Will you be ready?

On Aug. 27, 2011, Hurricane Irene made landfall over North Carolina’s Outer Banks and began a trail of destruction stretching all the way to Canada’s eastern seaboard. Irene impacted almost 100 million people, with over 50 million suffering the brunt of her effects. Tens of millions went without electric power and other utilities for days. Flood damages were catastrophic. Six states recorded 100-year flood levels; two counties hit 500-year flood levels. Hurricane-spawned tornadoes ranged from the Carolinas to upstate New York. Although damage estimates are in the tens of billions of dollars and still being totaled, the death toll was mercifully low. As terrible as the effects were, we dodged a big bullet.

Irene had been a Category 3 hurricane, but dropped down to a Category 1 before skirting Florida, Georgia and much of South Carolina before then hitting North Carolina and Virginia. It skipped back out to sea, making landfall again at Little Egg Inlet, N.J. Irene had been downgraded to tropical storm status by the time it hit Coney Island. Imagine if it had remained a 140 mph Category 3 and hugged the coastline …

Meanwhile in drought-parched Texas, a wildfire season recording 22,790 separate blazes spun up into cataclysmic fires, which burned 2,718 homes and almost 4 million acres, including 1,939 homes over the Labor Day weekend alone. Tens of thousands were evacuated.
The Texas fire scene was repeated on a smaller but still devastating scale in California’s Sierra Nevada and Central Valley.

Then just before 1600 on September 8, electric power suddenly went off throughout the nation’s eighth largest city, San Diego, and all across the southern part of the state into Arizona and northern Mexico. Traffic lights, gas pumps and virtually everything except generator-powered emergency services for 5 million people went down for over 15 hours causing chaos. It was 85 degrees F at the time in San Diego, but 111 degrees F in Palm Springs and 115 in the Imperial Valley, when everything including the AC died.

All this happened in a span of 13 days. Could it have been worse? Yes, far worse.


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