PA jumped the gun on Hurricane Sandy prep

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Hurricane Sandy spread high winds, heavy rains, and electrical outages from the Carolinas all the way up to Maine last week. However, some states felt the impact of this Category 1 hurricane more than others.

Considering all of the damage that happened in the tri-state area — New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut — Pittsburgh, and Pennsylvania as a whole, overreacted to the storm.

Pennsylvania’s efforts to prepare for Sandy seemed extreme when compared to the storm’s actual effects here. All Pittsburgh public schools cancelled last Tuesday’s classes in an announcement Monday night; since there was only mild rain and wind on Tuesday, this decision was made too quickly and too early by city officials. They could have at least waited to make that decision on Tuesday morning, the day of the hurricane, when they saw the actual storm and its minimal effects.

Pittsburgh only received two-and-a-half inches of rain because of the hurricane, which — while above the average rainfall for October in the state — was still minor when compared to New York’s and New Jersey’s flooding. The highest tide of 13 feet that rose in the New York Harbor poured into the city, all seven tunnels under the East River were flooded, high tides put much of New Jersey’s Seaside Heights’ boardwalk and 85 percent of Atlantic City underwater, and Ground Zero was flooded with 20 feet of water.

Instead of creating 58 stationary evacuation centers throughout the state, which — according to the The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — were not guaranteed to be used, Pennsylvania could have better allotted its time and resources by making more mobile Red Cross emergency vehicles, increasing its current 100.

As weather detection is an imprecise science, meteorologists in Pennsylvania were unsure of where to build evacuation centers. None of those centers could have been used if they were constructed in the wrong locations. In fact, very few evacuation centers were even used in Pennsylvania because of inconvenient locations and the minimal impact of the storm. However, more mobile emergency vehicles would have been useful because they can help any victim in any location.

The destruction created by Hurricane Sandy in Pennsylvania shouldn’t be overlooked or underestimated. But the scope of the state’s reaction to the storm, as well as the inefficient implementation of evacuation centers, should be evaluated for how Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh responds to future natural disasters.