Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Blue Balls Thanks to Irene

Our soggy city is both frustrated and thankful after the recent passing through town of a storm named Irene.

New York City was not thrown into a panic, but we were braced for a huge hurricane and got only a tropical storm. Rapid-fire announcements on Friday of closures and cancellations in preparation of the hurricane ruined most everyone’s weekend plans.

The biggest horror most New Yorkers will face is tomorrow morning, when several million people attempt to go to work with limited or no public transportation. After the disastrously slow and inept response to the early snow blizzard this past winter, the Bloomberg administration was eager not to get caught being unprepared again. If anything, authorities overreacted in shutting down mass transit to the extent that they did. And it wouldn’t surprise me to find they had some kind of ulterior motive for it, perhaps doing a system-wide security scan in preparation for the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

There were several things that New York City did right. It opened more shelters than it needed and helped the elderly and infirm get to them. It allowed drivers to use the bridges and tunnels that were open without paying tolls. Sandbags surrounded sensitive transit and power gratings in downtown Manhattan as early as Friday afternoon. The city identified and evacuated the most flood-prone areas quickly.

The Internet was alight with people’s criticism of Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s (dubbed “El Bloombergo”) speaking Spanish at his press conferences. I understand we have a large Spanish-speaking population here, but they have numerous media outlets where they can get information from people who speak the language fluently. And besides, he is the mayor of New York City, not Mexico City.

But New Yorkers are thankful that things were not worse. The storm claimed several lives on the East Coast. Friends of mine in New England are without power and may be without power for several days. And having an over-prepared mayor fumbling his way through pidgin Spanish is better than an unprepared city with a high death toll.

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