Hurricane Harbor

A writer and a tropical muse. A funky Lubavitcher who enjoys watching the weather, hurricanes, listening to music while enjoying life with a sense of humor and trying to make sense of it all!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Winter Storm "ATHENA" (???) 9 Days After Sandy

Up to 2 inches of snow are falling an hour over Connecticut, the southwestern area of the state getting the worst part of it.

Winds are gusting to 44mph in Newport, Rhode Island and snow is falling in Hartford, CT.

Crazy the picture above of the storm The Weather Channel has named "ATHENA" ..

Same area affected, though it will not progress west as far. The corridor from CT to NYC to NJ and down to Philly will all be affected by this new system. Any other year this might not be that bad a storm, but this year when people are still without power and lacking for the basic necessities of life such as food, warm clothes and footwear. 

It's bizarre and surrealistic to look at Cantore on a Beach... barely a week after a land falling Hurricane and see him on the same beach in a snow storm.

Mayor Vincent Barrella from Point Pleasant Beach, NJ is upset with the slow pace of recovery. He is getting no straight answers and all the answers are in the hands of the higher ups and six weeks before utilities are turned back on is too long. 

Frustration up in that region is rampant, depression and anger and a sense of totally being overwhelmed with where to start first and what to do.. 

The shear size of the geographic area affected by Sandy is about the size of Continental Europe. The areas that fared better than others, but that suffered damage are at the bottom of the list and are made to feel guilty as they have so much more than say Breezy Point or Sea Gate. If you live in a house with holes in the roof from trees that fell and you suffered both wind damage and storm surge damage... mold is beginning to grow and you still have no power your life has been as uprooted as a large hundred year old tree in a storm. You are in shock, numb and at a loss for how to get back to square one or even remember what square one was... you feel as if you are a war victim and no one is rushing out to help you.

After a small, intense hurricane hits an area the trucks are ready to roll, FEMA is counting the hours to be on the ground and working in some unlucky town. This is a matter of mathematics... there are not three towns that have suffered cataclysmic losses... not twenty towns but hundreds.. no thousands of towns that stretch from Hartford, CT where people just got power back to Valley Stream, New York where a friend of mine just returned home with his family as they just got power back to towns in Philly and Edison, New Jersey and upstate New York. Towns, cities, villages, neighborhoods...all of them in some way needing help at the same time.

Where is the help?

IF we were not prepared to deal with the aftermath of Sandy... then how would we have dealt with a large scale terrorist attack?

Every couple of hours, I hear from someone who is looking to put someone up north that they love in touch with someone who can help them. 

Truth is it is a very slow process and people need to be proactive and not expect help to come.

In Miami after the last several hurricanes people cried out for help. We did have the National Guard, but there was an illusion that help would roll in ...but it didn't roll in... it seeped in a trickle at a time.

File:Katrina Florida landfall.jpg

That is a Hurricane... a tightly wound up hurricane sitting directly over my old house in North Miami Beach. We sat outside during the eye on lawn chairs and waited to run back into the house. Being in the eye is the dream of  most Florida kids... and we were. 

This was the aftermath:

File:FEMA - 27263 - Photograph by Marvin Nauman taken on 08-28-2005 in Florida.jpg

When you say "just some trees fell down" you cannot properly imagine what a city looks like when huge Ficus trees that look like Tarzan grew up swinging from them come down over houses, cars and with root balls that span a yard or two across.

" Dania Beach, Broward County, FL, 8-28-05 -- Hurricane Winds from Katrina knocked over huge tree crushing this home. Joann & Orland Douglas point to where they were when the tree fell on them. Orland was knocked down by the tree and Joann was trapped under the rubble and had to be rescued. "

Multiply that tree by tens of thousands of trees that crashed onto small homes, rooftops and across cars that belonged to people who also suffered structural damage from the Storm and who were without electric for over a week after Katrina in South Florida.

