Hurricanes are swirling storms with winds of 119 kilometers per hour or higher that form due to the existence of warm waters in the tropics and in most cases, these swirling storms always move toward land. When hurricanes move towards land areas, it brings with it high-moving winds, pelting rain and a veritable wall of water. These high winds, the pelting rain, and walls of water always prove very dangerous and destructive to the lives of human beings and to properties that stand on the hurricane’s path.
Hurricane Irene is an excellent example of how nature can sometimes behave wildly, proving dangerous, destructive, and costly in the end. Regarded as one of the most expensive natural disasters in world history, due to the costs in damages that ranged into billions of dollars, Hurricane Irene’s impact shook the world’s economy as never felt before. August 2011 is a time that still lingers in the minds of many; the world was watching hurricane Irene unleash its rage on citizens of the United States of America, the Mid-Atlantic and parts of New England.
The impact of Hurricane Irene left extensive flooding, and wind damage along its path, the most hit places was America’s business hubs, New York City, The States of Vermont and New Jersey (Liu & Smith, 2016). Deemed in the United States as the 10th billion-dollar disaster for 2011, Hurricane Irene, a category three hurricane, caused massive flooding that destroyed properties worth 16.6 billion dollars. With winds extending up to 100 miles from the hurricane’s center, Irene brought a more significant impact on the land areas.
Initially known as tropical storm Irene, Irene rapidly grew into a hurricane, causing extensive damage across the Bahamas as it moved to the northwest. Many homes, vehicles, office places and business premises wrecked when the cyclone hit towns in the South East Coast of the United States, parts of New England and cities in the Bahamas.
Close to three million people had no power supply due to the sustained massive rains and flooding. The persistent high winds and flooding from the storm surge caused more damage than most people did anticipate. Schools indefinitely closed down, as it was unsafe for students to go out or be in schools. In some municipalities around the states that experienced mild effects of the storm, the hurricane affected class time as most classes closed until later in the afternoon. Losses in the agricultural sector were enormous as the floods destroyed crops in people’s fields and farms thus crippling the agrarian industry. The hurricane also affected tourism adversely; high winds and extreme flooding ensured that tourist could not access most of the tourist’s destinations in the places that were experiencing hurricane Irene. Air travel came to a standstill, many airports were immediately shut down with airline companies rescheduling flights in those areas that were most hit by the swirling storm.
This affected business in the airline industry, recording huge losses as Mother Nature’s natural processes dwarfed most airlines operations. It was not safe to fly passengers in such adverse weather; this is because accidents are always imminent. While drowning was the primary cause of death related to the storm, health concerns of the people in the areas affected by flooding became a growing reality as the flooding meant the compromising of sewer lines. Locals were at a higher risk of contracting water-borne diseases like diarrhea and typhoid due to the contamination. People were in real danger of succumbing to their sicknesses as the storm made it hard for the healthcare system to function and operate efficiently. Healthcare officials had trouble accessing their workstations due to the floodwater; the adoption of fuel limit policy to limit fuel use put in place, as no petrol stations were operating at that time. Despite everyone’s best efforts, Irene rocked every department in the states it passed through, almost crippling every activity and bringing cities to their knees.
Hurricane Irene affected the environment adversely in the aftermath of its occurrence. There was significant erosion along the beach along the path of the hurricane. Hurricane Irene passed through the Exumas in the Bahamas, destroying the original landscape of the beautiful cays. These erosions change the way marine ecosystem exists and may take years to return to its normal state. The storm surge also damaged vegetation and caused waters in the shallow-water environments in the Bahamas to be murky which proved harmful to the marine lives in those waters. Human deaths were relatively low as compared to other incidents of the same nature. Hurricane Irene made landfalls in the Bahamas, North Carolina and parts of New England. As a direct result of the hurricane, 56 people lost their lives in the aftermath of the confusion that the cyclone created and millions displaced from their homes.
