The big story this week is Hurricane Sandy, which has ravaged nearly 1,000 miles of the eastern shoreline of the United States. The storm’s impact is intensified by its collision with a winterish nor’easter. Upper elevations of Virginia and West Virginia have seen up to three feet of snow, with heavy winds whipping the snowscape into a blizzard.
Hurricane Sandy is predicted to stall over the East Coast for several days, pummeling residents with rain and winds. A preceding “storm surge,” a dramatic rise of water generated by the storm, caused significant flooding and set the stage for a horrific final toll in lives lost and property damaged. Some 50 million people — one of every six Americans — remain in harm’s way.
As of this writing, the U.S. death toll hovers around 40, and the eventual cost is estimated to go as high as $50 billion. Meantime countless businesses and schools are closed, with citizens still evacuated or trapped in unsafe environs. The New York Stock Exchange has reopened this morning, after its first two-day closure since 1888.
Though this hurricane is of greater magnitude than disasters we have experienced in Indiana, I have witnessed firsthand how the Indiana banking community steps up when disaster strikes. Last spring, for example, when deadly twin tornadoes hit Henryville and surrounding areas, bankers opened vaults to shelter customers; dispensed food and supplies to victims and volunteers; and provided much-needed banking services, despite lack of electrical power and phone service. They also spearheaded long-term relief efforts to rebuild their communities.
The scale of the devastation from Sandy is much larger than that suffered in southern Indiana. No doubt East Coast bankers are responding in kind. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and all of those affected by Hurricane Sandy.