Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Affluent America’s Hurricane Katrina

The windstorm that struck the East Coast on March 13 doesn’t have a name, but it certainly hit the Gold Coast of Connecticut hard.
The southwestern portion of Fairfield County, Conn., includes some of the nation’s wealthiest towns, including Greenwich, Stamford and New Canaan. The nor’easter that slammed New Jersey, New York and Connecticut knocked down thousands of trees, blocked roads, cut off power to hundreds of thousands, flooded some areas and killed at least six people.
In my neighborhood of New Canaan, Conn., we lost power from Saturday night March 13 until Tuesday night March 16. We spent three nights in three different hotels as far away as an hour north.
Like many people here, we had to dump the contents of two refrigerators into the garbage when the food spoiled. It was a forced vacation that easily cost us $1,000 in unplanned expenses, most notably hotel rooms for my family and our nanny.
While nowhere near the disaster of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the Gold Coast storm has raised similar complaints about how officials responded.
Connecticut agencies are looking into whether the state’s two largest utilities – Connecticut Light & Power and the United Illuminating Company – waited too long to act and sent out too few workers to restore electricity. Union workers at CL&P allege the company delayed sending help to save on overtime costs.
It was a frustrating experience to live through. We couldn’t stay at our house because the water and sewer systems need electricity to operate and without heat it became bitterly cold indoors.
Outside the New Canaan Post Office today, supporters of controversial political figure Lyndon LaRouche were protesting President Obama and calling for his impeachment. Their complaints centered on Obama’s unpopular plan to overhaul government health care. But I half-expected them to blame Obama for the poor response to the Gold Coast storm by saying, “Barack Obama doesn’t care about rich white people.”

See stories in the Stamford Advocate, the New York Times, Westport News, and NBC New York.

Photo: Fallen tree on power lines in Norwalk, Conn., after March 13, 2010, storm.

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