September 2, 2014
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Getting used to it

On Tuesday, a storm raged as opposing fronts clashed in a spectacle of thunder, lightening and lots of hot air. Sure, Tuesday’s storm was of the metaphorical kind – the election had Democrats and Republicans as roiled as the seas during a hurricane. But we mustn’t forget that just over a week ago, we were settling in for what experts say was one of the largest and most damaging storms of our lifetime.

Remarkably, Rhode Island was spared the brunt of the storm, and therefore our recovery time was greatly shortened. Pair that with the lessons we learned during Irene, and we were wholly prepared for Sandy.

And we should be prepared for more.

The devastation to New York City serves as a visceral reminder that, in many cases, we aren’t, as a nation, prepared for the worst. The flooded subways, millions without power and thousands left homeless are all real, tangible and gut wrenching results of the hurricane, but also of our lack of preparedness. And there’s no way to say we should have expected what was coming, but with what experts are forecasting for the future, it seems more likely that we’ll need to expect the unexpected.

In a way, Irene did us a favor: she hit us harder than the outer bands of Sandy did. A lot of trees had already been downed, and emergency management officials knew what they needed to do differently this time. National Grid now has a better system for addressing outages across the state, and more quickly restored power than they did during Irene. We learned our lesson and remembered it well; and we’re sure that areas hit harder by Sandy, like New York and New Jersey, will do the same now, too.

It’s imperative to look at these extreme weather events differently now than we ever did before; experts say sea levels are on the rise and global warming will increase the amount of extreme storms we see.

In South County, homes that were once on the sandy dunes of beaches now abut the shore. Already, our coastline is changing. So how will it look in 30, 50 or 100 years? The same question can be applied to the weather events themselves – what will they look like in 100 years? Will they get worse? Can we bank on them getting any better?

The answer to the last question, at least, is a resounding “no.” Even if the weather unexpectedly veers from the path its on now, as we’ve learned from Sandy, it’s always better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. It’s by thinking ahead that we’ll come out on the other side of these storms better, stronger and more prepared.


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