Times West Virginian
Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
That was the outlook many people in the Eastern U.S. had as dire weather forecasts over the weekend predicted a “superstorm” of historic magnitude barreling toward the coast. As many as 50 million people were predicted to be affected.
And when Sandy washed ashore late Monday night, striking the country’s most densely populated region, she packed a powerful punch with hurricane-force winds blowing upward of 80 mph.
In the light of day Tuesday, the true devastation was visible: Entire neighborhoods were under water. Those living in higher elevations were being buried under a blanket of deep snow. Millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas were without electricity.
Here in Marion County, residents were luckier.
Although we didn’t escape the storm completely unscathed — there were downed trees and power lines, nearly 600 people were without power and Bunner Ridge, in the county’s higher elevation, got 6 inches of snow — we counted our blessings that we were among the few areas in this part of the state that seemed to miss the brunt of Sandy’s wrath.
We also took comfort in the fact that the Office of Emergency Management was ready if we had been hit hard. Chris McIntire, director, said the county was “very well-prepared,” adding that personnel had been manned with chain saws to cut down fallen trees and shelters were ready to open for displaced families.
“But we didn’t have to. We were in stand-by mode. There were few calls for assistance. Nothing out of the ordinary,” McIntire said.
Sadly, that wasn’t the case for other parts of the Mountain State, nor in New York and New Jersey.
The superstorm dumped 2 feet of snow in parts of West Virginia, caused several buildings to collapse, cut electricity to thousands and left others stranded by impassible roads. State officials have blamed the storm for five deaths, including a legislative candidate from Barbour County.
In New York, large swaths of lower Manhattan lost electricity and entire streets ended up under water, as did seven subway tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Mass transit was shut down, and the New York Stock Exchange was closed for two days due to weather, the first time that had happened since a blizzard in 1888. In a flooded beachfront neighborhood in Queens, a huge fire had destroyed more than 100 houses.
And in New Jersey, search and rescue crews were out in force. The devastation on the Jersey Shore was, as Gov. Chris Christie said, “some of the worst we’ve ever seen.” In Hoboken, at least 25 percent of the city remained under water Wednesday, and at least 20,000 people were stranded.
According to early estimates, Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damage and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business, making it one of the costliest natural disasters on record in the U.S.
But when natural disasters of this magnitude happen, Americans rally.
It goes without saying that in the coming days and weeks, the citizens in the hardest-hit areas will need our help more than ever before. As they begin to pick up the pieces and start the rebuilding process, both of the communities they call home and the lives they have created there, we hope they will be comforted by the thought that they have the support of an entire nation.
After all, that’s one of the best things about this country. We pick each other up and carry on. The paths are sometimes bumpy, but we don’t give up. We are resilient.
And that resilient spirit will prevail.