In the final days of August, Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast with severe winds and intense rainfall, causing widespread flooding and damage. The hardest hit was Vermont, swamped with its worst floods in 75 years, cutting power, ruining fall harvest crops, and destroying roads and historic bridges.
Hurricanes are less common in this part of the country, and can cause more damage due to its densely populated areas. When all is recovered, this disaster is estimated to be one of the top 10 costliest in U.S. history.
Irene’s wrath across the Northeast:
- Agricultural losses: In Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. Many pumpkin crops were wiped out in the heavy rains and floods.
- Environmental impact: Chesapeake Bay experienced an influx of sediment plumes that affect water quality and aquatic life, such as oysters.
- Historic structures: More than a dozen of Vermont’s 100 covered bridges were damaged in the storm, and the 141-year-old Bartonsville Bridge was swept away. The town is making plans to rebuild, and across the state, there is renewed respect for these historic icons.
- Flood damage: Thousands of residents were left displaced, and storm damage is estimated to be between $7 billion and $10 billion.
- Power outages: 5.5 million homes and businesses were without power, some for up to a week after the storm.
- Travel and tourism: Air travel came to a halt, and New England’s tourism season suffered.
In the wake of Hurricane Irene, some argue that the nation needs to strengthen the U.S. infrastructure so that such events do not have such a severe impact in the future. This feeds the debate about the consequences of a future with potentially worse weather outbreaks, and draws attention to the political discussions taking place in Washington.
- Network for Good — Hurricane Irene Fund
- Greenmarket’s Hurricane Irene Relief Fund (includes very cute veggie posters — every little bit helps)
- Vermont Floods
Becky Uline is an editor and musician living in San Francisco, where she enjoys digging into Yahoo! data as a sidekick to trend-finding sleuth Vera H-C Chan. Most of her writing is of the musical variety for her band, the Northerlies.