Thursday 1 September 2011

Their deaths were brought about by their own stupidity

I am not surprised at the stupidity of people who bring about their own deaths because they weren’t thinking straight at the time of their deaths. Many of these unnecessary deaths come about during hurricanes.

What begin as thunderstorms off the west coast of Africa can become hurricanes by the time they reach the Caribbean and the southeastern United States. Between 80 and 100 of these systems develop each year from June to November, but usually only a small amount of them evolve into hurricanes that impact the United States.

Hurricane Irene of 2011 was an Atlantic hurricane that left extensive flood and wind damage along its path through the Caribbean, the United States East Coast and as far north as Atlantic Canada. It also left a number of people dead.

Curving toward the north, Irene skirted past Florida with its outer bands producing tropical-storm-force winds. It made landfall over Eastern North Carolina's Outer Banks on the morning of August 27th and moved along southeastern Virginia, affecting the Hampton Roads region.

After briefly reemerging over water, Irene made its second US landfall near Little Egg Inlet in New Jersey during the morning of August 28th, becoming the first hurricane to make landfall in the state since 1903. Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm as it made its third U.S. landfall in the Coney Island area of Brooklyn, New York, at approximately 9:00 a.m. on August 28th. Considerable damage occurred in the Catskill Mountains and Mohawk Valley of New York State and in Vermont, which suffered from the worst flooding in centuries.

Throughout its path, Irene caused widespread destruction and at least 54 deaths. Sixteen of those deaths occurred in the United States. Monetary losses to the Caribbean could be as high as US$ 3.1 billion according to preliminary estimates. Early damage estimates in the US are about $7 billion.

Though Irene spared Florida from a direct hit, its outernmost rainbands produced squalls and intermittent torrents along the state's eastern coastlines. Brisk winds produced scattered power outages. Waves reached as high as 12 ft (3.7 m); rough surf in the Boynton Inlet injured at least eight people, and two surfers were killed offshore at Volusia and Flagler Counties. Rip tides occurring during hurricanes can be deadly. Did these two surfers know that surfing in the water when the outermost rainbands of a hurricane are striking the area is outright stupid? Of course they knew it was stupid but despite that, they surfed anyway. Their stupidity cost them their lives.

Owing to its unusually large windfield, Irene affected long stretches of South Carolina coastlines with gusts and sporadic showers, even though it remained offshore. Gale-force winds picked up through the Low country during the afternoon of August 26, with a gust of 55 mph (89 km/h) measured at a coastal marine observing site on Folly Island. Scattered power outages left over 4,000 residences in the dark, mostly due to toppled utility poles. The winds also felled trees and generated rough surf along Charleston County coastlines, and minor beach erosion was noted. Elsewhere in that county, a downed tree trapped several people in their vehicle, but they were all rescued. They were fortunate because when a tree falls on you, your chances of survival are slim and driving a car at the height of the storm is very foolish as you will see further on in this article.

In North Carolina, tropical-storm-force winds began to affect the Outer Banks hours before landfall, producing waves of 6–9 ft (1.8–2.7 m). In addition to the gales, Irene spawned several tornadoes early on August 27th while approaching the coast. Sustained hurricane-force winds from the storm, with the highest winds was officially recorded at 67 mph (107 km/h) by a buoy near Cape Lookout. Precipitation totals from Irene in the region were particularly high, ranging between 10–14 inches (250–360 mm); Bunyan recorded a peak amount of approximately 14 inches (360 mm).

The large hurricane left extensive damage in its wake and there were reports that tornado's may have leveled homes and overturned vehicles. Following the touch down of a potent tornado, at least four homes were demolished in Columbia, while up to three others sustained significant damage. Preliminary assessment indicated multiple flooded areas and uprooted trees along coastlines; in Nash County, a snatched tree limb struck and killed one person. Prior to the storm, a resident in Onslow County suffered a fatal heart attack while installing plywood to his home. Two people in Pitt and Sampson Counties were additionally killed by falling trees, as were two others in Goldsboro and Pitt County in traffic accidents in which one of the deaths resulted in the driver being killed when his vehicle skidded while driving through standing water and hit a tree. A 15-year-old girl was killed when the car she was in crashed at an intersection because the lights were out. A man also drowned in the flooded Cape Fear River.

