How to handle a hurricane? Well, to heed the non-stop advice available via 24/7 TV coverage, I suppose that the order of business at minimum was to stock up on all available comestibles, dash off to the nearest hardware store to buy every flashlight and battery on hand, gas up one’s vehicles and trundle off to the nearest ATM to lay in a cache of cash. The last of these was necessary, we are told, in case credit cards cannot be processed electronically. What you would be able to buy in that scenario is unclear, but so said the innumerable experts at the Weather Channel.
And so my fellow residents in Connecticut spent the week before the storm emptying grocery store shelves and forming lines at ATMs and gas stations. It’s funny. Many people who are atheists and agnostics reject religious strictures, saying, “Who is the Church to tell me what to do?” but have no such qualms when it comes to the edicts of “experts,” especially those employed by the government.
In the hours leading up to the advent of the big blow, we were treated to a plethora of on-site reports of the most comical variety; with reporters in slick, rain suits rippling in the wind, advising of the impending doom while scores of passersby ambled happily down the boardwalks behind them. On and on nattered all manner of ashen-faced pundits, dazzling us with their expertise in matters of disaster.
So, in the face of all this invaluable advice, what did my husband and I do? We stocked up on the ingredients for homemade Italian gravy and gave a pre-catastrophe dinner for a few friends. One of those friends and I chuckled over a prediction we made years ago — when a local TV station issued a “flat-roof” warning in advance of a snow storm — that networks, in their pursuit of scaring viewers into submission by fear, might have finally succeeded. Following this, we repaired to our local club where we whiled away the hours leading up to certain doom by having a few cocktails before calmly driving back home to await the storm.
After all, we, as well as the army of newscasters, had access to radar maps and knew almost exactly when the weather would change, and therefore saw no good reason to change our Saturday plans. In this, we were not in the company of most Northeastern city and state potentates who saw fit to add to the coming misery by cancelling events and shutting down mass transit way in advance of even a drop of rain, thus giving the whole affair an air of emasculation.
The imperious fiats of his highness, New York Emperor Mike Bloomberg, led to the cancellation of a Saturday afternoon NFL game — the epitome of American macho — while elderly golfers and five year-old soccer players availed themselves of the summer climes until sunset. Joining his fellow executives, even conservative Chris Christie got into the act, shuttering casino operations as well as closing down resort towns up and down the Jersey coast, a day in advance of the predicted devastation. These governors, it seemed, were determined to govern.
It’s easy to understand why. After all, what else has a governor to do in the day-to-day operation of his office? Other than appointments and wielding the rare veto pen, the true importance of executive power in modern America lies in the area of emergency management. Because Hurricane Katrina changed forever the way executives will be judged by the almighty media. I say, by the media, because if there were any fairness or objectivity in the majority of news outlets, the blame would have been put squarely on the weak shoulders of tragicomic New Orleans Mayor, Ray “Chocolate City” Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, instead of the usual suspect, George W. Bush.
So, much of the current nonsense of pre-hurricane overkill must be attributed to Katrina syndrome: the idea that more government can save lives and property, when in actuality, less bureaucratic interference and more individual responsibility would suffice. One only had to look at the effects of the same Katrina in the neighboring state of Mississippi, where, granted the difference in geography and population, the resulting loss of life and property was considerably less devastating.
Here in Connecticut, where we have Nor’easters year round, Big Irene barely caused any more damage than a severe thunderstorm. Yet, given the huge advance notice of this storm, and for all the many city, state and federal agencies meeting, consulting and coordinating with the inept Connecticut Light & Power Company, many in my state — including yours truly — will be without power for up to a week.
Because, despite the admonitions of rafts of “professional” advisors, nothing — particularly the trudging behemoth of government bureaucracy — can replace the quickly vanishing ingenuity and common sense of the American people. It is said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; but in the case of government, it is usually a pound of flesh… yours.