Political Animal


October 26, 2012 11:10 AM Obama’s Katrina?

By Ed Kilgore

Here in California, everyone lives with the subconscious fear of The Big One, the earthquake that will finally, biblically, consume us. I’m certainly aware of it, living not that many miles from the San Andreas Fault. But people in the northeast do not spend a lot of time worrying about hurricanes. That could all change this weekend.

Here’s what I’m reading on the WaPo weather page:

With computer models locked in on the eventuality of a punishing blow for East Coast from Hurricane Sandy (with the latest model runs favoring the northern mid-Atlantic), analyses suggest this storm may be unlike anything the region has ever experienced.
Model simulations have consistently simulated minimum pressures below 950 mb, which would be the lowest on record in many areas….
You might ask yourself, aren’t hurricanes supposed to weaken as they head north? Why are these pressures so low? Or as the Weather Channel’s Bryan Norcross put it: “What the hell is going on?”
Norcross’ answer: “This is a beyond-strange situation. It’s unprecedented and bizarre.”
These historic low pressure levels simulated by the model are equivalent to a category 3 or 4 hurricane, which have peak winds over 115 mph. But Sandy’s winds will not be that high, because as it transitions into this hybrid hurricane-nor’easter, its core will unwind. So its peak winds will diminish, but strong winds will be felt over a vast area. Think of a compressed slinky expanding as you let it go.
WJLA meteorologist Ryan Miller notes 66,549,869 people live in the National Hurricane Center’s track zone for Sandy. A large percentage of these people will likely contend with tropical storm force winds - 40-60 mph, if not somewhat greater….
A very prominent and respected National Weather Service meteorologist wrote on Facebook last night,
I’ve never seen anything like this and I’m at a loss for expletives to describe what this storm could do.

Totally aside from the apprehensions of the vast number of people potentially in the path of this meta-storm, political gabbers are already beginning to speak of it as “Obama’s Katrina,” in the sense of representing a huge and ill-timed natural disaster. (That was the term conservatives used, of course, for the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but Obama eventually got little of the blame for how it happened or was handled).

If you live in the mid-Atlantic, get ready. If Sandy misses you or loses its punch, you can always have a party with the stored supplies.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Josef K on October 26, 2012 11:18 AM:

    I live in Brooklyn, and work in lower Manhattan (about four or five blocks away from Ground Zero). My co-workers are all calm as cucumbers here.

    Myself, I'll be grabbing up supplies when I get home tonight. Ought to be fun.

  • Cas on October 26, 2012 11:20 AM:

    The irony that global warming could end up providing Mittens with a late October boost at the polls is not lost on me...

  • stormskies on October 26, 2012 11:22 AM:

    sure, let's blame the weather on Obama ...

  • c u n d gulag on October 26, 2012 11:23 AM:

    And you can be sure, deep in their hearts, the Conservatives in this country will be praying for an epic disaster. As they have been for 4 years.

    And of course, our cowardly Republican politicians will be in their home districts, dodging this storm. And I'm sure the Mid-Atlantic and NE Congressmen in "safe" districts, will be out in the Midwest and West, campaigning for fellow Republicans - even if they're not asked.

  • hornblower on October 26, 2012 11:27 AM:

    Last October we lost power for 4 days. Hope we don't top it this time. The Obama's Katrina thing is a silly meme. Remember when the oil spill was supposed to be that.
    Not everthing is tied to the election.

  • c u n d gulag on October 26, 2012 11:27 AM:

    Several Republican politicians have already blamed Obama for the drought, so why would they not blame a hurricane on him?

  • T2 on October 26, 2012 11:28 AM:

    the only certainty about Sandy is that not one single positive word will be spoken by the GOP in regard to Obama's response. Not One. If, like Superman, Obama went down to the beach and sucked all the wind and rain out of the storm and blew it into outer space, the Romney campaign would send John Sununu on TV to tell us all what a horrible response that was, and that it was too late anyway. Dan Issa would then convene an investigation into the use of outer space as a hurricane dumping area.
    I guarantee that the Romney campaign will politicize this storm in any way possible.

