Hurricane Irene's damage less than feared

Hurricane Irene's damage less than feared

August 30th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

Michel Gilbert, from left, and his sons Michael and Isaiah try to move a neighbor's vehicle out of high water as flooding caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Irene hit Huntington, Vt., on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011.

Michel Gilbert, from left, and his sons Michael...

Photo by (AP Photo by Glenn Russell/Burlington Free Press)

As lethal hurricane winds swept across a broad swath of our Eastern coastal areas over the weekend, floodwaters from heavy rain added more deaths, as well as property damage estimated at more than $7 billion.

We are awed and sometimes horrified by the tremendous power of nature when we see storms rage over a large part of the most heavily populated portions of our country.

More than two dozen people were reported to have lost their lives when Hurricane Irene swept along the East Coast and inland from Florida north.

Despite timely warnings seeking to minimize the danger, some chose to ignore those admonitions. And not all of the unpredictable hurricane's perils -- from falling trees to downed electrical lines -- could be avoided even by those who tried to be careful.

Meanwhile, many who fortunately were spared death or injury are nonetheless going to be without power for perhaps several days. Nearly 5 million people had serious power disruptions. That will create inconvenience for most and real hardship for some while repairs are completed.

Densely populated New York City thankfully did not suffer the level of destruction that had been feared. Irene had been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm by the time it reached that huge metropolitan area.

As during other disasters, multitudes of police officers, firefighters, utility workers and emergency personnel -- as well as private volunteers -- worked tirelessly to prevent or alleviate suffering. That fine effort will no doubt continue in coming weeks. Still, it will be an expensive effort to return people in several states to something resembling normalcy.

We do not like to be reminded of how helpless we are in many ways when confronted with nature's wrath. But as we recall the death toll from Hurricane Katrina and other disasters in the United States and abroad in recent years, we are grateful that the destruction was not far worse.