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Hurricane Sandy today, doomsday for America tomorrow?

October 29, 2012|By Paul Whitefield
  • Satellite image provided by NASA shows Hurricane Sandy churning off the East Coast in the Atlantic Ocean.
Satellite image provided by NASA shows Hurricane Sandy churning off the… (NASA )

Quick, what do Lisbon and New York have in common?

Well, sure, they’re both cities. 

But before a great earthquake, tsunami and fire consumed it in 1755, Lisbon, like New York today, was one of the world’s leading cities.

Which is why I couldn’t help thinking of Lisbon while taking in the coverage Monday of Hurricane Sandy as it swept ashore on the East Coast.

Lisbon was brought down by natural disasters in 1755; it never recovered its former glory and power. And Hurricane Sandy is a reminder that even in today's modern, high-tech world, climate and science and nature still matter. For all man’s achievements, we live at the mercy of our planet and of forces greater than our civilization and its structures.

No question Sandy is a monster storm. But it’s not unique. Still, experts are already estimating that it could result in $88 billion in damage to residential properties alone.

It caused the New York Stock Exchange to suspend trading Monday. Tuesday’s trading was canceled as well, with a reopening expected Wednesday. 

And who knows how much more damage, both physical and financial, will occur.

On the West Coast, of course, we’re basking in sunshine. But we know all too well that the fabled Big One could strike at any moment. Suppose the moment is today, or tomorrow? 

Not to go all Hollywood on you, but what would the impact be on America of a major hurricane on the East Coast and a massive earthquake on the West Coast? Could the United States, the world’s most powerful and prosperous nation, withstand the kinds of physical and financial shocks such twin disasters would inflict on it?

Or would we become the Lisbon and Portugal of the 21st century?

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