Two of my most memorable youthful summers in the early 60’s were spent at the sleepy seaside village of Corolla on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Then a remote sparsely populated area, it had a forest, pristine beach, walkways, wild horses, simple accommodations and even a one-room post office. It was accessible by boat from the mainland.
Now unprotected in the open ocean it is just one of many places under severe threat of Florence. The local residents in Corolla are accustomed to hurricanes and strong storms. Each summer I spent an evening and most of the next day safely in a basement. With global warming and climate change I doubt if today the basement would provide that same level of safety.
In New Jersey we learned lessons after the Sandy but many whose lives were upended by the superstorm don’t think we are any better prepared now than before the storm hit. A 2017 comprehensive report provides a firsthand look at survivor challenges, shedding light on their experiences with insurance companies, building contractors, various government recovery programs, and even efforts to “claw back” some of the much-debated Sandy aid. More than 50 percent of Sandy victims polled five years afterward said they have faced serious financial hardships, with some getting worse within just the last two years. 70 percent also reported new physical ailments, mental-health problems, or existing conditions that have worsened.
New Jersey has clearly taken important steps. However, if we were hit by a storm like Florence with winds over 100 miles per hours and drenching rains there still would be widespread destruction on our beaches and further inland. In Tuesday’s Record here are some of the improvements made to NJ since Sandy along with the state’s continued vulnerabilities.
FEMA has been severely criticized for its dereliction following two hurricanes in Puerto Rico. Nine months after Harvey struck the Gulf Coast, middle-class Houston has recovered, but low-income neighborhoods are in disarray with people there just giving up.
As Friends of the Earth point out, ”The growing impacts of climate change are extremely serious and require urgent action. Yet the person at the helm of the world’s largest economy is ignoring the science.” One group not ignoring the science is the international Global Climate Action Summit taking place today in San Francisco.
In a crisis we can always expect a measure of help from the federal government. But with our current president the help might be much less than needed with insufficient essential longer-term preventive support. New Jersey will have to pick up some of the slack.
As for the Outer Banks, wind gusts started lashing out yesterday well before Florence officially arrived. Today it remains under a Hurricane Warning with heavy rain, flooding and winds over 50 mph. Like so many treasured spots it is endangered.
Hopefully residents throughout the storm’s track will all find a safe haven.