This is nowhere near Katrina’s death toll of over 1800 souls, but the damage to scores of towns, businesses, houses, and basic civic armature is going to be very impressive as the news filters in later this week and the disaster is still very much ongoing Monday, even with the sun shining bright. Towns all over Vermont and New Hampshire are still drowning. The Hudson River is still on the rise. The Mohawk River is at a 500-year flood stage and is about to wipe the old city center of Schenectady, New York, off the map. Bridges, dams, and roads are gone over a region at least as big as the Gulf Coast splatter-trail of Katrina.
That story is still developing. A lot of people will not be able to get around for a long, long time, especially in Vermont and New Hampshire, where the rugged terrain only allows for a few major roads that go anywhere. Even the bridges that were not entirely washed away may have to be inspected before people are allowed to drive over them, and some of these bridges may be structurally shot even if they look superficially okay. There are a lot of them. If you live in a flat state, you may have no idea.
The next story is going to be the realization that there’s no money to put it all back together the way it was. The states don’t have the money. The federal government is obviously broke, and an awful lot of the individual households and businesses will turn out to not have any insurance coverage for this kind of disaster where it was water, not wind, that destroyed the property. I don’t know what the score is insurance-wise along the mid-Atlantic beachfront towns - but remember, insurance companies were among the biggest dupes of the Big Bank mortgage-backed securities racket, and when the new claims are toted up they may find themselves in a bail-out line.
This is a warning to America that the converging catastrophes of climate change, energy scarcities, and failures of capital formation add up to more than the sum of their parts in their power to drive a complex society into a ditch - no matter what a moron like Rick Perry might say. But, of course, political ramifications will follow. There will be a lot of pissed-off people in the Northeast USA. Maybe they’ll even start giving the grievance-bloated folk of Dixieland some competition in the politics of the bitter harvest. Oddly, the Siamese twin states of Vermont and New Hampshire are political polar opposites. Vermont, the land of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and other squooshy culture tropes from the attic of Hippiedom, is about as Left-progressive as it gets. New Hampshire’s license plate says, “Live Free or Die,” and that same draconian mood defines the state’s politics: hard Right. It’s like a few counties of Georgia shook loose and drifted north somehow. My guess is that the political rage will be about equal on both fronts, as folks are left stranded, or homeless, or without a going business they thought they had only a day or so ago. And my further guess is that their mood will afford some insight into the extreme impotence, incompetence, and mendacity of both major political parties. As I’ve said before in this space, think of these times as not unlike the convulsive 1850s, preceding the worst crisis of our history.