Quoting from a FEMA report:

"Hurricane Katrina began as Tropical Depression 2 on Tuesday, 23 
August 2005.
 Tropical Depression 2 was upgraded to Hurricane Katrina 
late Thursday afternoon, 25 August, and a few hours later, it slammed into 
 The hurricane passed over Florida and entered the Gulf of Mexico 
where the warm waters enabled it to continue to grow in strength. Over 
the next few days, as the hurricane made its approach on the Gulf coast, 
emergency managers throughout the region scrambled to prepare for the 
storm. By Friday, 26 August, Hurricane Katrina had grown into a Category 
3 storm and it was getting stronger by the hour.
 National Hurricane Center 
officials warned that it could get even bigger and began comparing it to 
Hurricanes Camille and Andrew, two of the most devastating hurricanes to 
ever strike the United States. 
In the face of such dire warnings, both state and Federal officials began 
implementing their emergency plans. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco 
declared a state of emergency on Friday, 26 August, and activated 2,000 
National Guard soldiers.
 Governor Haley Barbour followed suit later that 
afternoon when he, too, declared a state of emergency in Mississippi and 
authorized the callup of the state National Guard.
 The next day, Governor 
Blanco mobilized 2,000 more Louisiana National Guard troops, initiated 
the state’s evacuation plan, and asked President George W. Bush to declare 
a Federal state of emergency in Louisiana.
 President Bush acceded to 
Governor Blanco’s request Saturday evening and issued a Federal state 
of emergency declaration for Louisiana."

Notice anything?

All they said about South Florida is that it "passed over South Florida"

It does go on to say Florida was declared a Federal Disaster Area and the rest of the report is about the Gulf Coast.

It describes their ordeal in Andrew:

"Two units involved in the Hurricane Andrew relief operation were 
the 20th Engineer Brigade and the 1/22d Infantry of the 10th Mountain 
Division. The 20th Engineer Brigade received notification that it would 
deploy to support Hurricane Andrew relief efforts late in the day on 27 
August, 3 days after the storm struck. The brigade’s assault command 
post arrived in Florida at 0530 the next morning and headed toward its 
operating area. What the engineers found appalled them. Five days after the 
hurricane had struck, the situation on the ground was still bad. The relief 
mission was disorganized, little aid was getting to those in need, roads 15
were blocked by debris, electricity was out everywhere, and telephone 
communications were mostly inoperable. Based on that assessment, the 
engineers decided to add extra bucket loaders to their equipment list.
2 September, four engineer battalions had deployed to the area.
the initial relief missions, such as road clearance, were completed, the 
emphasis shifted to recovery missions. The engineers cleared debris so 
that disaster assistance centers, life support centers, and mobile kitchens 
could be set up to provide critical support to the victims. They also began 
restoring schools and removing the debris piled up at schools, parks, and 
other public places.
 Conditions continued to improve so that, by 20 
September, the engineers were able to redeploy."

It's an interesting long report to read on the job of FEMA... however...

Andrew was 1992
Katrina was 2005
Sandy was 2012

You get the feel that every time there is a Hurricane or similar disaster they start from the same point all over again.

All 3 of the storms listed above happened 7 years apart. Why are they as unprepared for Sandy as they were Andrew when they found days after the storm that everything was a mess and they didn't seem to know where to start or what to do first. They had to assess the situation, that is true... but did they not incorporate the things they learned from Andrew and Katrina to better deal with the large scale disaster of Sandy??

"Five days after the 
hurricane had struck, the situation on the ground was still bad. The relief 
mission was disorganized, little aid was getting to those in need, roads 15
were blocked by debris, electricity was out everywhere, and telephone 
communications were mostly inoperable. Based on that assessment, the 
engineers decided to add extra bucket loaders to their equipment list."

And, note..Miami had little help to deal with the toppled trees and downed power lines as crews had already been dispatched to the Gulf Coast as Katrina went on to be a Major Cane.

People in Miami were often told to "sit tight" and "be happy all you have are some downed trees and power outages" 

That is what is going on all over parts of the affected areas that made it through the storm with minor damages. The Red Cross is at Coney Island and Sea Gate but not out on Long Island or inland in parts of New Jersey that were further from the coast and the submerged roller coaster at Seaside. 

There are not enough supplies and resources to go around and they are "assessing the situation" as if they learned nothing from Andrew and Katrina. And, some areas seem to have been ignored more than others such as Staten Island. 

When will we learn from the previous disaster and apply that knowledge to better deal with the next one. And, when we learn the next one won't be exactly like the previous one.

