The United States continues to prove why it is simply the best nation in the world by virtually every measurement.
The latest example is the extraordinary resilience of Americans in Texas and Florida after devastating hurricanes within weeks of each other. After the Houston region’s long deluge and record flooding from Hurricane Harvey, that area’s rebound is underway and history suggests it will be stronger than ever.
We are long-term Floridians, but have never seen a hurricane that caused damage essentially through the entire state. From Miami up the Atlantic Ocean to Jacksonville and Tallahassee down the Gulf of Mexico to Naples and the Keys and all points in between, the state was crushed by Hurricane Irma’s direct hit and long path up the peninsula.
A few jaw-dropping numbers:
- Peak wind gusts: 142 mph in Naples, 120 mph on Marco Island, 111 mph on Big Pine Key, 99 mph at Miami International Airport, 94 mph at Key West and 92 mph up at Cape Canaveral. That shows the breadth of the wind damage. But storm surge from Miami to Jacksonville turned downtown Jax eerily similar to Houston.
- The 15 million Floridians who lost power from the hurricane is three out of every four residents of the nation’s third largest state, plus another million in Georgia and South Carolina. That is more than twice the previous record. The Irma number is the equivalent of the fifth largest state in the Union losing 100 percent of power. Yet by the third day after the storm, the number was under 3 million.
- Initial damage estimates are more than $100 billion, but that will undoubtedly rise.
- With all this destruction, there are 19 dead so far in Florida. (Five more in Georgia and South Carolina.) That total may yet rise as Florida’s heat and humidity remain in summer mode and can be lethal, particularly for elderly people.
When we consider the size and scope of this monstrous hurricane — 16 million without power in three states, and wind speeds more than 100 mph over vast swaths, the broad range of surge inundation and the amount of destruction and damage — there are 19 dead. Every death is a tragic loss, but that is an almost miraculously low number.
Granted, Florida has had more experience than any state with deadly hurricanes. But the planning and preparation by state and local governments — one of the few times you will hear us giving props to government, but it is due in this case — really has minimized the loss of life. But so has American helping American — before, during and after.
Virtually all power is expected to be restored within 10 days of most of the state losing it. That also is astonishing. That goes to preparation, but also the support of surrounding states’ power companies. Florida sent large crews to Houston as did other states and now states are sending large numbers to Florida. More than 20,000 Florida Power & Light trucks alone are working to restore power, not including the other utilities in the state.
So…why is America so good at dealing with disasters?
Is there another nation in the world that could be hit with back-to-back record natural catastrophes and sustain such minimal loss of life and have the two separate regions back on their feet so rapidly?
I doubt it.
In fact, when other nations endure natural disasters, the United States is often one of the first on the scene and frequently offers the most help — more often than not through private charities, which are already handling the lion’s share of the need in Texas and Florida.
It’s important to understand why this is the case. It’s not a result of geography or stealing from others or dumb luck.
There’s a foundation in place undergirding this ability that exists at the base of no other country in the history of the world: The United States is a country built on an idea — not geography, not ethnicity, not through conquering other nations — but an idea.
And the idea is this: There is a supreme God and all people are created equal in His eyes and all are meant to be free. The rights of each man and woman are from God and are protected through the longest-standing Constitution in the world by limiting the scope of distant rulers in government. This is fundamental.
So religion, specifically Christianity and the rightly called Judeo-Christian ethic, are at the core and upon which is built the foundational rights of every citizen and a hardened vault of protection of those rights. Government’s existence is to protect those individual rights, including property and the exercise of capitalism in free markets. The wealth created by this system of individual liberty and reasonably unfettered capitalism is the primary reason we can afford the preparations and responses to such natural disasters.
From that foundational idea is the amazingly successful Republic that is still plowing forward. Let’s not forget our origins and foundations, or one day we will be unable to secure such safety in natural disasters — let alone man-made ones.
(Editor’s Note: For those interested, we rejoice that the Florida writers for The Revolutionary Act all survived Hurricane Irma with minimal damage.)
Rod Thomson is an author, TV talking head and former journalist, and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act.