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09-02-05

HURRICANES....What About Cape Cod ?

     There is really no way to fully grasp the extent of the damage, death, and pain inflicted by Hurricane Katrina.  Each day, we see little bits of it on TV, but we know that TV does not do justice to what is truly happening there. The disaster covers something like 90,000 square miles, spread over three states.  It has already effected millions of people directly and many more millions beyond. While Americans from all over begin to do what they can to help those who have basically lost everything, it makes us think of how we might deal with such a disaster in our own neighborhood.

     Cape Cod is of course no stranger to hurricanes.  It has been struck many times.  On September 21, 1938 and again on September 15, 1944, major hurricanes brought flooding, wind damage, and many deaths to our area. Both storms are still talked about today. In 1954, two hurricanes (Carol & Edna) struck Cape Cod on August 31 and Sept 12.  Both were Category 3 and did major damage. Again on September 12, 1960 another deadly hurricane Donna struck our area. Others have come close since, including the Category 2 Bob on August 19, 1991.

    So, what about Cape Cod.  We know from history that September is when many of the most severe hurricanes have struck us.  We remember how much damage Bob inflicted in a very short time as it raced through.  How would Cape Cod fair with a Category 3 or 4 storm direct hit?  It is safe to say that it would not be good.  In fact, it would be very very bad, perhaps on a scale similar to what they are facing down south. Consider the following...

    On an ordinary summer day, with no hurricane or other events going on, our little peninsula may have 250,000 or more people living here.  Our road and highway infrastructure is already inadequate for that population.  It is certainly not well suited for an orderly evacuation, never mind any kind of quick evacuation...over our only two bridges over the canal.  Our two hospitals are already in crisis mode on a daily basis, with just the ordinary emergencies faced by our transient and elderly populations.  How would they manage hundreds of injured? 

    Our fire, police, and ems departments are only minimally staffed these days. The "Backup" system, is mutual aid from other minimally staffed departments. Mutual aid is used on a daily basis for ordinary incidents. Unfortunately, when a hurricane (or blizzard or other natural disaster) strikes, mutual aid is no long available, since they are usually needed in their own communities.  Our communications system is dependent on power and the integrity of a system of repeater towers across the area.  A few departments have kept some of their old 'reliable' low band radios, but not all.  A larger, more dependent population, will be looking for our help in a big way, yet we are not fully capable of dealing with our ordinary runs on a good day already. 

    Add to all this, a loss of power.  Fuel problems.  Transportation problems. Streets blocked by trees down. An inadequate shelter system.  Huge communications problems, loss of cell service, radios, cable tv.  Food and water problems.  Cash problems...no power to ATMs...stores...banks... collapsed homes... huge piles of debris... abandoned and over turned vehicles... Just looking at what happened down south tells us what we need to prepare for.

    So.  Have our communities properly prepared?  No way.  There is no way to prepare for a disaster like the Gulf states are facing.  Even best plans are going to be flawed. So many things coming together at once, that all need to be dealt with at once. Countering all the challenges facing those folks down south is daunting.  Lets hope we don't have to face the same here any time soon.

    One last thing.  And not to be critical of anyone.  But isn't is amazing how the people of New York City behaved during September 11 and the days and weeks that followed.  The way people helped each other.  The actual decrease in crime in that big city.  The pride that was exhibited across the country in how the leaders and citizens in New York faced disaster and conquered it so well.  How it lead to the flying of our flag, our coming together, our respect for others.  How did they do that?  What is the difference between those folks in New York and those in New Orleans?  It's not fair to say that heroism, pride, hard work and dedication are not happening today, because clearly they are, all along the coast.  But, the crap some of those looters and criminals pulled in New Orleans has not helped their cause. And you didn't see many New Yorkers waiting around for anyone to help them, they helped themselves. Easier said than done sometimes I guess.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Stay safe.  Go buy some flashlights and stuff for when you need it.  You might have to take care of yourself awhile.

BWC