Wednesday October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy proved to be a particularly nasty windstorm in the Berkshires that came and went with relative speed, and for that we can be grateful given some of the destruction Sandy caused along the eastern seaboard. It is increasingly apparent that extraordinary weather events are now becoming ordinary as the climate changes, and perspectives on these weather events must change as well.

If hurricanes, tropical storms and blizzards are going to blow through more often, the state and its communities must be able to routinely move into a state of readiness. Pittsfield City Hall began anticipating the storm well in advance of its arrival, and the city and Berkshire communities in general were prepared for its arrival on Monday. Western Mass. Electric Co., which fell short in its response to snow- and ice storms in the past couple of years, had crews ready to go out when the storm hit, as did Time-Warner. (Cable and satellite television have evolved into necessities in America today nearly equivalent to water and electricity.) Washington and Cheshire were still without power as of Tuesday afternoon.

While it is fashionable to complain about the response of public and private emergency crews, they have difficult jobs to do and on Monday they did them well. Electrical workers, firefighters, police officers and other components of our emergency defense network were out in the dark, the rain and in heavy wind keeping neighborhoods running and helping to prevent injuries and loss of life.

Downed power lines, fallen trees and broken tree limbs littering streets and sidewalks will be less of a problem in the future if potentially troublesome trees are removed or branches sawed off now. Removing trees or branches near power lines is not a job for amateurs, but residents can help by notifying WMECO, National Grid, or their town or city public works departments of trees that could trigger disaster. This kind of advance preparation is important because even though it is impossible to predict when the next big storm will hit, we do know that the arrival of the next big storm is inevitable.