The Hayride

Katrina Redux Is Playing Out On The Eastern Seaboard

Katrina Redux Is Playing Out On The Eastern Seaboard
November 01
21:26 2012

When I heard the pundits declare earlier this week that Hurricane Sandy would somehow redound to the benefit of Barack Obama’s campaign, I couldn’t stop scratching my head.

“The folks who say this obviously haven’t been through a hurricane,” I thought. “Nobody makes out well in a hurricane. Didn’t they realize that during Katrina?”

For a day or two, everybody bears up well and thanks God they’re still alive and that things weren’t worse, and thinks happy thoughts about a quick recovery of their homes and infrastructure.

That lasts a day or two.

By Day Three or Day Four, folks start noticing that the power hasn’t come back on yet. That food and gasoline are pretty scarce. That getting anywhere is a nightmare. That it’s impossible to accomplish anything at work. That they can’t take a hot shower. That the schools aren’t open and what are they going to do with the kids?

And so on.

By Day Seven, EVERYBODY has absolutely had it. They’re miserable. They want their lives back the way they were, they’ve already read all the books they’ve stashed away for a rainy day, they’re tired of listening to the politicians babble endlessly about the situation and they want somebody’s head.

All of this is natural, mind you, and the fact of the matter is that a hurricane means a minimum of 2-3 weeks of total disruption for the affected areas, and in a lot of cases a lot more than that. A hurricane is a life-changing event and there is damned little a politician can do about it in the short term. The government can certainly fish people out of flooded areas and government can work with charities and other private-sector and volunteer organizations to provide people with food and water and other emergency relief.

But to restore destroyed property on a large scale? That takes months, even years. Restoring destroyed infrastructure takes weeks and months in good circumstances.

Deal with hurricanes on a semi-regular basis and you understand these things.

Nobody on the East Coast has dealt with a storm like this, so nobody on the East Coast knows what to expect. Their frame of reference for something like this is what they saw on TV about Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. And most of the people on the East Coast thought those Katrina images had mostly to do with how backwards, lazy and stupid people in Louisiana are. Which is neither blameworthy nor misguided; if all you see on TV is poor people who didn’t evacuate when they were told to hanging around the Superdome and haranguing any TV reporters within earshot with stories of how horrible things are, your natural reaction is going to be that it’s nothing like that where you live and what a horrible place that is.

Except that it’s pretty similar everywhere. And it might even be worse in New York and New Jersey, because they’ve been taken completely off guard by these events.

Drudge’s headlines today show the rising temperature…

Gas Shortages May Not End for Another Week...
Fear Turns to Frustration, Anger... 
Fistfights, Guns Drawn...
'You're not getting gas tonight'...
Lines grow...
Some Siphoning From Cars!
'I'm pretty pissed'...
Troopers deployed to gas stations...
Stars throw extravagant Halloween party despite destruction...
Commuter Delays Rage...
NYC Official: Red Cross 'Absolute Disgrace'...
Looters Dress Like Con Edison Workers to Gain Access to Houses...
Staten Islanders Plead for Help: 'We Need Food'...

And the big masthead…

That’s Day Three.

None of these things will get measurably better for another three or four days, if not a week. The New Yorkers who are used to riding the subways to work every day will be inconvenienced for weeks if not months.

A huge percentage of the affected people won’t get power back before Election Day. They won’t be riding subways by then. They won’t be getting much work done at the office in many cases by then. They’ll likely be eating lots of MRE’s and other emergency food until then.

And so on.

There will be millions of people still very much affected by the storm by Tuesday, and by Tuesday they’ll be red-hot with anger, inconvenience and frustration. And New York is the media capital of the world, with countless reporters and scribes following the established practice of treating major weather events like they would the BCS national championship game or the Super Bowl – and controversy sells papers and gets ratings.

It’s not necessary for Obama to be blamed for whatever deficiencies the Sandy response might entail. All that matters is that pissed-off people from Jersey City and Staten Island will be all over cable news and YouTube by early next week begging for help, and the rest of the country is going to look at their plight and feel that something is desperately wrong in the country and our leadership is lacking. And the feeling will be that something has to change, quick.

A month from now when a Congressional appropriation of disaster funds begins to give people hope for assistance in restoring their property and the relief efforts have hit their stride, and the immediate work has been largely completed to drain water from where it shouldn’t be, restore power and find roofs to put over people’s heads, and optimism and perspective will have returned.

But a month and a week are different stories altogether. And fate dealt Obama the week, not the month.

Sandy is Obama’s Katrina, and by next week the guess here is it will be a drain on his re-election efforts. Regardless of whether he does anything wrong (which resuming his re-election campaign will be seen as, justly or unjustly), he will suffer from the unhappiness of the East Coast even in states completely unaffected by the storm.

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