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Hurricane Sandy and its consequences

Here is Roger Kimball, ruefully reflecting on Hurricane Sandy. For Kimball, the meteorological just got very personal:

Well, it was grim, Hurricane Sandy.   We were prepared for something bad, but this storm, as we were warned, turned out to be like nothing I had ever seen.

Like nothing I’ve ever seen, that’s for sure. Little old England is a hurricane backwater, thank goodness.

We went back to our neighborhood this morning – it was a circuitous route, given all the downed trees and power lines. It was a devastating scene. Many houses were simply bashed in, crushed by the power of the waves. Even more (like ours, alas) were seriously flooded.

I’m sure there’s a moral here somewhere, probably having to do with hubris, nemesis, or some other unpleasant Greek offering. Or maybe it has to do with that old quip, Do you want to make the gods laugh? Tell them your plans.

Now for the Big Cleanup!

I’ll say.

A few thoughts.

Casualties seem, given the scale of the storm, to have been mercifully light. If so, that proves that the best defence against this kind of thing is to be as rich as you can before disaster strikes. Rich people are able to see what’s coming, to duck and weave, to tell each other what to do, and then to look after each other. Natural disaster is not followed by epidemic disease, the way it is liable to be among very poor people.

Samizdata has lots of American readers, including, presumably quite a few who have suffered directly from this storm. Commiserations from all of us, and here’s hoping you pull through in decent shape. If you have been seriously mucked about by this storm, you might want to ignore the rest of this and if you did I would entirely understand.

But I have to ask. What effect might all this have on the election? The BBC are saying – as they would – that in his handling of this disaster, Obama is looking very good, very Presidential, and much better than Bush did during Katrina. Is that how it looks in America?

Just as war is the health of the state, so too is natural disaster.

As I noted in this posting at my personal blog, the BBC are saying, or were last weekend, that the election is now a dead heat. And I suppose it might be at that. But from what I have been reading (e.g. the pre-Sandy ruminations of one Roger Kimball), Romney has been pulling steadily ahead. Has this storm caused people to forget about Benghazi, or is the contrast between how seriously Obama takes the storm, compared to how unseriously he has been taking Benghazi, only making him look worse? A bit of both?

Ever since the first debate, so disastrous for Obama and so invigorating for Romney, a snatch of Shakespeare has been rattling around in my head to describe what it must have felt like ever since then to be Obama. “How all occasions do inform against me.” (I had assumed these to be the words of one of those doomed tyrants, like Macbeth, or Richard II or III, but I just googled it and it’s Hamlet.) Everything that has happened since the first Obama-Romney debate seems only to have made Obama look that much worse.

So, might Obama now make himself look seriously worse, by, at some point around now, letting slip that he is actually glad that a hurricane has struck New York and surrounding parts, thereby giving him a chance to look Presidential rather than like the surly and bad-tempered loser he had been looking like in recent weeks? Or, by everybody just thinking this anyway, perhaps because of ill-judged blurtings from Obama supporters? If that were to happen, it might be the final nail in Obama’s electoral coffin rather than the death bed recovery he surely now dreams of.

Maybe it depends what you already think of the guy. In which case, I presume that very little changes.

29 comments to Hurricane Sandy and its consequences

  • Julie near Chicago

    See the poster at


    Cats suggests getting it printed to stick on house or car window. I think that’s a first-rate suggestion.

    Weather.com has been running a video report of the fires in Queens. It looks worse than the storm proper…whole neighborhoods gone up in smoke. I am so sorry.

  • Allan Ripley

    Sitting on the other side of the continent (waiting for a mere earthquake), I was also struck by the low level of death. It speaks well for good construction and some timely warning. But perhaps the worst is to come. With 7.5 millions in the greater New York area, I am interested in what happens two or three days down the road: still no power (water? food?).

    As a veteran of the Great Alaska earthquake, I have a personal interest in these thngs.

  • Brian

    Unfortunately, my general impression here in the US is that people, especially but not limited to potential Obama voters, we’re never giving much thought to the president’s bungling of Benghazi in the first place.

    My very limited impression of storm-related views of the POTUS is more that his response has not been bad, as opposed to it being viewed as “good.”

  • Mike James

    I think most people have their mind made up. Of course, this is an opportunity sent by the gods … or Allah … or whatever the hell it is Obama has faith in, to pass out truckloads of other people’s money. Not sure if one week before the election is enough time for the magic (other people’s money, that is) to do its’ thing.

    I predict an effort to delay the opening of the polls past the first Tuesday in November, and also to finish the vote counting and announcement of the results. Democrats are fond of fiddling around with elections.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Simon: Indeed.

