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It's a Marathon, not a sprint

Mayor Bloomberg seems to think that if we don't hold the New York City Marathon on Sunday then the Hurricane wins. Opposition is growing, and count me among the advocates of postponing. Why the obsession with always pretending that life goes on no matter the tragedy or disaster? Or keeping to previous schedules to show how tough or resilient we are? Sometimes life, and death, happens. It's fine to mark that, and to allow it to alter the course of things. This was a huge wallop, and healing will take time.The Syndic of Gotham says the race brings in much-needed cash to the storm-tossed city. Yes, but does everything have to be about business and marketing and the bottom line? Okay, so let the Chamber of Commerce picture this image instead: race volunteers on Staten Island handing out cups of water to runners while residents of the neighborhoods around them are without water to drink. Now there's the kind of PR the city doesn't need.New Yorkers are indeed a tough lot -- they are showing that every moment of every day in the race to pick up, buck, up and carry on. Give them a medal, not a marathon.BREAKING: The Mayor's office reads dotCommonweal, and within moments of my posting this they called off the Marathon. No word yet on rescheduling. Good for them. And I'll cheer when they run through next year, or even next week.

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Mark --You seem to think that hurricane responders can predict where the massive amounts of supplies will be needed, where they can be safely stored ahead of time, and how fast they can get the supplies to people. But that cannot usually be done very well because hurricanes are essentially unpredictable at this point -- nobody knows just where they will hit. If some people made some silly promises, too bad. I don't think it was the head of FEMA or Mayor Bloomberg. If people are impatient, I can understand th at, but those who complain without ceasing don't seem to understand just what catastrophe is.

@Mark Proska (11/4, 7:57 pm) You are correct that TPM provides "commentary on political events from a politically left perspective" as editor and publisher Joshua Marshall has stated since he began the company. And you are correct about the biographical details of Kyle Leighton who wrote the article to which Grant Gallicho linked (11/4, 10:43 am).Since those biographical details are at the end of the article, I'm surprised you apparently didn't read this excerpt which appears near the top of the article: "Since Oct. 28, a national tracking poll by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling has shown Obamas job approval making a net gain of 6 percentage points. PPP is also the only national poll tracking a similar metric for Romney, his favorability rating, on a daily basis. During the same period, Romneys favorability has dropped by a net 7 points.Other daily tracking polls have also shown Obama making similar gains. Republican-leaning Rasmussen showed a 5-point net boost since its Monday poll. A daily ABC News/Washington Post poll has put Obamas approval rating at 50 percent or above in nine of the 12 editions through Friday, and at 49 percent on the three other days." http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/11/obama-approval-superstorm-sand... of Mr. Leighton's or his employer's political views, this is a straightforward analysis of polling data. What's more, it's an analysis that includes the political leanings of some of the pollsters as well. Finally, it's an article that includes links to the data that undergirds its analysis. If you've got a critique of the content of the article, please make it. Attempting to dismiss it out of hand only serves to weaken your debate position (in my view).I can understand Ann Olivier's frustration with your behavior in this thread. If you've got an argument to make that FEMA in particular and government officials and agencies in general have performed less effectively thus far in response to Sandy than they and their counterparts did in the first few days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, please make it, and make it based on the facts of the case.Otherwise you risk coming off as one of those so-called conservatives who has concluded that "reality has a well-known liberal bias", and has therefore decided not to let reality interfere with his/her opinions.

Along the lines of back-seating recreational activities; Is there any discussion of using places like the new Barclay Center for shelters?I read that many of our schools can't reopen because they're being used as emergency shelters. I think we need our schools much more than we need to see basketball games. Same with MSG and other indoor entertainment venues; is it possible to put them to more constructive uses during the emergency?

