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As Long as We Remember...

November 6, 2012

Sandy vs. Katrina

Roy Meachum

One week ago downtown streets were empty. Battens were hatched down for Superstorm Sandy. Goethe and I took a single walk on North Market, instead of the usual pair. The Weimaraner’s sources of biscuits were locked up with the stores’ doors.


By the week’s end with the many exceptions of electric-less homes and businesses, things were more or less normal. When I settled down early for an evening of watching television, I discovered an appeal for Sandy’s victims was broadcast on most channels, even cable networks. I went to a movie on HBO.


It’s not that I’m not interested in the human beings caught up in the superstorm, I am; but as someone who grew up in New Orleans, I don’t remember any such TV event after Katrina. The hurricane wreaked havoc with South Louisiana; it caused my boarding school to move to someplace drier in-land. Several months later I visited and was astonished at the numbers of houses flooded and abandoned – at the filthiness everywhere. Not in the usual places that I remember, but everywhere. No one ever described the Crescent City as neat and tidy.


Being an old television and journalistic hand, I understood immediately; New York is the media capitol of the world. The area boasts the largest population in this hemisphere. There are many things that could go wrong, e.g. the gas stations. We’ve all heard stories and seen pictures of the long lines at pumps, because of the abundance of computers and cameras within reach.


The loss of life was horrendous (110), but still less than Katrina, which counted 1833 mortalities. There is an estimate on the East Coast of $50 billion this autumn; seven years ago the hurricane’s damages were $81 billion and those were in 2005 dollars. For all the sights at stations in 2012, the impact on petroleum and gasoline prices went up – and stayed up – after the earlier storm.


Since I promised Friday in the column not to mention politics and I will foreswear the differences between the Federal Emergency Management Agency under George W. Bush and the present president. Still, however, Washington’s lack of response made casualties and damages higher seven years ago, in August.


New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was more specific Monday; he lamented more Katrina even though his house has no power the week after Sandy. He noted the disasters I mentioned and more, how Manhattan’s financial district was underwater during the Superstorm. The nationally distributed columnist gives comfort to a Louisiana-born and New Orleans-raised old man.


Although I still understand: Sandy brought widespread howls because it hit the media hard in the bowels. New York has that effect and has over the last century, since Paris and London seemed to dim.


Still, in a way, I don’t understand the publicity frenzy louder and angrier than Katrina, which is why this column was written.


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