Understanding the Law
September 2, 2011
Irene’s fury

Snowstorms during the winter and remnants of hurricanes that had been spent after direct hits on Florida and the Carolinas, but not a full-blown hurricane as the weather forecasters predicted for the tri-state area.

Hurricane Irene was described as a monster storm, 500 to 800 miles wide, moving at 10 to 15 mph., and expected to make a direct hit on heavily populated areas in the North East coast of the USA.{{more}} It was not taking the well-trodden path for a direct hit at Florida, but after hitting the Bahamas, its first landfall on the continent was to be North Carolina. It was then expected to take its course up to the Eastern seaboard to the tri-state of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Many New Yorkers could not remember a hurricane in their lifetime. The last direct hit had come in 1985, 26 years ago, not as massive as that forecasted. The grim forecast from the National Hurricane Centre was that it could be upgraded to a category 4 if it meets warm water, but then it could be down-graded to a category 1 hurricane and could bring rain from 5 to 12 inches.

Preparation for Irene

There was extensive television coverage, and some of the major television channels assigned their reporters to some danger zones to provide information. The Governors and the Mayors with their experts were on hand to inform the people of the plan of action for the storm. Katrina and the poor preparation for that hurricane in 2005 on the Gulf coast appeared to have been on their minds. They urged everyone to be prepared and to get out of the low-lying areas designated “Zone A“ in New York, and to use the shelters if they had nowhere to go. Meanwhile, others were calling for volunteers via landlines to help at the shelters. Mandatory orders to evacuate were given to highly exposed areas in Long Island, Coney Island, Manhattan, and the Rockaway peninsular. Many persons took heed, boarded up their buildings and left for safer ground, but there were the few who decided to ride out the storm at their own risk. Evacuation of patients in hospitals and nursing homes in areas prone to flood was also undertaken. People were warned that the mass transit system in New York was to come to a halt at 12 Noon on Saturday. Business thrived as many sought to stock up on food and water. Radios, batteries, flashlights, matches, bread and candles were sold out in Brooklyn and elsewhere. The approaching storm was taken seriously, and for a place not accustomed to hurricanes, there was generally a positive response.

The storm

There was a general fear of the havoc that torrential rain and high-speed winds could cause, but there were specific fears of swollen rivers, storm surges, fallen trees, broken power lines, power outages, flooded streets and basements.

Irene hit New York Sunday morning, August 28, 2011, but by that time, according to forecasters, it was a tropical storm. Although it snapped tree branches, uprooted trees and flooded streets and basements, these were nothing compared to the situation in New Jersey and Vermont, where raging rivers overflowed their banks and flooded homes. Many agreed that New York escaped some of the worst effects associated with a tropical storm. When New Yorkers woke up on Sunday morning, the rains had been reduced to a drizzle, but gusty winds continued throughout the day. Irene continued its rampage northwards where it released its fury on the New England states with damaging effects.

Monday morning came in all its glory, and except for a some broken tree branches here and there, and the tell tale wet carpets (from flooded basements) hung out on fences, one would think that tropical storm Irene never passed through Brooklyn.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
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