I give a lot of credit to the women and men of FEMA...they do a massive, amazing job. I give a tremendous amount of credit to first responders who work until they drop and then keep going. I give a lot of credit to Vincent Barrella of Point Pleasant, NJ who when he had his fifteen minutes of fame standing next to Jim Cantore this morning waiting for snow to fall from "Athena" that he used that time to ask where help was and why he was not getting help faster. 

And, many Mayors up and down the coast are asking that same question... 

Can we do better is the question?

In Miami after Katrina in 2005, some people suggested that others need to "butch up and buckle down and do the work themselves" reminding new comers that in the "old days" people helped each other out with buzz saws removing trees and fixing up the neighborhood. That advice was met with anger from others who felt the government should be there for them. Old timers pointed out you have to take control and take care of yourselves. I guess now days they would be called "Preppers"... who distrust the government and feel they need to prepare in case the worst happens. It's an argument that arises anew with every catastrophe. 

As for TWC naming snow storms... why not, go for it.

Maybe it does raise the bar for awareness if a storm has a name. On some levels I think it's silly. But, today after a long National Election with deeply divided parts of this Union that will come together as it always does until the next four years roll around and we remember we are a nation divided not as much between blue states and red states as we are between people in small towns across the country and people who live in the city. There are vast differences of beliefs and levels of priorities between people living in small towns in Kansas and Arkansas and Georgia and the both North and South Dakota and people living in Detroit and Miami and LA and Chicago. Urban dwellers who out number the smaller towns around America who are more liberal in nature than the folk who live in South Carolina and 

A National Election is a lot like a storm. The media covers it with great hype. You hear nothing for days other than about the storm and then afterwards the same media picks it apart the way a Wolf picks apart it's prey.

A huge swatch of real estate went red, way more than the blue areas and usually the blue area is red peppered with blue in the larger cities.  Look at the hotly contested state of Ohio below. The majority of the state geographically went red for Republican and small islands of blue for Democrat around the larger cities were enough to push the state over for the Democrats. 

Look at Illinois:

The cities and the college towns went Blue... the farm towns on the prairie went red... the larger area.

Across the middle section of America.. except for the Auto Towns in the Midwest who threw their lot in with Obama vs Romney... this scenario played out.

We are in ways a divided America, but we only seem to be aware of it when there is a Presidential Election. 

The Mid-Atlantic Coast is a divided region and it is divided into 3 parts. The part that had no problems from Sandy. The part that had tree damage (see above) and minor structural damage and no power for almost a week. The part that had towns washed away and tremendous loss of life and families littered with severe injuries and memories of a life before Sandy.

We will pick up, we will go on and we will help each other as much as possible. There is a lot of anger in some places who feel forgotten and on the bottom of the list and other high profile towns with the media taking pictures and doing stories will get more help. In storm coverage like with elections the media makes a big difference.

We need to learn more from Sandy and use it for next year's possible Barry...the second storm on the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season List.

And, snow is falling in Brooklyn as I write this... 

I called and asked my son to confirm what was happening vs the news on TWC and the social media sites. He told me that was what he heard on social media. I asked him to look. He did and he muttered something under his breath like "terrific" and asked me how bad it is going to be. I told him WET HEAVY SNOW and to be careful, because some of those trees that looked like they made it through Sandy may come down in Athena and he muttered again "terrific" much like my father would do when he heard some not so good news. He is trying to put his life back together after Sandy and find some sort of normal again. Much like many of us are today after the elections and much as the people on Wall Street worry that the market will be able to rally as it is trying to do from being down 300 points.. it is now up to 257 points down and people on the floor of the Stock Exchange must be thinking, "terrific" when they think of getting home from work in the snow.

That's snow falling across areas where homes have roof damage, window damage and in some cases still don't have power.  And, on any other day in November people would be thrilled to see snow falling..but not today.. not when they have not yet cleaned up from Sandy.

So... the only good thing I can say about Athena is she should be a fast moving storm... she will drop her very wet snow and move on if we get lucky and then ... we can continue the slow process of trying to recover from Sandy... and any new damage from Athena.

Besos Bobbi

Ps.. I'll put up a list later today or tonight with some more sites who can be contacted for help by relatives of storm victims who don't know where to begin or where to go to put their broken lives back together again.


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