2006-06-23 / Editorial/Opinion


Taking A Cat Five Hurricane Seriously

Rockaway has not received such media attention since November of 2001 when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor and reporters from all over the world flocked to the peninsula to tell the story. The more-recent coverage is focusing not on a tragedy, but on what might be a coming disaster - a Category Four or Five Hurricane that may or may not wipe out Rockaway. In its Sunday edition, the Daily News had a two-page story entitled "Could a 'Cane Blow Away The Rockaways?" The same day, the more-sedate New York Times said, "The Rockaway Peninsula, less than a mile wide for most if its 11-mile length, is not the ideal place to be when a hurricane threatens." Anybody who has lived in Rockaway for any length of time knows that the barrier beach is vulnerable to a large storm. Most of the time, residents "blow off" the idea that they should evacuate in the face of a reported storm. Those who do so are usually right. The last hurricane to do real damage in Rockaway was the "Long Island Express" in 1938. One Wave editor remembers a 1948 storm when he was removed from PS 106 in Edgemere by boat because the ocean met the bay during one storm. After Katrina, however, some of those who ignored storms in the past might well begin to take them more seriously. The Office of Emergency Management recently brought a new hurricane plan to Rockaway. It has increased the number of reception centers where evacuees can check in and get transportation to evacuation centers. It asks, however, that people use public transportation to get to those centers. Those who live here know how spotty public transportation gets in a heavy rainstorm, nevertheless a Category Four Hurricane. There is really only one answer to getting out of Rockaway in the advance of a coming storm and that is to get out early, when the evacuation is first ordered. That evacuation order might be a tough sell in Rockaway, where people have stayed in place without many problems in the past. We should remember Katrina and the other storms that hit Florida and the Gulf Coast last year. We should begin to take Category Four and Five Hurricanes seriously and act accordingly.

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