  • Rescue and emergency services aren’t in the main the responsibility of the president or the federal government, so it comes down to the question of whether the president can look presidential or not. So, it is mainly about spin, and it isn’t really relevant to anything, although it may affect votes. (Such an event helps an incumbent if he has the ability to look presidential, or at least to be reported to look presidential). My best wishes to everyone affected by this disaster.

    On the other hand, the Benghazi incident was entirely Obama’s responsibility,he handled it appallingly, and he deserves to be voted out on that one issue alone. (Having previously declared I couldn’t bring myself to care much between these two candidates, I will declare a preference on that basis). Are American voters going to see it that way? The media is certainly trying to discourage them from doing so.

    On the election though, I have been watching betting markets. (I prefer them to opinion polls, because I think they have fewer systematic biases, although they have some). Trends are more interesting than their overall positions. They showed Obama strongly in front prior to the first debate, and then a big swing to Romney in the week after that debate. Since then they have done pretty much nothing though. They are showing Obama clearly but not massively ahead. In the last couple of days there has been a move towards Obama, which might be a response to his hurricane response. It is clear that Romney got a big boost from the first debate, but I have not seen any evidence at all that there has been any trend towards him since.

  • Razorbacker

    Personally, this Romney-style storm has merely stiffened my resolve to vote our beloved President into another term. Indeed, had we elected our beloved President sooner, he might have had more time to get those pesky sea levels to stop rising, and even fall a bit. Then the Forces of Evil could have blown all they wished, and the water would have hurt none but the deserving wicked.

    And yes, I think that the voting should be delayed. Just because a bunch of Old White Men wrote the time of elections into the Constitution doesn’t mean that it has to be so. This is different; this might affect my guy.

  • Alisa

    Chris Christie sincerely and publicly praised and thanked Obama for ‘cutting red tape’ in order help NJ. FWIW I think that, unfortunately and Michael’s entirely correct position notwithstanding, far more people care about the storm than Benghazi. I also think that if Obama does lose, it will be in no small part due to his apparent unwillingness to be president another four years.

  • Sky News is right now reporting that Romney had previously in the campaign spoken in favour of shutting down FEMA and giving the money to the states. Now Obama is running around (appearing to) do FEMA things, and has stopped campaigning, which leaves Romney “looking like a spare part”.

    They even interviews a very eloquent New Yorker who went on about what a stupid idea shutting down FEMA would have been.

    What it all means, I don’t know.

  • Jerry

    Nanny Bloomberg told the Zero to stay away. I’m sure the media is playing up Zero’s assistance.

    On Benghazi, the media has totally embargoed the store except for Fox. If the rumors of new emails and tapes about Benghazi are true, not sure how the Media can continue to be silent on it.

  • Laird

    Jerry, whatever new emails and tapes come out the Media most certainly can remain silent on it. NBC News had so buried the Gunwalker story (for 18 months!) that when Holder was held in contempt of Congress (which they couldn’t bury) they were forced to run a quick story just to bring their viewers up to speed about what the issue even was. They’ll do that with Benghazi, too.

  • Alisa

    What Laird said – they are too invested.

  • Eric Tavenner

    Sandy was not that much of a storm. It was barely a cat 1 hurricane and dropped down to a tropical storm immediately after coming onto land. This superstorm noise is all media hype.

  • bobby b

    Agree w/ Eric. Reporters doing live shots trying to make 45 mph winds seem dangerous? Pathetic.

    This was your basic predictable storm surge of water pushed up in front of the storm. Lots of property damage as the water fills in your basement and shoves your car around, but nothing that you couldn’t have avoided personally by walking five hundred feet up the hill.

    But look where many of these news orgs are based. Free federal money for them if they can get the public behind all of the important disaster designations!

  • Julie near Chicago

    What Laird said. *Snarl*

  • Laird

    Eric and bobby b, with all due respect you don’t know what you’re talking about. 6.5 million people without power (many likely for a week or more); probably $50-$100 Billion in property damage; one of the world’s most important cities (and financial centers) completely shut down for two days, with many months of serious work ahead of it; blizzards where there wasn’t flooding; this was no small storm. It coincided with flood tides so the storm surge was immense (15 feet where my house is; that’s as bad as a tsunami), and those tides last for days so the damage just keeps on coming. The insurance industry is estimating that this was the 5th largest hurricane in United States history; it impacted fully 1/3 of the country. Just because the windspeed wasn’t overly high doesn’t mean it’s a small storm.

