Give anti-government rhetoric a rest
The early response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has been encouraging. People around the country have offered their support. And, so far at least, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has not looked as inept as it did after Katrina in 2005.
This is a good thing, because people suffering in Texas and Florida could use all the help they can get. And maybe, just maybe, the relief effort might help change some of this nationís caustic political debate, which is often driven by petty partisan or regional fights, and refocus it on actual problems to solve.
Texas and Florida happen to be low-tax, low-regulation states with histories of resisting Washington. In 2012, when Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Northeast, Republicans from the two states overwhelmingly voted against a relief package. Now they are looking for federal assistance, the price of which will be inflated by state and local policies.
The federal tab for Harvey, for instance, will be greatly increased by Houstonís inadequate system for dealing with storm water runoff. And Floridaís decision to get into the homeowners insurance business makes it a federal bailout waiting to happen.
People generally donít mind extending a helping hand to their fellow Americans. Just one request for the recipients: Give the bureaucrat bashing and anti-government rhetoric a rest.
Donít lose sight of the crisis in the Caribbean islands
Hurricane Irma was bad enough in Florida, but not as catastrophic as some had feared.
That, unfortunately, was not true of the Caribbean. The top half of the so-called Leeward Islands ó including the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Barbuda, St. Barts and St. Maarten/St. Martin ó were hit so ferociously by the Category 5 storm that they look like war zones.
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Farther to the west, Puerto Rico and the island nations of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos also took significant hits.
At least 34 fatalities have been recorded, with the number likely to grow. The process of rebuilding and restoring livelihoods will take years in some places.
Many Americans might not have fully absorbed the scale of the devastation. Cable news channels, which went pretty much 24/7 in the days leading up to Irmaís arrival and then posted reporters out in its wrath as it made landfall, gave relatively little time to the devastation in the Caribbean islands.
This seems odd, because the scenes of destruction in places like Barbuda, more than the admonishments of some reporter, would have provided motivation for people in America to take this storm seriously.
More important, the relative lack of coverage should not be a signal for Americans to ignore the destruction beyond U.S. borders. These islands are our neighbors. For many Americans, they are home to family. For others, they are beloved vacation spots.
Some of the larger islands have significant poverty and cannot easily rebound. And the posh resorts are major employers for people of modest means.
Even as money and resources go into rebuilding Texas and Florida, Americans can afford to donate to relief efforts in the Caribbean. Some of the smaller islands ó territories of wealthy nations such as Britain, France, the Netherlands and the USA ó can expect significant governmental help. But the sovereign nations of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Antigua and Barbuda will need aid from friendly nations and private donors.
With all the attention paid to Florida from Irma and Texas from Hurricane Harvey, itís important not to lose sight of the crisis in the Caribbean.
Make America's weather model great again
Even as the nationís coastal population has soared, the death toll from storms such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has dropped, thanks largely to remarkable advances in weather forecasting.
Four of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history occurred before 1930, including the Category 4 hurricane in 1900 that killed 8,000 in Galveston, Texas. They had just a dayís notice that a storm was coming.
Contrast that with the week-long buildup for Irma as it churned through the Caribbean and headed for the U.S. mainland. Weather geeks and non-geeks alike were able to follow every zig and zag on the satellite imagery and latest prediction models.
The two major models, known as the American and the European, adequately forecast Irmaís right turn toward Florida. But, as was the case with Superstorm Sandy and other high-profile events, the European model ó backed by superior computer power, resources and resolution ó performed better overall.
Upgrades to the American model have been in the works. But in weather forecasting as in life, you get what you pay for, and President Trumpís budget calls for a 17% cut to the nationís top weather and climate agency.
If you want to make America great again, you might try making the U.S. forecast model better than the one based in England.