations, including eight water rescue boats, motors, items to support rescues from collapsed structures and confined spaces, as well as a compilation of hazardous materials response equipment.

There are 28 FEMA US&R teams strategically located throughout the United States that can be deployed within six hours of activation.

Added the release: The FEMA US&R program originated as a response system for natural disasters. Since the program’s inception, the task forces have broadened the scope of US&R’s work. Two early activations of the US&R system occurred in response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in California. FEMA US&R teams also activated in response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. NY TF-1 deployments include Hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008, the Haiti Earthquake and Hurricane Earl in 2010, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, in 2017.

Ah, Maria.

As with Harvey, the hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico was an especially violent and consequential natural event.
Both Harvey and Maria would appear to make the grade of one of those one in a hundred year, or once in a lifetime, storms.

This is a subjective area of course. But we all have a rough idea of the kind of hurricane that we would not want to go through more than once in a lifetime, or have our community take on the chin more than once in a century.

Why more frequent hurricanes?

Many of us are also beginning to roughly work through the idea that these storms of unusual force are becoming, well, more usual.

Maria was particularly potent in its effects given that it struck a relatively small geographic area that was also heavily populated and burdened with a less than robust infrastructure.

The emergency response, many would argue, was not up to the standards we have witnessed on the U.S. mainland.

But rather than debate relative response we would be better employed considering relative weather.

There is still an argument raging as to whether or not climate change is a real phenomenon.

We could also argue that driving cars at a hundred miles an hour doesn’t always result in fatalities so why have speed limits.

But of course we know that it does so often enough to justify speed limits.

On the balance of things, and given what we have recently witnessed in both the Atlantic and Pacific, it would appear to be the wiser course to accept that man-induced climate change is at least a partial cause of recent storms, the kind that clearly go beyond the normal or typical when it comes to, well for one thing, rainfall.

In the meantime, we can take pride in the efforts of responders, professional and volunteer, who rush to the aid of their stricken fellow citizens, both on the mainland and, yes, in Puerto Rico.

But the federal government?

Well, that has been too much a case of small bore and big wind.