Sandy: The Ultimate October Surprise

It’s time to Break It Down!

For weeks, analysts, pundits, as well as regular Joes and Janes speculated about the prospects of anOctober Surprise prior to this year’sPresidential Election.  Since early October there had been a great deal of reckoning that the unanticipated landslide smackdown Willard Romney gave President Obama in the firstof three Presidential Debates was the leading candidate to fill that role.

All that began to change last week when meteorologists unveiled what they called for a time, Frankenstorm.  The weather system that would eventually becomeHurricane Sandy transitioned into a full-fledged monster of a storm over the weekend.  On Monday evening its center struck near Atlantic City, New Jerseyand expanded the process of having its way. It delivered mayhem and destruction over a stretch of coastline extending from North Carolina to Vermont, and stretching from New Jersey, westward, as far as Michigan.  The storm in its various iterations caused wind, rain, ice, snow, flooding, downed power lines, public transportation shutdowns, school and business closures, property loss, and multiple deaths…and it’s not over!

A couple of weeks ago, the Denver Debate results notwithstanding, curious folks were still wondering out loud if Governor Romneyhad some super secret Obama Kryptoniteup his sleeve, or if President Obamamight create and execute an exotic and all-encompassingpolicy initiative, or whether a totally unexpected development would insinuate itself into the political process.  I’ll take Category C, Totally Unexpected Developments,for a $1000, Alex!

In the Northern Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane Season runs from June 1st to November 30th.  As a rule, the greatest numbers of storms occur from late August through September, reaching the climatological peak around September 10th each year.  On average, 10.1 storms (hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions) occur each season, with 5.9 of them becoming hurricanes, and 2.5 of those becoming major hurricanes (Category 3 or above).

By generally accepted standards, Sandy was not amajor hurricane.  It was “only”a Category 1 storm.  Yet its effects threaten up to 60 million Americans, and as of yesterday, an estimated 7.5 million people, just in the State of New York, experienced power outages. The broad territorial swath covered by the storm and the attendant natural consequences were brought about by a confluence of circumstances. First, there was a relatively strong Caribbean based Hurricane which then interspersed with a moderately strong but not unusual continental weather system, known as a trough or dip in the jet stream.

There are a couple of additional dynamics that make Hurricane Sandyvery unusual, possibly even a “super storm.”  The initial element is its trajectory.  Most storms race directly out to sea; alternately, Sandy quickly made a hard left turn and headed toward landfall at nearly a right angle which means virtually every piece of coastline from the Jersey Shore to Cape Cod would likely take a hit. The other factor is that Sandy’s core, the part of the storm that looked and felt like a hurricane, remained in tact, even as cooler and drier air from the Continental United States wrapped around it.  Thecataclysmic result of this meteorological olio is that Sandy retained the worst features of both kinds of storm: a small core of hurricane-force winds around its center, and a broad expanse of gale-force winds extending hundreds of miles outward that will batter the shorelines for several days.

Hence, given the varying temperatures across many states we experienced a range of elemental forces that included wind, rain, and snow.  So just how BIG is this storm?  Well, I already cited the geographic dimensions; North Carolina to Vermont; New Jersey to Michigan; covered.  Talked about the forms of violent weather; check.  Mentioned the education and economic stoppage; the transportation shut down; yep. Noted the human and property devastation; done.

Those things, in their own right, place this storm alone at the top of the chart as the signature storm of this season in the United States.  However, all that notwithstanding, the feature that may yet set this storm apart as unique in the history of hurricanes is its potential to affect the outcome of the 2012 National Election.  In fact, good, bad, or indifferent, it is fair to say, it has already done so.

Governor Romney and President Obama have been engaged in one of the more intense campaign battles in recent memory.  The last 10 days would typically be a time when the candidates busily make their closing appeals, arguments, and requests for voters’ support, while completing a round-robinseries of visits to swing states.  Instead, on Monday, a mere eightworking days before the Election, both candidates withdrew from the campaign trail.

Many states in the area hit by the storm are engaged in Early Voting.  Some of those states have had to suspend Early Voting due to power outages, property devastation, and/or safety concerns.  Some states have extended days to register, or hours of registration.  Both the Governor and the President were officially offlineMonday when they took in the devastation and issued formal statements on the situation.  In addition, the President met with his Emergency Management Team to survey the scope of the storm and begin the process of storm damage remediation.

Governor Romney made an appearance in Ohio Tuesday, but framed the visit as an opportunity to encourage his supporters to participate in relief efforts for victims of the storm.  President Obama spent the day conducting a conference call with 20 Mayors and Governors of cities and states affectedby the storm, and visiting the Disaster Operation Center of the Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington, DCto discuss the storm.

Governor Romney has scheduled to begin gearing his campaign back up today with a visit to Florida, where he will be joined by former Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio.  For his part, President Obama announced he will be visiting New Jerseytoday to accompany Republican Governor Chris Christie in viewing the storm damage. After that, it is probably “back on.”  There will be 5 days left to wrap up the respective campaigns before Election Day.

Lest one suffer from the illusion that the campaigns ceased operations, just because the candidates were temporarily AWOL, they did not. Governor Romney intensified his efforts to snatch Ohio from President Obama’s apparent grasp by unleashing a spate of ads designed to suggest the President’s vauntedAuto Bailout” is slatedto benefit China, rather than U.S. workers.  President Obama, Chrysler, GM, and all agree this is yet another Etch-A-Sketch moment for the Governor.  Of course, if you have enormous sums of money, and ad space is available, it would be a shame and a waste not to buy some, right?

Here is where we find ourselves, collectively.  There is less than a week left before Election DayEarly Voting in North Carolina ends Saturday.  It may be extended to as late as Sunday in some states.  Regardless, voting time is now.  Patriots on all sides of the political spectrum argue the United Statesoccupies a uniquely special place in the History of the world.  Many even content that we are an Exceptional nation.

One of, if not the primary reason for those glowing self-assessmentsis our grand experiment with participatory democracy.  Combined with Free Enterprise, our system of government, one man/woman-one vote, is the foundation of our political belief system.  If you haven’t exercised your franchise, I urge you, regardless of your political affiliation, or candidate of choice, to do so by voting; do not procrastinate!

It may be a fair characterization…”Sandy: The Ultimate October Surprise!”  However, you owe it to yourself, your family, your ancestors, and your descendents not to allow the storm to become the ultimate October excuse.  If you are too busy, too lazy, or too apathetic to vote, P-L-E-A-S-E, don’t bother to complain about the result.

I’m done;holla back!

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