Irene -- Mayor Bloomberg talks schools about 2/3 of the way through a Nov 4 Press Release. The problems are widespread through the NJ/NY area, but the quantities he is dealing with add an aura of surrealism to me.http://www.nyc.gov/html/om/html/2012b/pr391-12-static.html Classes are going to resume for nearly one million public school students tomorrow [Mon Nov 5]." We think something like 90 percent of the schools will be open tomorrow. 65 schools that we know wont be open. They includeeight schools with emergency shelters, as well as 57 schools that sustained serious damage " On Wed, kids from the 57 seriously damaged schools will go to alternative sites. Kids are to be dressed warmly since some buildings have no heat. "now [Nov 4] fewer than 75 schools, Im happy to say, without power; thats down from 178 yesterday,"

Jack- I was also struck by what seemed like pretty bad conditions in at least one school being used as an emergency shelter. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/05/nyregion/back-to-school-bundled-up-but... a substantial number of people still need emergency housing, we need to figure something out, which is no small thing in a city with housing scarcity.

Grant's sharp summary at 11/04 10:43am would be well illustrated by a set of pictures from The Atlantic, which suggests what "cleaning up" from a unique catastrophe is going to mean this winter and next year. Note the disappearance of the warring political campaign signs that were planted in so many front yards just a week ago. Nature may be communicating about priorities. http://m.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/11/hurricane-sandy-the-aftermath/1...

Grant Gallicho, Ann Olivier, Luke Hill:Thank you for your responses to Mark Proska.

Here's more (note well: Fortune Magazine is generally considered left of center):By Cyrus SanatiFORTUNE -- A combination of bad policy and poor planning exacerbated fuel shortages in New York and New Jersey last week and over the weekend, creating yet another headache for residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy. With a lack of backup power at pipeline pumping stations and gasoline storage facilities, it has been difficult to deliver fuel to the hardest hit areas of the storm.While New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday that the gas shortages should ease over the weekend, he has since changed his tune, saying on Sunday the problems will likely continue for an unspecified "number of days." As such, drivers in the region shouldn't expect a quick fix. Gas lines and rationing will continue as long as there remain kinks in the sensitive gasoline transport network.

Mark --NYCGiuliano's comparison to Katrina shows he doesn't know what he's talking about. You really do need to open your eyes to the nature of catastrophes and to the fact that they cannot be entirely prepared for in such a way that repairs can always happen quickly. Was there some stupid planning? Maybe so, but I assure you FEMA and Sandy doesn't compare with FEMA and Katrina. You can start with the communications, or rather lack thereof, at Katrina. FEMA has obviously impreoved greatly, and when you consider that the human costs due to Sandy (there must be at least 15 times more people involved in the worst hit areas), I have great respect for the work all those people are doing. Especially considering Katrina. I myself evacuated and could not return for 5 weeks -- and that was earlier than a great many people. I was lucky to have gas and electricity (I had just gotten it back), but I had to get a cell phone because my telephone wasn't working, and I also needed a new roof. I was one of the lucky ones.And while you're at it, consider that you just might be a bit biased. (See, I'm trying to be nice.)

Ann--Katrina was a strong category 3 hurricane when it made landfall. Sandy was not even strong enough to be classified as a hurricane when it made landfall. You're comparing apples with pumpkins.

"Superstorm Sandy packed more total energy than Hurricane Katrina at landfall" By Brian McNoldy, U. of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/post/sandy-pack... Daily for past week: Update on the US DoD and National Guard Response to Hurricane Sandy http://www.defense.gov/releases/

