If you’d told me as recently as a week ago that I would experience both an earthquake and a hurricane all in the same week—and in my home state of Virginia yet—I would have shaken my head in disbelief at your hubris. Because never in my lifetime would I have imagined that could be the case, especially here in North Central Virginia. And, had I driven just a few miles to the northeast, you could have thrown in a tornado to boot. A trifecta of natural disasters all within five days!
Luckily, neither our employees nor I nor any of our collective family or friends sustained any injury or property damage. My next-door neighbor lost two beautiful tall trees, but that seemed to be the worst of it in our neighborhood. Areas near the Potomac River and beaches told a different story, though again with an element of luck to them. For those areas, the visit by Isabel in 2003 was much worse than Irene’s sojourn. This is because Isabel’s storm surge came into the Chesapeake Bay and up the Potomac River. Irene’s stayed out in the sea here, but did cause considerable flooding in Northern New England.
My family on Long Island saw a lot of rain and some flooding. When I talked to my brother Saturday night, he said his house was full, with three sets of in-laws, their 14 kids and 6 cats. All of them had been evacuated from the Long Beach-Rockaway area and ended up at his house.
I used to work in Long Beach during summers in high school and college as a nurses’ aide in a large nursing home with beautiful views of the sea. It was located on a highway right across the street from the ocean that is full of apartments and facilities such as the one in which I worked.
There were two hurricane watches during my years there. In those days, the warnings for hurricanes were not quite as exact as they are now. You often got less than a day’s notice. I remember how difficult it was to plan for the evacuation of people with limited or no mobility. It’s not something we often think about, but elevators don’t work without electricity. So, everyone who was not 100 percent ambulatory was going to have difficulty getting out if the electricity failed.
The protocol in those days was to “hunker down.” If it got really bad, the staff would became a human chain, and our job was to carry those who couldn’t walk down the five or six flights to safety. It was painstakingly slow and back-breaking work. And the people you were trying to help were scared and getting tossed about down flights of stairs. If you have ever done it, you know how quickly you want to move to get people out and how long you feel it’s taking. Everything feels like its happening in slow motion.
So, with that in mind I have just two thoughts on the disaster-thon we just experienced:
1. The most obvious effect from Irene on the glass industry (in addition to some areas of increased sales) will be the tightening of hurricane codes in the East. Look for the adoption of such codes in areas that don’t have them now and look for the codes in areas such as Long Island and up into New England to be strengthened. In fact, I expect the areas regulated by hurricane codes to get much broader over the next few years.
2. Watch for changes in codes for glass in critical care facilities, such as the nursing home in which I worked or hospitals such as Saint John’s in Joplin, Mo. In fact, the story of Saint John’s Hospital made such an impression on our editors that we planned an unprecedented coverage of its implications across our publications. I’ll provide more info on that next week.
For this week though, let’s just hope Mother Nature has had her fill of us and takes a nap.