There were considerable preparations among the communities and local officials from the local authorities after the meteorological department had projected the pathway of the storm. Due to the threat of the rain, state officials, transportation facilities, nuclear power plants and oil refineries promptly prepared their emergency plans. Residents in the projected pathway of the storm also adapted themselves to brace the storm just in case it happened as expected, stocking food supplies and securing their homes, and other valued possessions. Residents who stayed close to the coastal line evacuated to higher grounds just to escape the wrath of the storm, with temporary shelters erected by the local authorities to house those who the storm displaced from their homes. Despite all these early preparations by federal government and residents in the wake of Hurricane Irene, it did not help much in reducing the hurricane’s magnitude or reducing its destruction effect on lives and properties.
Modern technology was highly relied on by scientist to monitor the pathway and the degree of the impact of hurricane Irene in areas it went through; despite all the advancements in technology, the destruction of lives and property was inevitable. States could not do much to control the wanton destruction of properties when the hurricane hit. The early warnings proved useful in saving lives and not estates; this was due to the unpredictability of the storm due to high blowing winds. One cannot plan adequately in managing natural occurrences like hurricanes, but with prior information on the magnitude and direction of these storms, such information will be vital in developing future housing and municipal plans to avoid building dwellings on the pathway of storms. There is room for much in the efforts of curbing storms. Judging from how the hurricane ended up being costly, one can deduce that there was lack of preparedness on the part of the local authority and the communities living there.
Similarly, there might have been preparedness, but the lack of executing these measures on the part of the residents meant that it was hard to avoid the wanton destruction of properties. For effective preparedness, there must be a well-structured procedure for communication that must be constant at all times to manage the effects of hurricanes. In anticipation of Hurricane Irene and after the hurricane stopped, many agencies and organizations were involved in the search and rescue of victims and their properties. Urban search and rescue teams like the Virginia Task Force 1(VATF-1), Fairfax County’s urban search and rescue team to Fort Bragg are examples of organizations and agencies deployed during and after Hurricane Irene hit the South East coastal cities of America. The American Red Cross mobilized more than 1000 disaster workers in communities up and down the East coast to help in search and rescue missions.
Well-wishers like the Salvation Army church provided food for the affected families by erecting mobile feeding points across altered states; the disaster saw Americans come together to help families, friends, and neighbors. These organizations worked closely with the local fire department and the police to ensure people who were at risk of harm from the storm were safe. Many other groups also helped in the search and rescue mission in the other affected countries like in the Bahamas and New England. Search and rescue missions are always sensitive and dangerous matters that require adequate preparations and involve professionals. These rescue teams still get involved in such activities as evacuating stranded residents to safety, removing residents trapped in damaged structures or taking to safety people who have life-threatening injuries.
The challenges that come with this kind of profession working under such hazardous conditions are numerous. They include accessibility of some places due to flooding. The contamination of water by the sewer lines made their work harder as fears of people catching diseases made it hard to rescue some people. After the hurricane, the respective local authorities and residents who live in areas that are prone to storms have adopted many measures to keep them safe. Authorities are creating awareness of the dangers of hurricanes to residents and how, they can protect themselves, in case of future similar occurrences. Through all these efforts, residents and the local authorities now have proper and detailed evacuation plans of how to get out of a storms way in case a storm hits again. Families have been encouraged to have food supplies in their homes for any eventualities, as running out of food might be dangerous for the survival of any family. Dedicated professionals and advancement in technology have made hurricane forecasting more accurate than before, and this has helped in giving correct and accurate information to all the stakeholders in case of a storm break out.
The use of technology also eases the process of evacuation as search and rescue teams know what areas need attention when it comes to eviction and rescue missions. Lastly, the need for emergency spending has made governments to create emergency kitties that have proven crucial in settling victims of natural disasters thus making their lives better. Such kitties as the Disaster Relief Funds (DRF) has helped in compensating victims of various disasters in America by ensuring victims return to their healthy lives as soon as possible. All these measures have proven crucial in managing natural disasters that man is facing on the face of the earth. Events like Hurricane Irene will not be the last one; many catastrophic events will happen in the future thus man must learn to live with such disasters and continue working on what best ways to tackle such issues as they come our way.