Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ahead of the storm

I slept poorly last night, despite my comfortable hotel room and cozy bed, because I was watching coverage of Hurricane Irene right before going to bed.  Whenever I dozed off, my thoughts or dreams were a jumble of wind and rain and maps and crashing waves.  

I've never lived in a place that was immediately vulnerable to hurricanes.  But even inland, these storms are large enough and powerful enough to have effects.  During my stay in Charlottesville, we experienced the remnants of a hurricane that knocked out our power for four days and came through with the only green sky I've ever seen.  And in Arkansas, we got the tropical storm that Rita became after its pass through Louisiana and Mississippi, complete with tornado warnings and torrential rain.

My parents have dodged hurricane after hurricane at their home in St. Simons Island on the Georgia coast, and Irene is no exception.  The concave indentation of the coastline there means that a storm has to take direct aim at that spot to hit it; any other track takes it across Florida or avoids landfall until South and North Carolina.

I'm in Atlanta meeting with the AAR board, many of whose members come from the spots in Irene's path.  Their flights are being cancelled and their airports shut down for tomorrow; they may be stuck here for another day at best.  

2011 has been a wild year for weather events, with catastrophic tornados, floods, and now a long lasting hurricane battering nearly the entire east coast.  With lots of preparation and the population taking it seriously, one hopes that the human toll will be low.  So much rebuilding is needed from all these events.  It's a chance to put America to work and make our infrastructure better -- so that next time we're better prepared.  Let's hope we take it.

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