30 Oct 2012

Sandy humbles New York, but not for long

New York prides itself on its resilience. After all, this place survived 9/11, the mid summer blackout of 2003 and the collapse of the financial system on which much of the city’s pride and prosperity are based.

So a storm called Sandy shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. But the elements have humbled this city for at least a few days. The power is out for almost a million people. Wall Street has stopped trading for a second day. The airports are shut, the subway system flooded and Manhattan once again feels like an island.

I have covered a number of hurricanes and their first names are as familiar as distant but unpleasant relatives. Ivan in Alabama, Katrina in Louisiana, Sandy from Washington DC to New York City. I left my family in the basement of our house in DC hoping that the giant trees around our dwelling will remember that the place was once occupied by the founder of the Sierra Club, America’s original tree-hugger lobby.

They lost power but only for a few hours. The trees were merciful. After seeing too many neighbours’ houses cleaved in half by toppling trees and some unlucky people even killed by falling branches, this was a huge relief. In New York the dangers were probably less severe but seeing the water boarding of an iconic city is unforgettable.

Sandy was yet another reminder that this is a big country that does big weather. From its inception America has always pitted the human spirit against the determination of nature. Whether hurricanes, tornadoes, snow storms, earthquakes, drought or deluge, this struggle between man and elements helps to define America’s character. Some day it might even define this country’s policies towards the environment.

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