  • I think there may be an element in it that any news story that happens in New York is going to get more coverage because the media is in New York to cover it, but the flipside of that is that any Hurricane that hits New York is going to do a lot more damage and cause a lot more suffering because there is a lot in New York to damage and a lot of people there to suffer. I think it is fair to say that it was not a Katrina level disaster – much less loss of human life for one thing – but it was still a bad bad storm.

    Something that makes me curious. I am an Australian, and the north of Australia is often battered by tropical cyclones. (We don’t use the word “hurricane” for some reason). Because there are relatively few population centres in the north of Australia, it is rare (although not unprecedented) for them to cause serious damage or loss of life to populated areas. However, they never ever reach anywhere near the latitude of New York. Why is North America and the North Atlantic different from the South Pacific and South Indian oceans in this regard? Can anyone tell me?

  • Alisa

    I think we have discussed it here recently, because I feel like repeating myself: I think that every major storm gets extensive coverage in the MSM, and I don’t get the impression that this one got more coverage – except for the naturally expected discussion about its possible influence on the election.

    As to comparison between the damage inflicted by Sandy and Katrina, it may be worth asking whether the states and cities affected by Sandy are better run than LA and NO.

  • Alisa

    …should have written ‘like I am repeating myself’…

  • My first contribution was smited for some reason

    I was in midtown this afternoon. Terrible traffic, very cold and because of the broken crane 57th & 58th streets were blocked off between 8th av and 6th av. If that thing does fall it could crush Carnegie Hall.

    Banks closed, but most other businesses were at least trying to open.

    My favorite story so far is that some units of the National Guard were not available because they were off on a “disaster drill”

  • renminbi

    Power is out in Manhattan, with some exceptions, below 39th St. If you live in one of the high rises you are in for a rough time. If the building has a back up generator (many don’t) that will give some power for emergency lighting and the service elevator and perhaps running water if you are lucky.
    All the subway tunnels connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn are flooded. It will likely be weeks before full service is restored. Today midtown was choking on its motor traffic.
    The flood was severe enough to sweep some commuter train cars onto the NJ turnpike.
    It wasn’t that hard a punch,but it got you in the solar plexus.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Rob Fisher: Sky News is right now reporting that Romney had previously in the campaign spoken in favour of shutting down FEMA…

    Romney never said anything like that – it’s an Obamist invention.

    Incidentally, Sky TV is controlled by Newscorp (Murdoch). Apparently that arm of the VRWC has been infested by liberals.

  • Rich Rostrom

    As for consequences to the election:

    Voting in NY, NJ, and PA will be disrupted. Power will still be out in many areas next Tuesday, which means no use of touchscreen voting machines or mark-scan ballots. There will be no lights in many polling places. Some polling places have been destroyed or rendered unusable.

    Delivery of voting materials will be delayed or prevented.
    Some voting equipment and materials has been destroyed.

    Election staff, including the many thousands of volunteers who man the polling places, may not be able to work because they are cleaning up and salvaging their homes or workplaces.

    In short, it will be very difficult for the states strongly hit by Sandy to hold the voting, count the votes, and report the results.

    On top of that, tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes, and may not be able to reach their polling places on 6 November – and obviously cannot vote by absentee ballot. (Absentee ballots must be requested and distribute well before the election; and the election authorities are in no position to process an immense additional number of last-minute absentee applications.)

    All this could substantially reduce voting in the affected areas, or delay reporting from those areas.

    One suggestion that has been made is that obstruction to roads in rural areas could prevent many rural voters from getting to the polls, whereas urban voters may be less affected.

  • Alisa

    ‘obstruction to roads in rural areas could prevent many rural voters from getting to the polls, whereas urban voters may be less affected.’ An advantage to Democrats. Plus, as no strangers to vote rigging, they are sure to take full advantage of the overall confusion and disorganization. Oh, well.

  • In the presidential election, the electoral votes of NY and NJ will go to Obama. PA could go to Romney if he wins be a large margin, but if it does, he will have won already from more marginal states, so it probably doesn’t matter there either. Of course, the presidential election is not the only election. Things in these states could matter more for the balance of Congress, state legislatures etc.

  • Alisa

    Don’t NY and NJ always go to the Dems?

  • Laird

    Pretty much, Alisa, but please note that NJ presently has a Republican governor, although the Democrats control the legislature. It’s generally a Democratic state (it went that way in the last 5 presidential elections) but it’s not completely monolithic. New York is pretty much a lost cause, though.

  • Alisa

    BTW, will Christie be reelected?