Hurricanes -- and other ravages of nature that plague human beings and cause disastrous damage -- are not avoidable.
And so, besides preparing as well as possible in advance, the best we can generally hope to do is react quickly and decisively when such catastrophes strike.
But it is in those situations that so many Americans' fine character comes to the surface. We often see some of the best, most unselfish responses by private citizens and government workers alike as many people seek to help those in need and to alleviate hardships.
As the death toll from Hurricane Irene rose to at least 40, while causing billions of dollars in property damage and disrupting millions of lives, countless individuals responded to help others in need.
Police, firefighters and other public employees all along the East Coast areas affected by Irene put their personal comfort and safety aside to give aid.
And in Chattanooga, we are told that a record number of Red Cross disaster-relief volunteers are heading to distant locales such as Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia to lend helping hands.
We will never be able to measure fully the human tragedies, personal property damage and other losses from Hurricane Irene. But we also will never be able to measure fully the outpouring of assistance during this painful time.
We praise both the professionals and the volunteers -- locally and throughout our country -- and we thank them sincerely for the varied ways they have stepped up to the challenge of easing suffering in the wake of this latest natural disaster.