As Hurricane Irene slammed into the East Coast, leaving in its wake wind-torn cities and towns, flooded roadways, and hundreds of thousands without power, the late-summer storm also took a lesser-reported economic toll on many geographic areas already devastated by the lingering financial crisis.
In fact, more than 400,000 homes as well as businesses lost power Saturday as Hurricane Irene hit the Carolinas with these significant losses most heavily concentrated in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, where Progress Energy reported well over 250,000 customers without power. In the process of shutting off the lights, the storm generated winds in excess of 80 mph, leaving much of North Carolina’s coast unable to open restaurants, extend hotel hospitalities, and finish out the all-important fishing season.
The storm also seemed to impact all-important fuel prices, with gasoline supplies dwindled as drivers topped off their tanks on their way out of town, allowing pump prices to jump more than three cents per gallon overnight in northern states yet to experience the storm’s direct wrath, like New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
After having its way with North Carolina, Irene became “a brutal test” for Middle Atlantic States, which had not seen a hurricane since 1999. Staying just offshore for its ascent up the East Coast to New England, the retained much of its power-packed punch, forcing many to leave their homes, their jobs, all with no power and shortened gas supplies.
According to The Huffington Post, “The entire Eastern Seaboard lies in the storm's projected path, with flooding and damage from winds likely. North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island have declared emergencies. For the first time, New York City ordered people in low-lying areas to evacuate. Power companies have called in several hundred workers from surrounding states to tend to the disaster. Crews were rushing out between bands in the hurricane, when the wind and rain eases. They're looking for the worst damage first at towering transmission lines, where an outage could put an entire county in the dark. The storm already has shortened gasoline supplies as refueling barges wait out the storm off the coast. Experts are now bracing for widespread power outages that could switch off automated delivery networks for gasoline stations, forcing them to individually call terminals for more fuel. That would slow down fuel deliveries, and motorists likely would be stuck in longer lines as gas pumps dry up. ‘Power is the lifeblood of oil supply on the East Coast,’ said Ben Brockwell of the Oil Price Information Service, which tracks gasoline shipments around the country.” In many areas, authorities were even keeping their eye on filling stations to prevent price-gouging.
A computer model of Irene's potential financial impact puts the estimated damage at $4.7 billion.
In these stormy economic times, wherein natural disasters and gas prices are exacerbating other economic pressures on already beleaguered budgets, it may be time to turn to a more definitive option: buying yourself some breathing room with a better financial future through bankruptcy. If you have been impacted by the storm, the lingering economic malaise, or even troubles with your gas tank, and are wondering how to get out of the eye of the storm, knowing a qualified bankruptcy attorney can also help you face your financial fears, yielding the right kinds of support, information and insights—at a low cost—for a viable and secure future beyond the latest national disaster.
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