Saturday, August 27, 2011

The hurricane death toll

I've lived through one big hurricane in my life so far, and observed a few others through media reports. People make a big deal out of having enough supplies and batteries and water, but one thing that's struck me is how many of the deaths and injuries come directly from car use.

As the big hurricane was blowing in, my wife and I hunkered down for the night in our hallway near the bathroom. In the morning, the storm had passed. Trees were down, and many areas were without power, but very few people had been injured or killed. Then the water started rising. We had been a block and a half from the river; soon we would be only half a block away. We put as much of our stuff as we could in the attic, put the cats in their carriers and walked another block inland to a colleague's house.

There were deaths. Almost all of the ones I heard about involved one of three factors:

1. People driving in high waters, being swept off the road and drowned.

2. People driving in water where power lines had fallen, and being electrocuted.

3. People living in flood zones where nobody was foolish enough to live before cheap cars and "drive till you qualify." When the floods came they took too long to evacuate. If they didn't try to drive anyway (see number 1), they were drowned on top of their houses.

When Hurricane Katrina came through New Orleans, I saw another way people could be killed:

4. Evacuation plans that assume that everyone has a car. People without cars were left to evacuate on foot. Many of them were turned back when trying to get to higher ground, because their carlessness revealed their low-class status, and they had no cars to hide their dark skin.

People will die in this hurricane too. If you pay attention, you may notice the same pattern.


Eclectic Cyclist NZ said...

You have a good point, but all of these would also occer to cyclists in the same position. Glad yo have been able to move away from most of the water. Hope the cats aren't to disgruntled. Cheers.

Jonathan said...

Thank you for the informative post. It seems to me that shutting down the transit system long before the hurricane hits is a gesture by MTA management toward MTA workers. It allows basically the entire workforce to spend the storm with their families, no matter where they live, because the workers will be released with plenty of time to return home.

I'm hoping that everything will turn out for the best, and that the families stranded in Coney Island and the Rockaways will be fine, but in my eyes, it seems as if this shutdown is a classic example of Larry Littlefield's "pay more, get less" in regard to government services.

nathan_h said...

Sure, look at these fools driving around like it's a normal old storm:

nathan_h said...

So weird that blogger does not auto-link. Anyway... fools driving around like it's a normal storm