I picked up a dead tree branch in the front yard this morning. It wasn’t a big one. Then the dog and I went for the morning walk. We saw a couple of more dead branches on the ground, all pretty small. The mailman stopped by – he’s a morning person – and said he hadn’t seen much of interest while making his rounds.
Before I left the house, I watched the TV news, wondering how the rest of Rochester, N.Y, had survived Sandy. It did quite well, actually. County Executive Maggie Brooks was interviewed. Perhaps I am in far too negative of a mood these campaign-drenched days. But Brooks, now a Republican candidate for Congress, seemed to be congratulating herself, with a hint that the Apocalypse had been averted due to the county’s preparedness.
During my 20-minute bus ride to downtown, I watched out the windows for overturned cars, ruined roofs, flooded side streets. There was none of that. We lost a few trees, and some power lines went down, but what we had here was a big rain storm. Even the Maggie! lawn signs were still in place. Any hand-wringing in Monroe County is a little too self-indulgent when contrasted to the thousand-fold tragedies that landed on the East Coast on Monday night.
RG&E estimated that 18,323 people in Monroe County, 739 in Ontario County and 2,714 in Wayne County were without power this morning. But we always have flooded streets and people without power whenever dark clouds pass through Western New York. If Monroe County officials want to take credit for their preparedness for Sandy, they also need to accept responsibility for failing to tend to a decaying infrastructure that seems increasingly vulnerable to even modest storms.
Monday afternoon, the county was doing what it is supposed to do when danger is near. When a snow storm approaches, it makes sure plow drivers are ready to clear the streets. When flood conditions loom, people in low-lying areas are evacuated. Government keeps law enforcement and firefighters at the ready. Sometimes, socialism does work.
Those people on the East Coast were prepared for Sandy. But sometimes, nature is too overwhelming. Let’s not get cocky. Let’s listen to the smart people. Meteorologists correctly predicted how dangerous this unprecedented storm would be, and correctly predicted where and when it would hit land. Remember that when the anti-science lunatics among us resume their rants against climate change. Remember that when they rail against teaching young people facts, like evolution, rather than teaching articles of faith, like Adam and Eve. If God exists, then he generally seems to reward those who are prepared to deal with the disasters that he sends our way. Even our conservative government officials – Brooks, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – seemed to be acknowledging this Tuesday morning.
On the cable news shows this morning, the political pundits were engaged in discussing the sick measurement of who will benefit more from this storm, Obama or Romney. Mitt Romney, a man who wants to be president in the worst way, and I mean that literally, was talking about how Americans come together in times like this. Perhaps we can expand on that idea. Close the inequality gap in this country between rich and poor. Allow everyone equal access to education and good health. How about creating a place where Americans come together at all times?