Sunday, September 21, 2008

What 100 million dollars (or more) damage looks like...

...I've spent years in public service. I've been involved in handling emergency communications traffic into and out of disaster areas, done the whole "Twister" chasing tornadoes across Colorado thing, worked search and rescue details looking for missing hikers, been a first responder at traffic accidents involving fatalities and a whole bunch more before. Nothing I've even seen or experienced has made the claims of "billions lost" in natural disasters all that real to me. Not until Ike came roaring through the Tristate area a week ago tomorrow.

Sunday morning last I awoke to the sound of roaring like a jet engine from outside my bedroom window. The tree outside my living room window was pounding on the window so hard I was afraid it was going to break. The sky was dark and foreboding, but that was it, wind and grey sky. I turned on my two-way radio (I'm still a Ham Radio Operator with a valid license) and switched over to the National Weather Service local frequency. "...with winds in excess of 75 miles per hour... ...Hurricane Ike..."


I didn't realize at that moment that the power for the building was out, in fact it wasn't until I walked into the kitchen to made some breakfast and the light wouldn't go on I began to suspect a problem. That was Sunday morning. Sunday night at 21:46 the power came back on for my block, and the various local stations were reporting during the day that nearly three quarters of a million people were without power. The entire City of Cincinnati was blacked out as well as MOST of the tristate (Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana) metro area. Folks were being advised to remain indoors and under cover, and not to travel unless absolutely necessary. Like I say, I was lucky, power came back on for me at 21:46. Today I drove around the metro area and as of 16:30 today, there are still entire sections of the metro area shutdown, blacked out and locked up.

I made it into the local 24 grocery store I prefer on Thursday morning at 01:22 and they had only just had the power restored right around midnight. This place is huge, like one of those super Walmart's, except it is all groceries. I can't even guess the square footage, but it's big. ALL of the refrigerated and freezer sections were utterly empty. Nothing. 15 isles of freezers normally packed with frozen food galore, empty. Diary, Produce, Meats, Fish and so on equally empty. Being a regular shopper there I knew where things normally were, and started a running total in my head of what was lost...

I stopped counting at around 100 million dollars of food destroyed.

It was a whole new experience for me. This was one of a dozen such stores in the greater tristate metro area impacted. Businesses, offices, gas stations, restaurants, everything shut down for the better part of a week. Nearly a million people who didn't get paid for a lost weeks work, all the food in their fridge and freezer gone bad, the downed trees, power lines, light poles on the highway, exit signs, outdoor signs, driving around the area the last couple of days was astounding.

Utterly astounding. All this from wind, not a drop of rain. Last count I heard was a total of two million people without power, some as long as a week. So let's just say it was (three days at eight hours) 24 hours. One day of work lost. Let's also say all 2 million people where making 4 dollars an hour. So that would be 24X4 which only 96 dollars for three days of lost work. But, it's 2 million people that lost 96 dollars each. That's 192 million dollars of lost income... Realistically, it was way, way worse than that, but you can see how the money adds up fast...

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