Hurricane Sandy: A few glimpses of the human toll

Estimates of the death toll from Hurricane Sandy along the Eastern U.S. Coast are hard to pin down right now, but CNN has the number at 110. While The Huffington Post movingly describes the tragic affect Sandy had on many of the elderly nearer to the NYC shore, my own focus is a little closer to home.

As Wayne said in a comment on today’s Sunday Roast, “our area…lost a handful of people” – yes, only four people died in or around Putnam County (we’re in Dutchess Cty, but only 4 miles north of the Putnam county line.) But two of the four were children, killed when a tree fell on the house they were in. The house had power despite the hurricane, and two children from a neighbor’s house were visiting with their two friends, watching TV, when the tree came down. Now two more families are beginning their struggle to cope with every parent’s nightmare.

Here’s what our hometown’s community turnout looked like at Beecher’s Funeral Home for one of the youths. Beecher’s is a sort of local landmark: it seems to have been there forever (certainly for our entire lifetimes), standing atop a large wedge of hillside that slopes down toward the Village proper. It’s where the vast majority of Brewster and nearby area residents are waked. Wayne and I have said goodbye there to so, so many family members, friends, loved ones, neighbors; we both grew up in Brewster Heights, a development on the next hill behind Beecher’s; Bobby and Judy (my brother/Wayne’s sister) raised Emily and Adam in a house right behind Beecher’s. So yes, this is kinda personal.

Our area is coping with the loss of electricity, the downed trees, the blocked roads. As of this past Thursday, Putnam County had cancelled their “State of Emergency.” NYSEG crews have been out in force for several days, reconnecting power; grocery stores are gradually refilling their shelves; lines for gas stations that have been hindering traffic are beginning to slowly disappear as more deliveries are getting to the gas stations; residents are clearing trees and debris, and are starting to repair damage.

But for two local families, there is no ‘fixing’ or ‘repairing’ their losses; hopefully, there may someday be ‘coping.’ My heart aches for them.

Climate Change and Global Bankruptcy

I am reading a book right now by a nuclear engineer from Australia (Ron Nielsen) titled The Little Green Handbook published in 2005 before Katrina. I had of course a jaundiced eye but in one of the chapters he eschews nuclear as having considerable little value in future energy solutions and dislikes the massive nuclear waste by-product (people can reform, you know). In any event, he posits that if the world continues on the most likely track of ‘business as usual’ we are poised to experience by 2039 global bankruptcy. The assumption is that business and governments cannot continue to absorb the costly superstorms that will be spawned by the climate change phenomenon. Sandy damage predictions (on the heels of Irene in the Mid Atlantic and New England last year) seem to bear out these predictions. If you recall, there were devastating floods in Europe 2 years ago and 10 foot snows in Romania last winter and you have the case by case evidence that keeps building towards irreversible global collapse of the infrastructure of civilization. Not a pretty picture if we don’t do something soon. Not finished the book yet, but he appears high on wind power as the most reliable alternative to reduce carbon emissions.

Link to Sandy damage estimates:

The Very Watery Whole, Monday, October 29th, 2012: Heeeeere’s SANDY!

-Hurricane Sandy, photo courtesy of NASA

As of this writing, Hurricane Sandy is hitting parts of New Jersey. Up here in Dutchess County, New York, we’re already starting to get some wind gusts, bringing down what’s left of our leaves, but the brunt of Sandy will not hit us for several hours. On the other hand, New York City is already all but closed down, and, according to a blurb on TWC, the inimitable Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey says “Don’t be stupid, get out!” Reservoir levels in New Jersey and southern New York have been lowered several feet in advance of the storm to help avoid overflows, but a Weather Channel shot of a local lake beach a bit southwest of us in Putnam County showed the water up several feet past the lifeguard’s chair.

For more information on the size and possible effects of Hurricane Sandy, here’s an article from The Weather Channel online. Forecasts include very heavy rains in the coastal and slightly inland areas, but huge swaths of Pennsylvania could get anywhere from several inches to two feet of snow.

You know that this hurricane is a huge one when it even eclipses talk of the upcoming election. To all of our friends in the path of this storm, please STAY SAFE!

This is our daily open thread–let’s talk!

The Watering Hole: Saturday, October 27, 2012 – Will We See The Next Frankenstorm Coming?

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a possibility of a storm even worse than the Perfect Storm of 1991 hitting the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast next week. Dubbed a “Frankenstorm”, it could be the result of a huge hurricane striking the coast at the same time a cold front moves in from across the country. And while weather prediction is still not a perfect science, our satellites have made it possible to see and track massive storms like Hurricane Sandy. But there’s a very real danger that we could have to spend a year or more without this satellite coverage.

The fleet of weather satellites in service is at or past their life expectancy already. Unfortunately, due to mismanagement and bad planning, the launch of the next set of replacements satellites may not happen until 2017. We could be facing a one-year-or-longer gap in the kind of critical satellite coverage needed to save lives. If another huge hurricane forms and threatens to meet another massive cold front, we may not see it coming. And it’s no comfort to think that the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology could still be controlled by ignorant, Science-hating Republicans. The truly sad part is that distrust in Science is not limited to the less-educated conservatives. Even conservatives with college degrees don’t trust Science.

Every four years they say that this election is the most important one of your life, and that’s become more and more valid in recent years. The Republican Party, in its never-ending quest to deny Reality, actually appoints people to the House Science Committee who have no business opening their pie holes on the subject of Science, let alone making law on it. People like Rep Todd Akin, famous for giving us the current term “legitimate rape” (and who is still being given money by right-wing groups) and for publicly denying that Evolution is real, and Rep Paul Broun, a physician(!), who called Evolution, Embryology and the Big Bang Theory “lies straight from the pit of hell.” And they’re not the only ones. These are not people who see the value in Science, so why are they allowed to make legislation regarding it?

If our nation’s great experiment in Democracy is going to work, if we truly want to be a beacon of hope to the rest of the world, we have to vote out people who do nothing to make that happen. These Republicans are a joke, and they should be on the unemployment line not getting the benefits they always vote to cut. I urge everyone to vote and to vote for your own best interests for a change. And your best interests are served by showing the GOP the door.

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss the upcoming storm, the ignorant Republicans, or any other topic you wish.

[Cross posted at Pick Wayne’s Brain]