On the heels of Hurricane Harvey’s havoc, Irma has quickly emerged and already had devastating impact, as it aims for Florida. At the same time two other storms have reached hurricane status – Jose is following Irma’s general track and Katia is in the Gulf of Mexico.
Responding to Irma, President Trump declared a state of emergency in Florida, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. He did the same for Harvey.
Right now the focus is on the northeast Caribbean, where Irma has delivered brutal winds of up to 185 miles per hour and flooding from Barbuda to Puerto Rico. Its power is heading west, with Florida its likely target. Floridians remember all too well 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm that pummeled areas south of Miami. Irma is projected to be nearly as strong when it hits over the weekend.
Andrew, the last Category 5 storm to hit the United States, led to changes: South Florida’s building code now mandates structures be able to sustain very high winds, among them. Hurricane shutters are now commonplace among South Florida homes. And, as a New York Times article noted, that storm led to the modern-day federal, state and local emergency response system.
If there is any key lesson to learn from these natural occurrences, it is the need to be prepared. Even then, losses are inevitable. The hope is to cut down on the tragedy of lost lives.
This region, although with a different kind of extreme weather event, understands all too well the need for preparation. In our case disaster falls as snow, and sometimes in nearly unfathomable amounts, as was the case a few years ago when 7 feet buried parts of Western New York.
Motorists around these parts should never leave home in winter without nonperishable food, blankets and first aid kits. A supply of water and nonperishable food at home (here and in the hurricane zone) is a good idea in the event of impassable roads or a power outage.
But under extreme circumstances, survival requires much more. The millions of people in Houston, only now beginning to recover from Hurricane Harvey, have a clear understanding of what it takes to make it through a major storm. Residents of the Southeast United States need to heed that experience, preparing as best they can and following government instructions.
While hurricanes can’t be stopped, disasters have a way of bringing communities together, no matter how distant otherwise, to shoulder the burden. It is the humanity in humankind.