Mark P. --Yes, Katrina's winds were a "just" strong 3, but her surge, which came in from the Gulf when it was a 5, is what did most of the damage in New Orleans. Betsy was a 5 when it hit the Coast off New Orleans, but it didn't do nearly the damage that Katrina did. I stayed for that. Awesome is the only word. What was the difference? The meteorologists say that the *angle* at which the area is hit can make a big difference. In the case of Katrina it hit in such a way that it pushed a lot of Lake Pontchartrain (and no doubt the Gulf) over the city -- a lot of the flooding came from the north!My main point about Sandy was that it hit an area with a population which is at least 16 times larger tha the metropolitan New Orleans area. Metro N.O. is just somewhat over 1 million), so Sandy's target was bound to produce more damage and suffering -- there is more there to hit. Also, remember that Sandy's surge had been building up from the Bahamas. Surges do not calm down as quickly as the winds do after the winds peak.One thing I don't entirely understand is how few people evacuated. I suppose that is something you need to learn from experience. We didn't evacuate for Betsy, but left for Katrina. But there is the added great complication in the New York area -- where would those 16 million people go? Clevelnd, Chicago, Canada? Where are the rooms to hold them? Maybe it's not possible to evacuate the area. (For Katrina we went to Memphis. It was the closest we could get rooms.)

Ann -- On evacuation, imagine, if you haven't seen it, the normal daily 4 to 8+pm outflow from New York. Millions in functioning transportation go to intact homes with water, food, beds, gas, etc. available when they arrive. Massive multi-state transportation networks are both extremely high capacity and extremely crowded on an ordinary day. The population of NYC (8M) is about the same as the entire state of New Jersey and twice the population of the adjacent state of Connecticut. As Sandy approached, all nearby states were considered vulnerable. (Storm effects ended up observable as far west as Lake Michigan with 25ft waves and western Maryland with 2ft of snow.) One thing worse than no evacuation is evacuation in progress with roads and bridges jammed when the storm arrives. I believe the magnitudes of everything involved in the New York-New Jersey area make it unique and require some basic thinking different from what has been learned from big storms in Louisiana, Florida, and North Carolina. When the new lessons are learned, they may well help elsewhere next time the need arises.

Jack --You're entirely right. The situations are apples and oranges. It might be practical for some to leave early in the New York area, but certainly not all. In areas nearby the New York area the smaller coastal areas would differ. For instance, if a storm were going to hit eastern Massachusetts or southern Maine then large-scale evacuation might be practical because there are fewer people and there are places for the people to go. Not so with NYC. What must be remembered is that areas differ and hurricanes differ, but they are alike in being terribly destructive.Of course, if meterology could be improved significantly then predictions could be made much earlier. But I doubt you'll find a meteorologist who thinks that the big storms will ever be thoroughly predictable. Too many factors in their equations, and the factors change.The area is going to have to make some very big decisions soon. This will require a great deal of learning on the part of most people, I suspect, and I urge you all to find out more about the problems of your own particular area. Unfortunately, a proposed solution for one area (e.g. barriers in front of NYC) might impact nearby regions (e.g., the Jersey Coast and Connecticut) very badly, so there will undoubtedly be a lot of heavy-duty politicking about it. My only thought is that you should consider the possibility that some areas should not be built on at all. For instance, around here most of St. Bernard Parish (where some of my people used to live -- note the "used to") is just too low for habitation, at least that's how I see it. Those people just keep getting flooded out. The same might be true of parts of New Jersey and Delaware. Yes, very sad for the people who shouldn't go back. I might add that this probably also applies the the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. It's next to St.Bernard Parish and just too close to sea level.

"One thing I dont entirely understand is how few people evacuated. I suppose that is something you need to learn from experience. "And also, I'm not sure about this, but it sounded from the Mayor's releases, that some of the areas in which we were providing relief after the hurricane were still under mandatory evacuation. I was wondering why we weren't bringing people out of the area rather than bringing supplies in.My sister-in-law did not evacuate from Long Beach as ordered. Her husband didn't want to because the last evacuation turned out to be unnecessary. Unfortunately,this time around, the lower level of her house was badly damaged and the two family cars were destroyed.

... [Trackback]...[...] Read More: commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=21623...

Irene --Sorry about your sister-in-law and her husband. But it's true that some things you just have to learn through experience. After Sandy there probably won't be much false optimism in your area for a long, long time. You are all in our prayers.

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About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.