The authorities warned of the dangers of remaining in the area and told the inhabitants that they should leave the area and seek shelter further inland. Even remaining in your home that is as far as 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the shoreline is putting your life at risk. Proof of that is the situation which occurred in this state when a man was in his house when the high winds brought a nearby tree down onto his house. He was killed. It doesn’t surprise me that two men in North Carolina were also killed by falling trees and another was killed from a falling tree limb. Why were they in that area in the first place? The man that drowned in the flooded Cape Fear River shouldn’t have been anywhere near that river.

A tornado moved through the Sandbridge community in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in the morning hours of August 27th, ripping the roofs off at least five homes and damaging several others. High winds in Newport News, Virginia, knocked a tree into an apartment complex, killing an 11-year-old boy lying in bed with his mother. Three other Virginians in Brunswick, Chesterfield and King William Counties were also killed by falling trees. In Chesterfield County in Virginia, a 60-year-old man was killed when a nearby tree crashed onto the roof of his house.

Most severe damage consists of many downed trees on power lines, cars, homes, and roads; and flooding in many low-lying roads and neighborhoods – 1.2 million homes and businesses lost power due to Irene.

Virginia Beach is right at the water’s edge and Newport News is a just a few miles west of the water’s edge. Why was the mother of the child and the others who were killed anywhere near the shoreline of Virginia when the hurricane was passing by? If they had followed the advice of the authorities, they would have gone far inland to escape Irene’s fury.

In King William County in West Virginia, a man was cutting down a tree during the hurricane and another tree that was nearby was uprooted by the hurricane while he was nearby, fell on him and killed him.

In Queen Anne's County, Maryland, an 85-year old woman was killed when a tree fell onto her house causing the chimney to collapse. It crashed into the sunroom where she was sitting and the falling chimney killed her. She too should have fled inland.

A tornado touched down in Lewes, Delaware, around 6:35 p.m., damaging 50 homes and destroying one. Heavy rains throughout the state were topped at 10.43 inches in Ellendale, Delaware. Two 25-year-old men were killed in the Hockessin, Delaware area in an apparent drowning after attempting to run home at midnight through the storm on Saturday night. They drowned in the overflowing creek. Their bodies were recovered near Wilmington on Monday afternoon. Why were they anywhere near that creek? Why were they even in Delaware which is as close to the hurricane one can get?

Five people were killed in Pennsylvania: three died as a result of fallen trees, one was killed in a traffic accident, and a woman was swept away by flooding in the Wissahickon Creek. In Philadelphia, the storm left thousands without power. More than 400 trees fell in Philadelphia, seven buildings collapsed and twenty roads were closed.

In New Jersey, flooding was widespread. At the Trenton Train Station along Assunpink Creek, flooding impacted Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, SEPTA's Trenton Line, and New Jersey Transit's Northeast Corridor Rail Line. Severe flooding occurred to the rivers, including Raritan, Millstone, Rockaway, Rahway, Delaware and Passaic due to record rainfall. Highest rainfall recorded in the state were in Freehold with 11.27 inches (286 mm), followed by Jefferson and Wayne with 10.54 inches (268 mm) and 10 inches (250 mm)

Six deaths occurred in New Jersey including a medical rescue squad worker who was swept away in flood waters and was pulled from the water early Sunday in Princeton Township. All of these deaths occurred due to inland flooding.

In Kearny, New Jersey, a 47-year-old postal worker drowned after abandoning his swamped vehicle. He should never have been anywhere near a flooded area.

At Bellport, New York, a 68-year-old man drowned while surfing. One would think that someone of that age would take extra cautions in surfing, especially during a storm at sea.

At New York City, the Hudson River flooded, starting at approximately 8:50 a.m., into Zone B as well as Zone A, mostly in the Meatpacking District along the Hudson River in Manhattan. At 9:15, the northern end of the Holland Tunnel closed. As of 9:20, the flooding was at about a foot deep. Water rose over portions of the Hudson Line north of New York City, and the tracks were blocked by mudslides in several places. Flooding of the Ramapo River has led both Metro-North and NJ Transit to suspend service on the Port Jervis Line north of Suffern indefinitely; the line was later found to have more than half-a-mile of washouts.

Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm at about 9:00 a.m. on August 28. One person in the Bronx, New York City, drowned at a lagoon during the storm. Why was he at a lagoon during the storm?

Another fatality occurred on the south shore of Long Island, when a windsurfer drowned in Bellport Bay. Just north of New York City, one person was killed when an inflatable boat capsized on the Croton River, while another man suffered electrocution from downed wires in Spring Valley. He was saving a boy and was successful but it cost him his life. A woman drowned in a flooded creek while evacuating her home in New Scotland, just southwest of the capital Albany. If she had evacuated her home when she was told to earlier, she would be alive today.

Extensive power outages have occurred in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, on Long Island. Though the storm was not as bad as many feared, almost 350,000 homes and businesses have been without electricity, mainly due to heavy winds knocking down trees, which in turn knocked out many power lines. Many Long Island residents expressed frustration that it took days for LIPA to restore power.

Disastrous flash floods occurred in the Catskill Mountains of New York State, particularly in the town of Margaretville. An elderly woman drowned in creek flooding at Fleischmanns, also located in the Catskills. Record flooding along the Schoharie Creek, was reported to have destroyed the Old Blenheim Bridge, a 156-year-old covered bridge that had been designated a National Historic Landmark. Prattsville's Main Street has been described as "a total loss" by its town supervisor.

In Connecticut, there was flooding along the shore of Long Island Sound. On Sunday, Connecticut's two main electric companies, Connecticut Light and Power and United Illuminating, reported that a record 754,000 customers were without power. Route 15, one of the state's main highways, was closed from the New York state line to I-91 in Meriden due to fallen trees. As Hurricane Irene worked its way up the East Coast, Connecticut's governor said Hurricane Irene was responsible for a 10th death Sunday: a man who died in a fire likely caused by downed wires from high winds. An elderly woman, who resided in Prospect, died in similar situations, when a falling tree caused power lines to collapse onto her home, starting a fire; her husband is in critical condition in Bridgeport Hospital. In Bristol, a man drowned when his canoe capsized. Why was he in a canoe during the storm? Was he sightseeing?

In Massachusetts, damage was greatest in the hill towns and Western Massachusetts as the eye of the storm tracked westward, toward Albany, New York. High winds toppled trees and heavy rain caused widespread flooding of Connecticut River tributaries. The Westfield River rose almost twenty feet in a matter of hours; the Deerfield rose over fifteen feet in the same period. Both rivers reached flood stages not seen since the 1955 and 1938 hurricanes and floods. A public works employee was electrocuted by downed power lines in Southbridge. A dam failure was mistakenly reported in East Becket, yet 200 people were evacuated as a precaution.

Rhode Island had gusts of wind up to 71 miles per hour, uprooting trees and causing extensive damage to its power grid. By the storm's end, an estimated 256,000 out of 480,281 customers were without power. Rhode Island electric company, National Grid, expects it to take well into Labor Day weekend to restore power to the most remote areas and areas which were most damaged. As of Tuesday morning, about 138,000 customers remain without power. The storm surge into Narragansett Bay caused some coastal damage, although Providence, at the head of the bay, was spared downtown flooding in part due to its hurricane barrier. There was some localized river flooding; however being on the eastern side of the storm, most of the damage came in the form of wind.

Almost every river and stream in Vermont flooded, resulting in at least three deaths and one missing. In Wilmington, the flood level of the Deerfield River east branch reportedly exceeded levels measured during the 1938 New England hurricane.

Throughout Vermont, numerous covered bridges, many over 100 years old, were damaged or destroyed. A woman drowned near Dover, Vermont after her car was trapped by floodwater. She and her boyfriend tried to escape from their car but she was swept away during her attempt. If they left the area earlier, she would still be alive.

A number of people died during Hurricane Irene and some of them died while doing their duty and in one case, attempting to save another. But at least 23 of the people died because of their stupidity or as in one case, the stupidity of his mother.

Just how stupid can people be when they surf in the Atlantic during a hurricane or even during a violent storm? As the huge waves approached them, perhaps their last words were either “WOW!” or “Oh God.”

When you consider just how stupid some people can be when they refuse to evacuate an area that is going to be hit by a hurricane, or worse yet, they actually surf in the Atlantic during a violent hurricane or storm, you can appreciate the truism that nature has a strange way of culling the herd.

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