Monday, August 29, 2011

Drowning from/under Hurricane Irene in Vermont and usptate New York

I was struck by this quote from Vermont governor Peter Shumlin, commenting on the impact of Hurricane Irene for his tiny state.

“This is a really tough battle for us,” Mr. Shumlin said, after a helicopter ride from which he surveyed damage across the state. “What you see is farms destroyed, crops destroyed, businesses underwater, houses eroded or swept away and widespread devastation.”

He added, “This is a situation where we got dealt a very heavy blow and we’re a small rural state that doesn’t get tropical storms, so this is a real challenge for us.”

A challenge indeed. And a truly rural state Vermont is in the sense that 72% of its population live in rural places, a higher percentage rural than any other state.

Abby Goodenough's story in the New York Times indicates that, somewhat ironically, the heaviest damage from Hurricane Irene was not coastal, but rather occurred in upstate New York and Vermont, principally from river flooding. In New York, the town of Prattsville, population 883, was "washed away." A county administrator for Greene County (population 49, 071), which includes Prattsville, stated, “The village is essentially gone. The buildings have fallen off their foundations.” The administrator noted that several other Greene County towns were also very hard hit.

Read more analysis here of the meteorological and geographical forces that led to the devastating floods in New England.


JWHS said...

This is a completely unqualified opinion, but it seems to me that rural towns are hit harder by natural diasters. Mostly due to infrastructure problems.

For one, disaster relief from metro areas takes longer. Second, emergency response in town of a mere 883 might not be inherently sufficient. Third, the rebuilding capabilities of such a small town are likely minimal.

Which brings a related point, do businesses in rural towns, whose economy might be severely impacted by a natural disaster, have the ability (read insurance) to recover?

KevinN said...

I think JWHS makes a good point. It seems like most of the time the National Guard has to be mobilized to protect small towns when a natural disaster threatens. In larger cities, there are plenty of first-responders to handle the same issues. Which makes me wonder, do rural areas receive greater aid from the state on a per capita basis than urban areas? And is this made up for by the fact that urban areas likely receive more services from a city or other local municipality?

Patricija said...

You can't put a price on human lives and suffering ... in theory. Then again much of our policies and emergency plans are based on getting the most bang for your buck and for hoping for the best while rarely expecting the worst.

This is probably most true for rural areas where the cost of providing services is probably (if not always) higher and the population is relatively low. As areas that get annihilated by natural disasters begin to apply for funding and other ways to rebuild their home, they'll have to prove they are worth rebuilding.

Jimbob said...

Rural areas, especially those dependent on farming are especially hard hit because farmers make their living on land that could have been damaged. While those working in town have damaged houses, they can still earn money to repair the house. Farmers don't have that luxury, they have to work fields that are now subpar, and they can't earn the money to fix them, because the land doesn't work like it used to. Some may have damaged homes, but farmers have damaged jobs.