Thursday, August 21, 2014
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Storm recovery will be the hardest part

Typically, when mere humans need to be reminded of who is really in charge, the weather is more than happy to oblige. As it did Monday, when tropical storm Sandy roared through the East Coast and made the all-important presidential race a secondary news story.

Storm recovery will be the hardest part

Foundations and pilings are all that remain of brick buildings and part of the boardwalk in Atlantic City after they were destroyed by Tropical Storm Sandy. (AP Photo / Seth Wenig)
Foundations and pilings are all that remain of brick buildings and part of the boardwalk in Atlantic City after they were destroyed by Tropical Storm Sandy. (AP Photo / Seth Wenig) AP

Typically, when mere humans need to be reminded of who is really in charge, the weather is more than happy to oblige. As it did Monday, when tropical storm Sandy roared through the East Coast and made the all-important presidential race a secondary news story.

Sure, the politicians did what they could to remain the center of attention. Thus you had Gov. Corbett literally reading the latest weather report before TV cameras, as if the stations’ meteorologists hadn’t already done that. But that’s only a mild criticism.

For the most part, political leaders from President Obama to Govs. Corbett and Christie to Mayor Nutter and other national, state, and local officials deserve applause for preparing communities for the storm by evacuating residents in harm’s way, setting up shelters, diverting or shutting down traffic and transit, and later making rescues as needed.

But now comes what may be the harder part — the recovery. Sandy was a deadly and devastating storm. It became a hurricane in the Caribbean on Oct. 24 and wreaked havoc on Cuba, Haiti, and the Bahamas before turning toward the United States. By the time the tropical storm finished ripping through Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, it had left more than 30 people dead and caused billions of dollars in damage.

How long will it be before the storm is forgotten and it’s back to politics as usual?
Three or four days tops; it's too close to the election for Romney to sit quiet
Romney can't risk repeating his premature criticism of the Libyan embassy deaths
Not long; a FEMA mistake with the recovery will allow Romney to blast Obama
The goodwill from Gov. Christie's praise of Obama's storm efforts won't be erased

Flooding and power outages were the main problems Tuesday as Sandy moved on into New England. There were more than 8 million customers without electricity, including more than two million in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Christie tweeted that, “The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we’ve ever seen.” Rescue boats were being used in Atlantic City to find survivors. The governor criticized Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford for not doing enough to evacuate residents, a charge Langford denied, saying there are always some people who refuse to leave their homes no matter what.

The Jersey guys’ disagreement, though, was atypical. Government leaders of all political persuasions put aside the partisan animosity that has mushroomed in the throes of a national election to make sure people were safe. Christie didn’t let his support for Mitt Romney keep him from praising Obama, saying, “The president has been all over this, he deserves great credit.”

Americans can only hope the cooperation that elected officials have displayed in dealing with a killer storm will somehow be duplicated post-Election Day. As damaging as Sandy has been, the greater danger to this nation is the crippling political partisanship that impedes its progress.

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The Inquirer Editorial Board's Say What? opinion blog showcases the work of the editors and writers who produce the newspaper's daily and Sunday opinion pages.

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