  • Stetson Kennedy on October 26, 2012 11:36 AM:

    Living in norther NJ, we're preparing to feel the brunt of the storm, as its center is supposed to hit just south of us. Fortunately, I'm on high ground; my thoughts go to those who are not. Stay safe.

    Conservatives will never appreciate that it wasn't Katrina that many blamed on Bush, it was the feeble response; one that revealed for all but those deepest in the conservative bubble, that Bush lacked both the compassion for those less fortunate than he and his cronies, and the skills to handle such an emergency. Those are 2 attributes Obama clearly does not lack.

  • Bokonon on October 26, 2012 11:38 AM:

    Actually, I disagree. The GOP made sure that Obama got LOTS of blame for the BP oil spill and its aftermath. I hear this stuff from my winger relatives and acquaintances all the time.

    The great thing about having the Democrats around is that they can be pegged with blame for anything and everything bad that happens - whether the Democrats are active or passive, or even standing outside the room. And if you believe the craziest of the fundamentalists, the mere existances of the Democrats is the reason God lets bad things happen to the United States.

    So - yeah, the GOP will actively leap into the breach if this storm makes landfall. It is what they do.

  • JoanneinDenver on October 26, 2012 11:38 AM:

    What about power outages? How will voting machines be protected? What will happen to totals already entered in computers if the power goes out? Will data be lost?

    How will people get to the polls if there is flooding? I know that the states
    are in charge of voting. Pennsylvania has a Republican administration; New Jersey has Christy; what are the plans to protect the vote?

    Does anybody know?

  • Peter C on October 26, 2012 11:43 AM:

    The President has no more control of the weather than he does of gas prices.

    Bush is blamed for Katrina, not because a hurricane hit New Orleans, but because he'd staffed FEMA with political hacks and put a horse show judge in charge, and consequently, a whole region of the country suffered more than would otherwise have been the case. Furthermore, many in the Republican Party saw the disaster as an opportunity to change the electoral dynamic in New Orleans.

    Our media sucks. It's harming our society with its constant distortion of reality for political gain.

  • Nycweboy on October 26, 2012 11:50 AM:

    The apocalyptic tone of coverage is media hype: we did ok out of Irene and a major blizzard on Halloween last year. Sandy looks bad... But northeastern era are not completely unprepared for things like rain snow and wind. Storm response is local and the govs are on it. This will not, I think, ever be "Obama's Katrina" no matter how the GOP tries to spin it

  • matt on October 26, 2012 12:05 PM:

    People in the northeast shouldn't kid themselves; at least in the computer models this is shaping up to be a truly historic storm.

    The danger with a storm like this is flooding more than anything. It wouldn't be a surprise if some areas in Pennsylvania get a foot of rain. The storm also won't transition out of a tropical storm for some time, so tornadoes are also possible.

    Politically, it could be worse; it could have come a week later.

  • David in NY on October 26, 2012 12:06 PM:

    The MSM thrives on a tight presidential race and "MONSTER STORM APPROACHING WASHINGTON AND NEW YORK!!!!" headlines.

    Here's hoping both things are hype.

  • Grumpy on October 26, 2012 12:16 PM:

    ...in the sense of representing a huge and ill-timed natural disaster.

    Which is precisely the wrong sense to use a Katrina analogy. August/September 2005 was not "ill-timed" for Bush. Likewise, the disaster itself isn't what damaged his presidency, as others have pointed out above.

  • Dredd on October 26, 2012 12:23 PM:

    Irene last year caused long term power outages. That could affect voting if voting machines are damaged, the buildings they are in, or if power is out there.

    Vote early, vote today. Don't chance it.

  • matt on October 26, 2012 12:34 PM:

    >The MSM thrives on a tight presidential race and "MONSTER STORM APPROACHING WASHINGTON AND NEW YORK!!!!" headlines.

    True. But this is huge even for work-a-day meteorologists.

    Dredd's comment above is right on. In fact, if you live in the northeast and you have early voting in your state, today/tomorrow is THE day to volunteer for Obama. There are going to be a lot of people who won't be able to vote next week.

