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Communication, codes lessen impact

The destruction wrought by two major hurricanes hitting the U.S. mainland in the space of a few weeks is vast. The tales of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma will go down in our history as billion-dollar events.

But one footnote that should accompany those stories is that we’re getting better at responding to tragedy.

Yes, hundreds of thousands of people are likely still without power; the Florida Keys were hammered; folks in Texas will struggle for years to overcome the floods caused by 50 inches of rain.

But when we consider the sizes of these storms, the loss of life was minimal in comparison. As of yesterday, the death toll of the two storms together was 85.

In 2005, Katrina claimed 1,833.

But in 2005, the iPhone didn’t exist. Cell phone technology was much less advanced. Social media was an almost brand-new phenomenon. When the cable went, radio was pretty much our only source for news in a storm.

Think of all the stories you’ve heard or read in 2017 about people being rescued because of text messages, social media posts, and cell phone calls. Image the death toll in 2017 without those conveniences.

Building codes – yes those rules we love to hate – have made more structures strong enough to endure storms, hence making the damage less than it would have been several years ago.

It will take years to recover from these events, and those who are victims need all the support – both governmental and charitable – that we can give them.

But the silver lining in these clouds is that we’re better at this than we once were. For that, we should all be grateful.