The Imperfect Storm

On Sunday, a girl rides her scooter through a flooded street in New York’s Hudson River Park. Tropical Storm Irene hit the city on Sunday morning.

As Hurricane Irene barreled toward the East Coast, millions of Americans whose only prior experience with tropical storms was watching that hilarious clip of Al Roker falling down on YouTube were forced to contend with a whole new definition of “a bad day.” As expected, while the old hands in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina hightailed it for higher ground, some of the city folk in New Jersey and New York City panicked like Moammar Gadhafi on the last day of the plus-size caftan sale at Kaffiyehs-R-Us.

Hurricane Irene turned out to be more hot air than rain and wind, but combined with the response to the recent earthquake near Mineral Springs, Va., which “rocked” the Mid-Atlantic, we all got to take a really good look at how well some of our fellow countrymen respond to Mother Nature’s wrath. To be fair, Irene did cause some significant damage, but in terms of devastation, she didn’t even register a “Tom Cruise” on the “Disaster Movie” scale. The storm, the earthquake and their recent predecessors, including the infamous Hurricane Katrina, inspired me to prepare a primer of my own. As you make your way through it, remember to keep one thing in mind: The fact that global warming is silly doesn’t mean natural disasters are.

1. Hurricanes are caused by:

a. A combination of low atmospheric pressure, water vapor and minimal wind shear.
b. Global warming.
c. The Tea Party.
d. George W. Bush (duh!)

2. The Virginia earthquake was caused by:

a. Tectonic activity.
b. Insufficient pledges to Pat Robertson and The 700 Club.
c. President Obama hitting his approach from the third fairway a little fat.
d. A newly discovered fault line located under Central Virginia called the “George W. Bush.” (Sure, it’s already hackneyed, but I had to work it in.)

3. If the storm’s sustained winds are above 74 miles per hour, then:

a. It’s a Category 1 hurricane.
b. We’re all going to die!
c. Al Roker is going to fall down on YouTube again.
d. Someone left the windows open at MSNBC.

4. An earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale carries a force equivalent to:

a. The “Little Boy” atomic weapon dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. (It should be noted that the Virginia Earthquake did significantly less damage, because it occurred below ground. Hence: “earthquake,” not: “skyquake.”)
b. Michelle Obama doing the “Dougie” in clogs.
c. Ed Schultz falling down the stairs.
d. An SEIU thug with a baseball bat.

5. If a major storm approaches your area, you should:

a. Tune to the local emergency broadcast frequency.
b. Buy a kite and teach your kids how to have fun with electricity.
c. Bring Fluffy in from the backyard.
d. Haul ass to the nearest electronics retailer before all the really cool stuff gets looted.

6. If authorities order you to evacuate, you should:

a. Grab the kids, throw them in the minivan and drive to Grandma’s house.
b. Do nothing. Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin will pick you up in a school bus. Probably.
c. Go to the nearest public building and blame the Federal government for not rescuing you sooner.
d. Begin planning how to invest the cash the Feds will give you for being too stupid to leave.

7. The safest place during a hurricane is:

a. Away from doors and windows in a sturdy house above the flood stage.
b. In the upstairs bathtub.
c. Saskatchewan, Canada.
d. The Superdome.

8. The safest place during an earthquake is:

a. In the nearest sturdy doorway.
b. Away from unsecured heavy objects. (Sorry, Michael Moore, you’re on your own.)
c. Saskatchewan.
d. Mars.

9. The best source of information during a hurricane is:

a. The Weather Channel.
b. NOAA weather radio.
c. The woman in line in front of you at the dry cleaners who begins every sentence with: They say…”
d. Al Gore.

10. Had the Virginia earthquake been as powerful as the 1964 Good Friday quake:

a. The age and nature of the geology in Virginia would have magnified the seismic waves, creating apocalyptic destruction.
b. Chris Matthews would have been forced to shriek even louder at Michele Bachmann.
c. President Obama would have been forced to skip the back nine.
d. It would have leveled Washington, D.C. (I didn’t say they were all bad consequences.)

Before the bell sounds, I have one more piece of knowledge to drop on you: If Jim Cantore shows up with a Weather Channel TV crew, run.

–Ben Crystal


Personal Liberty

Ben Crystal

is a 1993 graduate of Davidson College and has burned the better part of the last two decades getting over the damage done by modern-day higher education. He now lives in Savannah, Ga., where he has hosted an award-winning radio talk show and been featured as a political analyst for television. Currently a principal at Saltymoss Productions—a media company specializing in concept television and campaign production, speechwriting and media strategy—Ben has written numerous articles on the subjects of municipal authoritarianism, the economic fallacy of sin taxes and analyses of congressional abuses of power.

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