Florida pum­meled by Hur­ri­cane Irma

The Week (US) - - 4 News -

What hap­pened

Mil­lions of Florida res­i­dents be­gan re­turn­ing to their storm-bat­tered homes this week, af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma tore through the state caus­ing ex­ten­sive flood­ing, wide­spread power out­ages, and bil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of prop­erty dam­age. The record-break­ing storm, which also pum­meled the Caribbean (see next page), prompted some 7 mil­lion peo­ple to evac­u­ate the Sun­shine State. Af­ter mak­ing land­fall in the Florida Keys as a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane, Irma bar­reled north­ward up the penin­sula’s western side, cov­er­ing the whole width of the state. While Miami was spared a di­rect hit from the eye, the 420-mile-wide storm still caused wide­spread dam­age else­where. The Keys were dev­as­tated, with a quar­ter of homes de­stroyed and another 65 per­cent dam­aged. Over­all, up to 13 mil­lion peo­ple—two-thirds of Florida’s pop­u­la­tion—lost power. Util­ity com­pa­nies warned it would be weeks be­fore elec­tric­ity was fully re­stored.

Irma weak­ened to a post-trop­i­cal de­pres­sion af­ter mov­ing north out of Florida, but con­tin­ued to un­leash high winds and heavy rain­fall. A mil­lion peo­ple lost power in Georgia and the Caroli­nas. By Wed­nes­day, the death toll across the whole re­gion stood at 30, in­clud­ing eight res­i­dents of a Hol­ly­wood, Fla., nurs­ing home who were left with­out air-con­di­tion­ing in ex­treme heat. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but ev­ery­body’s go­ing to come to­gether,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott. “We’re go­ing to get this state re­built.”

What the ed­i­to­ri­als said

“We’ve come a long way [since] Hur­ri­cane An­drew in 1992,” said the Miami Her­ald. Back then, many Florida res­i­dents failed to take the warn­ings se­ri­ously. This time, res­i­dents sen­si­bly “stocked up, boarded up, or pulled up stakes and hit the road.” Irma “could eas­ily have been worse,” said the Tampa Bay Times. Had the storm’s eye di­rectly hit our city in­stead of veer­ing away, the storm surge would have been cat­a­strophic—half the pop­u­la­tion lives less than 10 feet above sea level. Now the pri­or­ity is to re­store power: In hot, hu­mid Florida, air-con­di­tion­ing is a “pub­lic health is­sue.”

Irma will re­quire “a long re­cov­ery pe­riod,” said The Wash­ing­ton Post. The “eco­nomic toll”—in the form of “dis­rup­tions to busi­ness, in­creased un­em­ploy­ment, crop losses, and prop­erty and in­fra­struc­ture dam­age”—could put the bill as high as $100 bil­lion. But hope­fully the dev­as­ta­tion wrought by Irma— and by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, which hit Texas only two weeks ear­lier—will shake Gov. Scott and other Repub­li­cans out of their stub­born de­nial that cli­mate change poses a se­ri­ous threat. While in­di­vid­ual storms can­not be at­trib­uted to global warm­ing, sci­en­tists say, higher tem­per­a­tures will make de­struc­tive hur­ri­canes “more com­mon and se­vere.”

What the colum­nists said

There has never been a storm “quite like Irma,” said Robin­son Meyer in TheAt­lantic.com. It re­tained hur­ri­cane strength for 11 days, spent a record three days as a Cat­e­gory 5 storm, and whipped up 185 mph winds for 37 straight hours—longer than any cy­clone in recorded his­tory. In ad­di­tion, Irma formed in the At­lantic, “a part of the world that usu­ally does not pro­duce huge hur­ri­canes.”

To limit the im­pact of fu­ture storms, the gov­ern­ment should stop “tempt­ing peo­ple into hur­ri­canes’ paths,” said Ni­cole Geli­nas in the New York Post. The Na­tional Flood In­surance Pro­gram has pro­vided heav­ily sub­si­dized cov­er­age that en­cour­aged mil­lions of peo­ple to build homes near coast­lines. Some prop­er­ties have had to be re­built sev­eral times—all on the tax­pay­ers’ dime—and with ex­treme weather on the rise, the pro­gram was al­ready $24.7 bil­lion in debt be­fore Har­vey and Irma. Why is the gov­ern­ment spend­ing bil­lions of dol­lars “keep­ing peo­ple in harm’s way”?

Cli­mate change is caus­ing more ex­treme weather, said Paul Krug­man in The New York Times. But un­der Pres­i­dent Trump, every se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial deal­ing with the en­vi­ron­ment is a “know-noth­ing, anti-science con­ser­va­tive.” En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency chief Scott Pruitt in­sisted this week that even dis­cussing global warm­ing now would be “in­sen­si­tive.” Re­ally? We are be­ing gov­erned by peo­ple “com­pleted alien­ated” from science and a ra­tio­nal as­sess­ment of what the ev­i­dence is telling us. “This will­ful ig­no­rance is deeply fright­en­ing”—and danger­ous.

Sur­vey­ing their bro­ken home in the Keys

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.