New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg can't get a break on response to his Hurricane Irene path shutdown of New York. Once the storm fizzled to a tropical storm, inflicting damage that was not as severe as was predicted, Bloomberg is having to defend himself for effectively shutting down America's largest city in an unprecedented move.
Second guessing is easy now, of course. Predicting weather to pinpoint accuracy is impossible. Hurricane Irene was a mighty force, and America learned with Hurricane Katrina that anything can happen in a major storm, even the unexpected. After the fact, with Irene striking New York at tropical storm force, it's easy to say he made a hasty call, ordering evacuations and shutting down subways and bus lines.
Sure the city will have a slow time getting back on its feet while transit systems get restored. And yes, evacuations like the lower Manhattan order that displaced 370,000 was a nuisance. We see now it perhaps wasn't all required -- after the fact -- but when Bloomberg defends himself for the action, he makes a good point.
We were unwilling to risk the life of a single New Yorker, said Bloomberg, at a Sunday press conference. The bottom line is that I would make the same decisions again, without hesitation. We can't just, when a hurricane is coming, get out of the way and hope for the best,
On that note, he's right. The claim, of course, is that Bloomberg overreacted to protect his political hide. Probably. But the move also could have saved lives, and we can be sure he cared about that, too. Had the storm struck with the potency forecasts suggested and Bloomberg not shut down New York, the pressure applied to him on this day would be from another direction.
Certainly, had not made the shutdown moves and New York had taken an even nastier blow from Irene, Bloomberg would have been practically run out of the city by now.
Even worse, people would have suffered, even died perhaps. Consider only that New York did not suffer a fatality in the storm. Had transit lines been open, and had the city not so-called overreacted, it's likely that many would have run about in New York during the storm, potentially facing danger. Also, Bloomberg learned a hard lesson in the infamous blizzard of 2010.
The New York mayor was accused of sleeping at the proverbial wheel on that one, as residents including the elderly were stranded and in distress for days as the city suffered under three feet of snowfall. Pressure applied to Bloomberg in that instance was right, in part, and even the mayor later acknowledged the city must be better prepared in such emergencies.
The next time the city had a big snowstorm, New York was better prepared. And so it was with Hurricane Irene.
Getting back to order will be a challenge, and managing the shut down in America's biggest, if not also most important city, wasn't easy either. But considering the result, with no lives claimed and damage mitigated to a best-case of a bad scenario, he made the right call in shutting down the city.
The only way Bloomberg could have messed up was under-reacting, and having the misfortune of Irene delivering the type of blow forecasters suggested was possible, if not likely. Then, Bloomberg would have no hide left to protect. And many people would have likely suffered far beyond his reputation.
As it stands, New York came out about as well as the city possibly could have given the situation.
Bloomberg made the right call, even though it's easy to second guess in the aftermath. The saying it's better to be safe than sorry has been around for a long time for good reason. It applies aptly to America's biggest city and the threat of a direct hit from a hurricane.