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Tech by VICE

We've Gotten Way Better at Hurricanes Since 1938

8 million lost power, New York’s subway is underwater. Yet we’ve still gotten a hell of a lot better at hurricanes over the years.

by Brian Merchant
Oct 30 2012, 12:00am

Hurricane Sandy’s death toll has risen to 39 in the United States, and may continue to rise yet. 8 million lost power, New York’s subway is underwater. Yet we’ve still gotten a hell of a lot better at hurricanes over the years. It’s worth remembering that the 1938 hurricane that slammed into Rhode Island and Long Island claimed 600 lives.

Sandy drew comparisons to that storm throughout this ordeal for both scale and circumstance; both arrived on the heels of a full moon, and both were unexpectedly massive. As this footage from the fallout reveals, it’s pretty impressive to consider how much better we’ve gotten at hurricanes, at building more resilient and responsive societies. Better storm forecasting and better communication availability are probably the two key improvements over the decades, and it’s pretty incredible to consider the scale of progress there.

And we could do better yet. If we appropriately heed the warnings of scientists and adapt to (and hopefully mitigate) the changing climate, especially if we embrace smarter grid technology, we might still see that number decline in coming decades. If we don’t, things can still always get worse.

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