  • BillFromPA on October 26, 2012 12:34 PM:

    Why is this not an opportunity for Obama and his re-vamped FEMA to shine, and draw a stark contrast between how the Federal Gov't works under the Good Guys (and Gals) as opposed to the wingnuts?

  • T2 on October 26, 2012 12:40 PM:

    Yes, BillfromPA, the TeaParty Governors are always the first to start grabbing at disaster relief from the Government they profess to hate. Rick Perry is a perfect example. It's always the same story....get the Feds off our back...unless we need their money.

  • R L Fast on October 26, 2012 12:46 PM:

    When disaster hits during an election, flooding and power outages can result in dramatically reduced voter turnout over a wide region, though presumably partisans in the area will be affected in proportion to their overall numbers in the region.

    Thanks to the electoral college, the affected states will still maintain their relative influence over the national election outcome. If instead we elected the President by popular vote, then a disaster that strikes in, say, a very liberal part of the country would reduce liberals' share of the popular vote in the country as a whole.

    This is one reason to oppose suggestions that seek to give consideration to national popular vote totals.

  • schtick on October 26, 2012 1:20 PM:

    I'm getting supplies, too, and doing a finishing job for winter. Having summertime weather and then cold and snow the next day is normal for us in upstate NY. An ice storm where we were without power for three weeks in the middle of winter brought us together and I imagine Sandy will bring us together if we have a disaster on our hands.
    We live by pulling up our bootstraps because we know the ones with the power and money don't want us to make it on our own and any help we do get from them is a long way down the road, if at all.

  • What Dredd said on October 26, 2012 1:31 PM:

    worth repeating

    Irene last year caused long term power outages. That could affect voting if voting machines are damaged, the buildings they are in, or if power is out there.

    Vote early, vote today. Don't chance it.

  • Rugosa on October 26, 2012 1:38 PM:

    True, we in the northeast don't spend much time worrying about hurricanes, but that's because they don't strike like earthquakes, any time and without warning. You can bet we're making sure we have candles, matches, batteries, water, booze, etc. Our emergency management teams have been meeting and preparing for the past week. We're used to battening down the hatches for big storms.

  • bdop4 on October 26, 2012 2:09 PM:

    If the Obama administration isn't all over this situation, then they deserve the fallout. That said, I think they will see this as a moment to show the country how responsive government can mitigate the consequences of force majeure events like this one. Played right, it should have a net positive effect on his candidacy.

    With regard to the BP spill, count me as one who was somewhat dismayed at the deference given by the Obama administration to the perpetrators. And one last note: the oil that was dumped during that episode has disappeared about as much as the asbestos did after 9/11.

  • Mitch on October 26, 2012 2:14 PM:

    Let us hope that the storm does not cause severe damage, and that our neighbors on the East Coast all make it through unharmed. Our thoughts are with you all.

    I have faith in Obama and his revamped FEMA. I am sure that they are as prepared for disaster as is possible. Unlike "conservatives" who are so convinced that the government can do no good that they ensure it's failure through improper management. This could, oddly enough, turn into good news for Obama; a chance to show is leadership and the advantage of intelligent organization.

    I just hope that it does not turn into bad news for any people. Stay safe everyone.

  • bmorejoe on October 26, 2012 2:23 PM:

    Is anybody thinking about the election implications? On early voting, or if power outages are severe and long lasting, election day itself, turnout and voting machines. The Northeast is a huge chunk of the popular vote for Obama.

  • David Martin on October 27, 2012 2:44 AM:

    In recent years, the region from about Richmond to Boston has suffered lots of winter storms with heavy snowfalls, long-lasting power outages, and so forth. The region has always suffered bad coastal storms. My guess is that yet another lengthy series of power outages in the vicinity of Washington D.C. will lead to state and congressional hearings.

  • jhm on October 27, 2012 8:21 AM:

    Do yourselves a favor and check out XKCD: Epsilon and Zeta

  • John on October 31, 2012 9:01 AM:

    Yeah Ok.....please tell us, how fun was it?, tuff guy.