Lessons of Many Storms

Preparations for the Blizzard of 2013 were more than a result of spur of the moment planning. Disaster planning for such major storms goes back to the last big blizzard to hit the Northeast, the Blizzard of ’78. During that storm, New England received 38 inches of snow and 99 people lost their lives. Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy also affected how local officials prepared for this latest storm, which was fueled by hurricane force winds and buried some areas under almost 40 inches of snow.

The success of a disaster plan invariably is judged by how residents, local officials, utilities, road crews, and emergency personnel respond to the next storm. How did various organizations and officials respond to the Blizzard of 2013?


One important step taken by Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick was to impose a no-drive order for after 4 p.m. on the Friday when the storm hit. While drivers were still stuck in the snow, mainly due to the storm’s aggressive arrival, it was used early enough that the damage done was far less than that of the last storm to warrant such a ban, the Blizzard of ’78.


The airlines have also adapted their severe weather plans to account for large storms. Part of this involves cancelling flights early enough in the face of such storms so that passengers don’t get stuck at the airport, waiting for the storm to clear and flights to resume. Such was the case with the Blizzard of 2013.


Utilities also tailored their response plans to account for such super storms. Through giving local utility officials better tools to deal with storm damage separate from overall company support, and by providing better communication between company liaisons and disaster response centers on a local level, utilities saw a better and faster response to the Blizzard of 2013.

And while each storm leaves its impact upon the psyche of those involved, lessons learned provide the most important takeaway. Even though disaster response and storm response in general still need massive improvement, each new storm brings preparers and responders closer to the day when loss of life does not hold sway as the primary concern, and responders can focus on minimizing the damage to property.

For more information about storm preparedness and response, visit: http://www.minnpost.com/christian-science-monitor/2013/02/blizzard-2013-storm-prep-sharpened-experience-katrina-and-sandy